Industrial Hygienist Careers

Overview and Job Duties

Industrial hygiene technicians analyze, monitor, control, and correct workplace environmental problems to minimize health and safety hazards for employees, property, the environment, and the general public. If you have an analytic mind and enjoy knowing your work directly influences others’ safety and wellbeing, you might consider a career in this critical field. To begin, read through this guide to learn about the major duties and requirements expected of these professionals.

Industrial hygiene experts analyze, prevent, and control various biological, physical, or chemical hazards that could pose great danger for the people who work and live in a given area, and the environment as a whole. Chemical hazards include toxic gases such as xylene, waste anesthetic, and formaldehyde, all of which could have terrible impacts on people’s health and the environment. Physical hazards include ergonomics, excessive noise, illumination extremes,and extreme temperatures. Biological hazards include microorganisms and other substances from medical waste, toxins, or viruses,all of which must be closely monitored and controlled to prevent harm to both people and the environment in general.

Hygiene professionals work to minimize potential exposure to these risks by ensuring a company complies with all national, state, and regional safety regulations for waste containment and elimination. If exposure should happen, hygienists employ the use of gloves, masks, goggles, and respirators while the facility is undergoing cleanup, and then they work with other safety officials to prevent a reoccurrence of the problem.

Job Outlook

Industrial hygienists most often find work in government agencies, private firms, and consulting offices. Because their work is so broad in scope and they are responsible for ensuring the safety of people, property, and the environment, they represent a highly desirable skill and career. In May 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 57,950 hygienists worked in the field, with 7,110 of them working in federal positions under the executive branch.

Salary

As of May 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average industrial hygienist earns $67,340 per year.

Education Requirements

A high school diploma focusing on science courses is the first step toward entering this field. From there, one must obtain at least a bachelor’s degree with courses in chemistry, biology, chemical engineering, industrial safety, and mechanical engineering. If one wants to enter a managerial or supervisory position with greater responsibilities, one can then complete a master’s program with courses in epidemiology, ethics, toxicology, public health, environmental hazards, ergonomics, and biological and chemical hazard assessment methods.

Most states require hygienists to be certified by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene before they can begin to work professionally. In most cases, training can be acquired during the course of a degree program, though actual training requirements vary by post and qualification; for example, a hygienist responsible for an office environment would require different training from someone who intends to work in a factory setting.

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