If you are looking for a career in the field of environmental health and safety, a job as an industrial hygienist may be of interest to you. Industrial hygienists are responsible for ensuring that industrial work environments are safe for employees, free from hazardous exposure, and in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.
In this article, we will take a detailed look at what to expect in an industrial hygienist’s job, what you need in regards to education and skills, and the key responsibilities that you will be in charge of, so you can see if the industrial hygienist’s job is for you.
Understanding The Role of An Industrial Hygienist
An industrial hygienist is a professional who works in industrial or community settings to reduce and prevent exposure to health hazards associated with chemicals, noise, radiation, and other physical and biological agents.
They play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and well-being of employees, members of the public, and the environment in industrial and community settings. Exposure to hazardous materials and agents can lead to serious long-term health problems and can even be fatal.
By practicing good industrial hygiene, companies can minimize risks to employees, the surrounding community, and the environment while improving their productivity and reputation. This is why industrial hygienists play a key role in creating safe and healthy work environments.
6 Key Responsibilities of an Industrial Hygienist
The responsibilities of an industrial hygienist can vary depending on the specific industry or employer. However, some of the most common duties of an industrial hygienist include:
- Inspecting workplaces to identify potential sources of hazardous exposure.
- Developing and implementing control strategies to minimize the risk of exposure to hazardous substances.
- Providing training and educational programs for employees on how to avoid hazards in the workplace.
- Collaborating with other occupational safety professionals to create comprehensive safety programs.
- Responding to incidents and emergencies involving hazardous materials.
- Keeping up-to-date with new technologies and regulations related to workplace safety and health
They must be knowledgeable about the latest trends, regulations, and best practices in industrial hygiene and be able to apply them effectively in their work. In addition to their technical skills, industrial hygienists must also possess strong communication and interpersonal skills.
So if any of these responsibilities sound like something you would be good at or enjoy, we’ll discuss educational and certification requirements and the essential skills you’ll need in the next section.
Educational and Certification Requirements
Most industrial hygienist positions require a bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering field such as biology, environmental science, chemistry, or occupational health and safety.
Additionally, some employers may prefer candidates who have a master’s degree or certificate in industrial hygiene. Some of the most relevant degrees and programs for aspiring industrial hygienists include:
- Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science
- Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry
- Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Health and Safety
- Master’s or Doctorate degree in Environmental Health
- Master’s or Doctorate degree in Industrial Hygiene
- Master’s or Doctorate degree in Public Health
Many employers prefer or require that industrial hygienists obtain certification from professional organizations. Some of the most respected certifications or credentials for industrial hygienists include:
- Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH)
- Certified Safety Professional (CSP)
- Occupational Hygiene and Safety Technician (OHST)
- Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM)
- Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (CIEC)
One helpful tip you can use is to make a table and compare the course material for each degree, program, or certification. Now, let’s get into the skills and qualities that are required of an industrial hygienist.
The 3 Essential Skills and Qualities for Success
Industrial hygienists must possess a diverse set of skills and qualities to excel in their jobs, with some of the most important including:
1. Technical and Analytical Skills:
Industrial hygienists must be able to analyze and interpret complex scientific data related to hazardous materials and agents. They must also be able to:
- Have knowledge of toxicology
- Perform risk assessments
- Perform statistical analysis in order to properly assess hazards
- Create effective control strategies
2. Communication and Interpersonal Skills: Because industrial hygienists work with a variety of people, including employees, members of the public, contractors, management, and regulatory agencies, they must possess excellent communication skills. They should be able to:
- Communicate complex information in a clear and concise manner
- Be patient and empathetic when working with people
- Work well in team settings
3. Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Abilities: Industrial hygienists must have strong problem-solving skills to assess hazards, develop control strategies, and respond to emergencies. They must also use critical thinking skills to identify potential hazards and prescribe corrective action.
Now that you know what it takes to be an industrial hygienist, let’s look at some of the typical work environments and conditions that they work in.
Typical Work Environment and Conditions
Industrial hygienists work in a wide variety of industries and settings, including manufacturing facilities, construction sites, government agencies, and medical facilities. Because they work on-site, industrial hygienists must be comfortable with physical demands and hazards.
Physical Demands and Hazards – Industrial hygienists may face physical demands and hazards associated with inspecting work environments. They may frequently climb and stand on ladders, descend into underground pipelines, or work in confined spaces. Industrial hygienists may also be exposed to high noise levels, chemicals, and radiation.
Travel and Schedule Considerations – Many industrial hygienists have flexibility in their work schedules and can work part-time or on a project basis. However, some positions may require significant travel to different locations, including international travel. Industrial hygienists must be prepared to work irregular hours in response to emergencies, incidents, or when inspections require it.
And if you’re wondering how far you can get with an industrial hygienist career, let’s look at some options that are available in regards to advancement opportunities.
Top 3 Career Advancement Opportunities
Industrial hygienists may have numerous opportunities for advancement and specialization with experience and education. Some of the most common paths for career advancement include:
- Specializations and Niches: Industrial hygienists may choose to specialize in a particular area of industrial hygiene, such as hazardous waste management, ergonomics, or indoor air quality. They can also become experts in their chosen area of specialization and work on a wide variety of projects.
- Networking and professional associations:Industrial hygienists can join professional associations and networks to increase their opportunities for professional development, education, and career advancement. Some of the most respected associations for industrial hygienists include:
- The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)
- The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP)
- The National Safety Council (NSC)
- Continuing Education and Skill Development:Industrial hygienists may advance their careers by attending seminars, workshops, and certification courses to gain new skills and knowledge. Continued education allows industrial hygienists to stay current in their field, apply new technologies, and incorporate holistic solutions to complex challenges in industrial hygiene.What you can expect in an industrial hygienist’s job is a challenging but rewarding career that provides the opportunity to make a real difference in the world. So, consider everything discussed here when considering a career in industrial hygiene.