Hello everyone, I am Phillip (Hanchen) Chen! I just joined Safety Solutions at Work as an Occupational Hygienist last month. It has been a fun month for me, especially when I walk into the workplace and introduce my role as an “Occupational Hygienist”. I get amusing questions about my role as an occupational hygienist such as: “Are you responsible for keeping the patient’s teeth clean?” “Nope, but dental hygienists do”. “Do you remind workers to wash their hands?” “Yes, we promote workplace health, but we do more than that!”
So, what do Occupational Hygienists do beyond providing workers with soap?
Why do we need to use the soap? Probably because our hands are dirty. At workplaces, the “dirt” could be more complex with amorphous forms. A big part of our job is to recognize and assess the dirt!
Let’s suppose that when a worker walks into the factory to start his job, what could he be exposed to and what could harm his/her health? Chemicals for sure. Solvents, degreasers, resins could be released into the work environment and then the worker will inhale those into the lungs. Dust of course, especially when he works in a sawmill or welding shop. Noise and vibration are ubiquitous issues as well. So, as occupational hygienists, we can go to the field and assess worker’s exposure to this wide variety of chemical, physical and biological hazards.
Why do we do that? – To protect the worker’s health for sure! The value of them being healthy at work is of key importance to the family, community and society. Also, provincial regulations set up limits of these hazards!
Which kind of soap do choose? There are lots of factors to consider, such as your skin type, the cleaning efficiency and $$$. To fully protect workers from the occupational hazards, we also advise control measures, by taking all the factors into consideration. To achieve that, we work with civil and environmental engineers, safety engineers, chemical suppliers, protection equipment manufacturers and the employer to provide comprehensive protection to the workers.
“Hygiene” as a science, deals with the promotion and perseverance of health. In spite of the differences on the technical aspect, “Occupational Hygiene” deals with the health and well-being at workplaces, which is consistent with the general concept of “Hygiene”. Thus, I would like to share a picture of Hygieia, who is the Greek goddess of health. It is nice to realize that the title on my card has sort of association with Hygieia.