Industrial hygienists are usually defined by the job functions they provide. Many of these activities overlap with safety, environmental, toxicology, compliance, scientific, mathematics, physics, medical, and sometimes legal.

The AIHA’s definition is (and I summarize):

  • to recognize, evaluate and control environmental factors, elements, and stresses in the workplace which might affect the health of workers

Primarily the job functions include:

  • investigating & examining workplace hazards
  • training & educating employees on health risks in the workplace
  • reviewing MSDS
  • performing air monitoring to assess employee exposures
  • making recommendations to control workplace hazards
  • recommending personal protective equipment
  • providing insight/counselling for an employer, or for employees on hazard risks

I don’t have a good “elevator pitch” when describing my work. It’s just too complicated. I usually start out with, “I sort of work with employers and employees in regards to safety & OSHA”. It’s a horrible intro and I wish I could get away from it. Unfortunately, most people know and understand OSHA. We need to do a better job of, 1.explaining what we do and, 2. educating people that there are more effective ways to protect employees than OSHA compliance.

I’ve also heard the jokes. IH = industrial hyenas.