Industrial hygiene consultants play an important role in helping organizations maintain healthy and safe environments for their employees. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, industrial hygienists are instrumental in creating safe workplaces that are compliant with government standards and regulations.
For those interested in building a career in this field, it is important to understand what industrial hygiene consulting is and the steps required to train and become certified for this position. An advanced degree, such as Tulane University’s Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) in Industrial Hygiene, for instance, can help future industrial hygienists develop the knowledge and skills they need to become leaders and consultants in this role.
Industrial hygiene is the science of analyzing and improving workplace conditions to protect employees’ health and safety. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), industrial hygienists “anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and recommend controls for environmental and physical hazards that can affect the health and well-being of workers.”
While every organization is required to make sure its workplace is safe, many do not have in-house employees committed to this practice. In fact, in a recent virtual conference, Occupational Health & Safety magazine found that over half of the attendees had no on-staff industrial hygiene professionals in their companies. Especially as many businesses cut costs to survive the pandemic, they may not have the funds to hire salaried industrial hygienists.
That is where industrial hygiene consultants come in. These professionals are trained and certified to work with clients in their workplaces to evaluate health hazards, anticipate risks, and develop new health and safety strategies and programs.
Industrial hygiene consultants can work with organizations across industries to help evaluate and improve workplace health and safety conditions.
Once hired, industrial hygiene consultants can complete the following processes:
- Conducting an assessment to determine potential workplace risks, which involves gathering data and running tests to identify hazards such as:
- Chemical hazards
- Biological hazards
- Physical hazards
- Ergonomic hazards
- Air contaminants
- Building reports to convey their findings to managers and employees in the organization
- Developing control strategies to address any hazards and prevent future health and safety issues from arising
Employees at a manufacturing company, for example, might be exposed to toxic chemicals because the company did not install adequate filtration systems. Or a government organization might have trouble enforcing proper social distancing among employees and administering appropriate personal protective equipment to its workers. An industrial hygiene consultant would be responsible for helping each organization identify and mitigate these issues.
Industrial hygiene consultants should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as chemistry, biology, physics, or engineering. By earning a higher-level degree such as an MSPH in Industrial Hygiene, professionals building a career in this role can obtain advanced knowledge and skills, improving their opportunities for employment.
Industrial hygiene consultants can also advance their careers by earning a credential as a certified industrial hygienist (CIH), offered by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. To sit for the certification exam, applicants need to meet several criteria, including completing a four-year bachelor’s degree, earning 12 college credits in industrial hygiene coursework, and gaining four years of professional industrial hygiene experience.
Industrial hygiene consultants should also possess key skills, including:
- Communication skills. Professionals in this role must be able to convey their findings and recommendations to managers and employees through written and verbal reports. They must also be able to clearly communicate specifics about government workplace safety regulations to staff.
- Problem-solving skills. These consultants will be tasked with conducting analyses and making complex decisions about dealing with hazards and risks in the workplace.
- Technology skills. Industrial hygiene consultants may have to use advanced technology and software systems to conduct tests and collect data for clients.
The median annual salary of industrial hygienists is $78,100, according to August 2021 data from PayScale. Professionals have a greater chance of earning higher salaries if they can offer prospective employers expertise in specialized areas, such as risk management, occupational health, OSHA compliance, regulatory compliance, and safety compliance, or if they have certification credentials.
Jobs for occupational health and safety specialists, including industrial hygienists, are expected to grow by 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consultants in these roles will be needed as organizations across industries seek to create safer workplaces, reduce insurance costs, and support an aging population of employees who may be at greater risk of injury and illness. Industrial hygienists with certifications and technical skills will be best prepared to address these needs and advance their careers in this field.
Tulane University is home to the first school of public health in the U.S. For over 100 years, our School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine has been providing students with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue rewarding careers in their chosen fields.
Through the MSPH in Industrial Hygiene program, future consultants will be able to identify hazards using applied scientific principles, develop remediation strategies, and apply health and safety regulations to a range of workplaces across industries. Program graduates receive one year of credit toward the experience requirement for the CIH exam.
Learn more about how Tulane’s MSPH in Industrial Hygiene program can help you pursue an advanced career in industrial hygiene consulting.