Imagine putting up drywall without wearing a mask to filter out the dust, or cleaning up an oil spill without a full bodysuit to protect you. Sound crazy? As commonplace as health and safety practices are today, industrial hygiene regulations aren’t accidental.
The people responsible for worker health and safety regulations are industrial hygienists. At the University of Minnesota School of Public Health Division of Environmental Health Sciences, researchers like professor Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Ph.D., work to recognize, evaluate and control potential workplace hazards, including chemical, physical and biological agents. They also work to analyze the potential health threats to the community and the environment.
“The types of research that we conduct range from assessing chemical hazards in the workplace, to physical hazards such as noise, to biological hazards such as mold, bacteria and viruses,” said Ramachandran. “In our research we assess the exposures to workers in various situations such as mining, or the clean up efforts relating to the BP oil spill, test how well filters work, see how to reduce coal dust in mines and assess the smoke exposure of firefighters.”
Using mathematical equations, environmental monitoring and analytical methods to detect the extent of worker exposure, Ramachandran and his colleagues can assess and control potential health hazards.
“You can’t just tell every kind of worker to wear a protective mask and expect positive outcomes, because all working conditions are different,” said Ramachandran. “Each situation is different and calls for different protocols to ensure worker safety.”