What does an Occupational Hygienist do?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO):

–          There are 2,000,000 work related deaths and/or injuries per year

–          386,000 deaths each year from exposure to airborne particulates

–          37% of lower back pain is attributed to the workplace

The work of occupational hygienists is centred on eliminating and/or reducing these risks in the work place. It is a niche profession with a small population but if you are good at problem solving, analytical and logical thinking, decision making and you like to help others, then this may be a good career option for you.

What do they do?

The definition of Occupational Hygiene given by the International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA) is as follows: ‘…the discipline of anticipating, recognising, evaluation and controlling health hazards in the working environment with the objective of protecting worker health and well-being and safeguarding the community at large.’ Occupational hygiene is where science and engineering meets the human element of the work place. Examples of some of the activities of occupational hygienists include surveys and evaluating work place situations, carrying out risk assessments, eliminating and/or reducing risks by facilitating organisational change.

How do I pursue it?

Education, training and experience are all important aspects of an occupational hygienist’s career. Professional qualifications are usually gained by either full or part time study whilst working however the most common qualifications are either an MSc from a university or a diploma from the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS).  A career in occupational hygiene will usually mean you come from a science or engineering based educational background – however many people move into occupational hygiene from other disciplines. Occupational hygienists make use of both practical and scientific knowledge and so it is a role that is open to a wide range of technical graduates.

www.prospects.ac.uk/occupational_hygienist_job_description.htm – read more about becoming an occupational hygienist here.

www.bohs.org/occupationalhygieneexplained/ – also have a look at the videos on this website that explain more about what occupational hygiene is and what a career in occupational hygiene is like.

Novlet Levy

Careers Information Assistant


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