Since the 1940s, Industrial Hygiene has been a profession.  When my son came home and told me he was going to be an Industrial Hygienist, I thought he was going to clean people’s teeth in an industrial environment.  The more I learned, the happier I was, that he has chosen Industrial Hygiene as his career field.

The American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) defines Industrial Hygiene as the following:

Industrial hygiene is the science of protecting and enhancing the health and safety of people at work and in their communities. Health and safety hazards cover a wide range of chemical, physical, biological, and ergonomic stressors. Those dedicated to anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling those hazards are known as Industrial Hygienists.


In a nutshell, an Industrial Hygienist ensures workers are healthy and safe. 

Industrial Hygienists analyze work environments and work procedures.  They inspect and monitor workplaces to ensure compliance with regulations on safety, health, and the environment.  They do some or all of the following:

  • Inspect, monitor, and evaluate workplace environments, equipment, and processes for safety standard compliance
  • Prepare written reports incorporating their findings
  • Create and implement workplace processes that protect workers
  • Prepare and provide training programs to educate employers and workers
  • Make recommendations and demonstrate the use of safety equipment
  • Investigate incidents and accidents to identify the cause and identify preventative actions

Industry can be a mixed debate for worker safety.  Profit margins are high on the list and are in constant scrutiny.  Industry creates jobs, provides economic benefits, especially for the local community.

Related Blog Post: Dr. Alice Hamilton: Industrial Hygiene Crusader

The industries that Industrial Hygiene professionals can work in are Mining, Factories, Pharma, Construction, Wildfire Management, Environmental, Oil and Gas, and Foundries.

Industries that require Industrial Hygienist
Industries that require Industrial Hygienist

Each of these industries has its illness catalysts:

  • Respirable crystalline silica and inhalable dust, coal, mineral, welding fumes, smoke, and other particulate aerosols.
  • Petroleum-based products including semi-volatile organic and volatile organic compounds, and liquid, vapor, mist and gas exposures.
  • Noise and vibration from production, maintenance tools, and equipment.

Workers have certain health risks:

  • Carbon Monoxide, Mercury, Beryllium, and Lead Poisoning
  • Debilitating Hand conditions
  • Spastic anemia
  • Silicosis, Lung Cancer and Pulmonary Tuberculosis
  • Mental Illness
  • On the job injuries including falls and slips
  • Hearing Loss
  • Electrical Magnetic Frequency Damage

A good Industrial Hygiene and safety program includes analyzing and monitoring respiratory protection, confined space, hot work, hearing conservation, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), lock-out/tag-out, and other health and safety initiatives.

The job market is in high demand for Industrial Hygienists. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians have the following opportunities:

  • Median Pay in the United States: $79,940 Annually ($36.03 per Hour)
  • Number of Jobs: 88,390 with a growth rate of 4% per year (Does not include self-employed)
  • Expected employment change, 2016 to 2026, 8,600 more jobs
Industrial Hygienist Job Market
Bureau of Labor Statistics

The general requirements are the following, although some employers will require more:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Hygiene or related field of study
  • Ability to work on a team and individually
  • Time management and strong organizational skills
  • Adeptness for the usage of specialized equipment and monitoring instruments to measure various hazards, such as airborne contaminants or noise pollution
  • Ability to teach employees and develop training for workers
  • Attention to Detail
  • Capability to create policies and procedures for safe practices in the workplace
  • Ability to travel
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Ability to study for, receive and maintain certifications

An Industrial Hygienist at the very minimum requires a bachelor’s degree. 

Masters degrees are not essential, but as competition increases advanced degrees will help compete.  However, doctorates are necessary for those that wish to do academic research and to become a specialist.  Certification is recommended.

The Industry Profile is interesting as well.  35% work in the Federal Government, 41% work in State and Local government, 40% work in Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services and 16% work in the Management of Companies and Enterprises.  The states with the highest percentage of jobs are Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York.

Most of the Industrial Hygienists I have met are very happy with their job.  They do not do the same thing every day, and they enjoy helping workers stay safe.  In general, they are very intelligent and compassionate and are extremely concerned about preventing the workers in their charge from getting sick.

If you are trying to figure out what career field, I highly suggest investigating this career field.

Linda Rawson, is the Founder of DynaGrace Enterprises, inventor of WeatherEgg, and the author of The Minority and Women-Owned Small Business Guide to Government Contracts: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

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