People tend to have good instincts for detecting danger. After all, we have evolved to constantly assess our surroundings and navigate through uncertainty. Without this evolutionary advantage, we wouldn’t be here. Many times, a “bad feeling” is enough to prompt immediate action and keep us safe.

But not everything looks like a saber-toothed tiger.

What if you couldn’t notice the danger easily?

In that case, you would need someone who has the knowledge and skills to see what you can’t. When it comes to occupational health hazards, registered occupational hygienists are that someone. They’re the only people we trust to assess our clients’ workplaces and we’d like to tell you why they’re worth their weight in gold.

 

Those Hidden Hazards: It’s Hard to Uncover What You’re Not Thoroughly Trained to Spot

Many toxic environmental agents are undetectable by human senses. You can’t detect them with smell, touch, sight, sound, or even taste. The most insidious thing about these hazards is that they take a long time to kill you.

Imagine that your life is like a pile of marbles. With each exposure to a toxic material, another marble is removed from the pile. You don’t notice one or two missing. But eventually, after years of consistent exposure, your pile dwindles and disappears.

Now it’s too late.

Nobody gives up their marbles on purpose. For many people, it’s not their fault. They just didn’t know about the dangers.

Perhaps they were a building operator in a building with asbestos that was improperly certified as asbestos-free. Maybe they were working in a manual labour position that resulted in repetitive strain injuries because the person assessing the job wasn’t trained to spot that hazard and make the right adjustments. Or maybe they were a welder tasked with a welding job that resulted in toxic fumes that should have required respiratory protection but no one was trained to spot that hazard.

There are many hidden hazards in the workplace, and workers deserve to be protected from them.

 

Registered Occupational Hygienists: Experts that Detect Those Hazards

Information is the key to taking proactive measures that can save workers’ lives from injury, long term disease and death. Information can help you assess situations where those spidey senses aren’t enough in the modern workplace. To make those assessments, you need the right experts in your corner, with the proper tools for detection and the right expertise for interpretation.

That’s where registered occupational hygienists come in.

Registered occupational hygienists are experts in identifying and evaluating occupational hazards and mitigating associated risks with proper controls and elimination strategies. Their work is critical in the maintenance of safe work places. They perform assessments to protect against all types of hazards:

  • chemical,
  • physical,
  • biological,
  • ergonomic,
  • and psychosocial.

They are an essential component in the integrity of any work place safety system.

The ROH is a professional designation from the Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienists (CRBOH). The highest standard of care is expected from these professionals because the CRBOH’s credibility rests on their shoulders.

 

The Corner-Cutting Option: Unregistered and Uncertain

But here’s a not-so-fun fact: not all individuals who market themselves as occupational hygienists are certified. It’s an industry where you can find unregistered consultants operating without credentialed expertise. This means that anyone can set up a website and market their occupational hygiene services.

But without a specified standard of care enforced by the CRBOH, these consultants are not constrained, and can cut corners. This corner-cutting allows them to compete at commodity pricing, and they can sway companies to choose them, even though their services don’t match the same standards.

This means the service those companies get from the unregistered consultants leaves room for vast uncertainty. What standards do they follow? What recourse is there if they provide substandard services resulting in safety risks for workers?

There’s no guarantee.

With registered professionals, the registering body provides that level of assurance, and that makes all the difference.

At Safety Coordination Services, we believe that level of assurance is essential, so our clients always get the very best in safety services. This includes the services of registered occupational hygiene professionals.

We believe safety is not a compromisable condition. In fact, our CEO, Jacques Rochefort, has more to say about that in his vlog series, Straight talk From Jacques. Check out his vlog and our recent blog posts for more on our stance regarding the value of your safety.

 

The Difference Expertise Makes in the Real World

The difference in costs between the services of the unregistered personnel and the ROH may provoke some sticker shock on the front end, but buying the handyman-special version of industrial hygiene consultant leads to far more cost in the future, both for your workers and your company.

It’s like saving money by using unlicensed Kijiji tradespeople instead of journeymen to complete construction work on an office building. Sure, it’s cheaper, but would you want to rent out that building or even work in it when it was done?

You could totally consult Dr. Google for your mysterious symptoms, but when curiosity and unease set in, you usually find yourself in the waiting room of a real M.D.

That’s because these aren’t just perceived or potential problems. Similarly, occupational hygiene relates to real hazards and risks faced by real people at work every day. Let’s take a look at an example to illustrate.

Waterproofing Company – A Case Study

Our client, a waterproofing contractor, had a problem. An Alberta OHS officer slapped an order on their business requiring air monitoring at their work place. The order was vague, so it required the knowledge of a registered occupational hygienist to interpret the risks associated with their waterproofing chemicals.

The primary concern was methyl methacrylate, which gives off a very strong and unpleasant odour. But the odour aside, methyl methacrylate is mostly an irritant at low concentrations. After testing, we found that the odour was much worse than the actual hazard to workers.

But one of the waterproofing layers we studied contained 100% crystalline silica, which is a chemical requiring a code of practice in Alberta due to its extremely toxic characteristics. Crystalline silica particles are very small, so they can penetrate deep inside a worker’s lungs. The crystalline structure of silica creates scar tissue inside the lungs where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place.

This scarring occurs over many years thereby reducing the ability of the lungs to exchange oxygen. This condition is called Silicosis. Eventually, so much scar tissue builds up that the lungs stop working and the person suffocates. It’s a tragic death related to workplace hazards.

The client only used the silica for about 5 to 10 minutes at a time, and only in small amounts. However, because of the high concentrations we insisted that it must be tested. After monitoring workers for a full 8-hour shift, we found concentrations of crystalline silica quartz around 50% of the occupational exposure limit. The client, the supplier, and even the OHS Officer were shocked with the results.

Logic would seem to dictate that the small amount of silica in the product would be safe, but the opposite was true. Even small amounts of a very toxic chemical can create a dangerous atmosphere for workers. Having a qualified registered occupational hygienist reviewing, assessing, and interpreting air sampling results was critical to the success of their safety program, ensuring that their worker would not be exposed to hazards causing long-term health effects at their workplace.

We see here how the smell produced by an irritant chemical was actually a red herring in the wider hazard assessment. Without the proper assessment, conducted by an ROH who knew what to be alert for, the client never would’ve known this critical information to protect their workers. Resources that might have gone towards controlling a perceived risk related to odour were now freed up to tackle an actual risk related to a respiratory particulate hazard.

 

Using an ROH is Just Good ROI

This is just one of many examples we could relate that show how using an ROH for your occupational hygiene needs is just good return on your investment. The cost of getting a properly credentialled ROH to perform the right assessment for your circumstances will be far less than putting in unnecessary safety measures or than letting potentially harmful exposures go uncontrolled.

Once you know the actual risks in your business, you can embed effective controls into your safety system. These controls give you confidence in your operations and assurance that you made the right choice. Yet one more thing your ROH can help facilitate.

That really is good bang for your buck.

If you need help finding a suitable registered occupational hygienist, Safety Coordination Services uses only ROHs for our occupational hygiene assessments. Our fully functional industrial hygiene division can assist you in the anticipation, identification, evaluation and control of hazardous materials and tasks in your work place. Don’t hesitate to call us at 780-485-3585 or e-mail to book an assessment.

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