Industrial hygiene is aimed at anticipating, detecting, assessing, preventing, and controlling environmental factors that can impair the health and safety of workers. Industrial hygienists require relevant, accurate, and timely analysis to identify the presence of chemical contaminants, possible sources, develop solutions, and ensure compliance with health and safety regulations. Occupational hazards can also arise from unexpected chemical spills, gas leaks, fire, chemical contamination, improper waste disposal, fire, etc.
CASSEN’s industrial hygiene laboratory provides a broad range of analytical services for occupational assessments of chemical exposure. CASSEN conducts analysis of numerous chemical compounds of interest, as well as, open characterization of top compounds, including interpretation of results. Scientists at CASSEN are experienced in analysis pertaining to industrial processes, emissions from bulk materials, identification of contaminants and potential sources.
Air contaminants include gaseous contaminants (volatile organic compounds) and particulate matter (dust, fume, aerosol, mist).
Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) include a broad group of chemicals that form by evaporation from a liquid or solid. Contamination with VOC’s can occur due to cleaning, painting, use of solvents, combustion processes and other industrial operations. For example, welding generates a group of VOC’s, such as acetylene, helium, argon, and nitrogen.
Airborne dust can be generated by physical breakdown of materials, such as grinding, crushing, and drilling. Fine mists and aerosols form when vapours condense to a dispersed liquid such as by splashing or atomizing. Testing of particulate matter and respirable particulate matter is used to determine worker exposure and compare with exposure limits, including time-weighted average (TWA). TWA is used to determine the average chemical exposure over a certain time period, such as 8 hour work day.
Exposure to hazardous chemicals can occur by inhalation, absorption through skin, and ingestion. The degree of health and safety risk from a chemical depends on the properties and toxicity of the chemical, as well as, the magnitude and duration of worker exposure.
Information about chemical hazards is available from a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which is typically provided by manufacturer or suppliers. Chemical analysis and comparison with MSDS of products used at the sampling site allows to identify chemical contaminants and possible byproducts and determine their sources. Certain VOC’s have low odour thresholds and can be detected by humans, while other VOC’s may be imperceptible but still pose a danger to human health.
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). (1998). Informational Booklet on Industrial Hygiene. OSHA 3143.