Many people still believe that taking care of hygiene in the workplace simply means keeping it clean, providing hand sterilizers, etc. However, the objectives go much further: hygiene and safety at work go hand in hand to provide the best possible workplace.
The first thing you need to know is that occupational, work and industrial hygiene are different nomenclatures, but they have the same meaning. They all deal with the safety of people who may be exposed to biological agents, noise and radiation, among other factors.
Do health and safety at work have the same goal?
One of the main objectives of the companies is to prevent accidents and ensure the health and safety of employees in order to preserve the workforce. Some of the tools used to do so are the occupational hygiene and work safety standards – this is where the two activities begin to make sense together.
Valuing work hygiene goes far beyond maintaining a clean environment or using alcohol. Occupational hygiene is part of safety science and occupational medicine. Its goal is to ensure that the integrity of employees is maintained even when they are exposed to dangerous or unhealthy environments. This includes toxic gases, harmful noises to the ear, a stressful environment, etc.
Work hygiene acts as a preventive measure, detecting, evaluating and controlling factors that may cause illness, damage to physical or mental health and discomfort to workers. In this way, it is ensured that occupational health and safety are being addressed and treated.
What is the difference between work safety and work hygiene?
The safety and health of employees in a company should be considered two of the main bases of workforce maintenance. Thus, there is a very close relationship between work safety and hygiene activities. For the World Health Organization, a person in good health needs to be with the physical, mental and social without the commitment of any disease or illness.
Preserving workers from health risks, in addition to maintaining their physical and mental integrity during working hours, is a procedure governed by work hygiene. Therefore, hygiene and safety at work are interlinked practices, which act directly on the productivity and performance of a company’s employees.
Worker safety, in turn, is a cluster of techniques focused on education, psychology and medicine for the prevention of accidents. With them, it becomes possible to eliminate or greatly reduce insecurities in the work environment, encouraging employees to make use of them as a prevention practice.
What are the forms of action of occupational hygiene?
According to ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, in Portuguese), the work hygiene is divided in three stages.
- Recognition: in this phase, the objective is to seek in the work environment the existence of agents that can harm the health of workers. For this, it is necessary that all stages of an activity performed on site are presented at the time of evaluation.
- Evaluation: qualitative and quantitative tests are carried out in order to detect the profile of the physical, chemical and biological agents present in the environment. This is the time to collect data and detect contaminants.
- Control: with the results of the assessment in hand, measures are sought to eliminate or minimize the risk posed.
The actions taken may:
- be related to the process (isolation of toxic areas and substitution of chemicals);
- be administrative (investment in training, reduction of worker exposure time);
- be related to the employees (acquisition of Individual Protection Equipment and Collective Protection Equipment).
How does work hygiene impact a worker’s life?
Workers, especially in the industrial environment, are the most impacted by exposure to the risks offered in the workplace. Noisy machines, aggressive temperatures and even radiation are some of the agents that can cause serious health problems.
With the implementation of occupational hygiene measures, some internal rules are created to protect the employee and allow certain tasks to be performed. Radiation, for example, is all classified and tested to ensure that exposure does not affect health or that PPE actually prevents contact with the human body.
It is worth remembering that the effectiveness of a prevention measure depends primarily on the analysis and understanding of risk factors. We will therefore list below the groups of threats to the health and safety of workers.
What risk factors are workers exposed to?
In everyday work, employees are exposed to different types of risks – which can be physical, chemical, biological, ergonomic, psychosocial and mechanical. We will explain about each of them below!
The most varied forms of energy to which workers are exposed are considered to be promoters of physical risk.
Chemical hazard agents can be substances, compounds or products capable of reaching the body through the respiratory tract, in the form of dust, gases, fumes, haze or vapours. In addition, they can cause impact through exposure to or contact with the body.
Bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, among others, are agents of biological risk. Accidents are almost always linked to work in hospitals, laboratories, livestock and agriculture.
These are those problems that can interfere with the physical characteristics of the worker. Discomfort is generated in the use of machines and equipment or with inadequate furniture, causing incorrect postures and positions, capable of causing health problems. Ergonomic risks are considered those environments adapted with poor ventilation, lighting and comfort conditions for workers.
Considering the greatest challenges for the area of work safety, stress and psychosocial risks are responsible for 50% of absences from work. Because they result from management and administration, they include: night shifts, excessive work rhythm, monotony, high productivity requirements and authoritarianism in labor relations.
Due to the lack of safety and organization in the environment, they can cause damage to the physical integrity of people.
What are the losses for the company that does not invest in this area?
When a company does not invest in hygiene and safety at work, its employees run the risk of suffering accidents or developing diseases. As a result, it is necessary that they distance themselves from their activities.
Besides, if the above mentioned rules are not fulfilled, the company may have to pay high fines. Therefore, it is more worthwhile to make the investment! After you understood what it is and what are the applications of worker safety, in addition to its implications on hygiene.