The first step in determining whether there are industrial hygiene risks in your workplace is to have an experienced industrial hygienist conduct a qualitative risk assessment. They will take into account everything from the building ventilation to the workflow and products manufactured to determine the types of chemical, biological and physical agents workers may be exposed to. They will also take into account any personal protection equipment plan that is already in place and how this may affect the level at which employees are exposed to workplace risks.
The industrial hygienist will be able to determine whether or not any risks exist and whether or not a quantitative assessment needs to be conducted to identify specific risks and the levels workers are exposed to. If conducted, a quantitative risk assessment will allow the employer to tell workers whether or not they are being exposed to any harmful agents and if they are being exposed to permissible levels.
This investigation arms employers with information so they can ensure that they are following regulatory guidelines and resolve the problem if industrial hygiene risks are found to be above permissible levels.
Qualitative risk assessments are a practical approach to industrial hygiene that helps determine whether a more thorough investigation is warranted. This is especially helpful in large workplaces and manufacturing facilities where not all of the many daily operations are likely to have industrial hygiene risks. A qualitative assessment allows an investigator to narrow down the areas that pose real risks and need to be investigated further. Of course, this practical approach also saves money because it identifies the specific areas that justify more extensive testing, without having to test every single worker and work area in the facility.