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Getting the most out of occupational hygiene surveys
10 June 2022
Rob Preston offers guidance to help you plan and design a valuable survey in partnership with a qualified occupational hygienist.
A GOOD occupational hygiene survey should assist you in providing an accurate assessment of exposure to health hazards in your workplace. In order to achieve this, you will also need to make sure that the consultant has all the relevant information they will need to recognise, evaluate and control the risks to health in your workplace. This short guide has been designed to help you plan and design a valuable survey in partnership with a qualified occupational hygienist. It also provides some guidance on the next steps you should consider following the survey.
Step 1: Identify the hazard(s)
- Document the hazard, who has raised it and discuss with workforce, supervisors, site EHS, any other stakeholders (e.g. subcontractors, shared site tenants etc.). Include details of perceived exposures and concerns, known/suspected sources, peak exposure times and events, which shifts affected (including start and finish times), job roles affected, current controls in place including any procedures, training. At this stage, the stakeholder may have useful suggestions for improved controls
- Where possible, review any relevant material safety data sheets (MSDS) and/or any previous surveys associated with this hazard for pertinent information
- Document/record details of initial discussion and information gathering.
Step 2: Plan and design in co-operation with an occupational hygienist
- Where further investigation is deemed necessary, a suitable site representative should share documents with an occupational hygienist who can assist in survey design and scope and propose an exposure monitoring regime deemed to be a good representation(s) of the activity/hazard of concern. This may also involve pre-site meeting or calls
- Consult the relevant stakeholders again regarding the proposed exposure monitoring survey and adjust the scope if required after discussions
- Agree date(s) and times for exposure monitoring visits to be carried out. When all in agreement that hazards can be effectively assessed, schedule an appropriate site representative to be present during the occupational hygienist’s visits (someone who has been involved in the initial planning phases and is invested in the quality of the assessments)
- Individuals to be monitored can also be specified and informed at this stage
- One or two days prior to agreed visit date(s), the occupational hygienist (OH) will confirm with the site contact that all measures are in place to facilitate the survey as per scoping phase. OH will provide RAMS for visit.
Step 3: Survey day – On site
- On arrival at site, the occupational hygienist will complete relevant inductions, permit to work (PTW) and liaise with site representatives, relevant stakeholders and any individuals to be monitored
- During monitoring, OH should be provided access to suitably observe work processes/practices and current control effectiveness. They should be allowed to record details of any discussions with operatives which may be included in report
- Exclusions/deviations from planned scope will be recorded
- Prior to leaving site, OH will provide summary of any immediate risks, initial findings and proposed controls. Any exclusions from monitoring scope will also be communicated.
Step 4: Review the report
- Approximately 20 working days (this will vary per report), OH will prepare and submit report of monitoring survey to requested recipients. This will include observations of activities, comments from site operatives, results and assessment of exposure/controls. The report will also outline recommendations for further controls
- Recipient should review report and respond to OH if any amendments are required.
Step 5: Discuss, identify and implement actions
- The report recipient should discuss, propose and agree actions with all stakeholders at the site based on report findings, recommendations and feedback
- Implement your agreed actions designed to prevent or control exposures.
Step 6: Evaluate - Was this successful?
- At this stage, a lot of time, effort and potentially money has been invested into this process, but how can we demonstrate a positive outcome?
Effectiveness reviews - Discuss and record:
- Has the risk been reduced to a residual level?
- Can we quantify a significant reduction in exposure and is further monitoring/sampling required to demonstrate this?
- Do all involved parties feel risk has been sufficiently reduced and the actions/controls deemed suitable?
- Can exposure be reduced further still and is further action required?
· For a given hazard, unless it has been removed completely, it is likely that exposure to this hazard can be further reduced. The outcome of this process should directly inform the next stage.
Step 7: Continual improvement
- Continual improvement should be your aim: regularly review/audit your actions and controls and audit the stakeholder’s adoption of agreed actions or controls.
Questions for your reviews:
- Is there adequate enforcement of implemented actions?
- Is the maintenance of controls adequate and recorded?
- Have there been any changes to process/work practices, additional activities?
- Are new staff aware/trained at induction stage?
- Is staff refresher training/required?
Keep detailed records regarding this process (steps 1-7) and use this to inform and plan any further monitoring, evaluation of controls and continual improvement of exposure to health hazards in your workplace.
How can SOCOTEC help?
SOCOTEC’s occupational hygiene team provides expertise to prevent ill health caused by the working environment, supporting employers to understand, minimise and eliminate these risks. The team also offers clients the assurance and peace of mind that will enable them to remain compliant with a broad range of related legislation and regulatory guidance.
Rob Preston is occupational hygiene Team Leader, SOCOTEC
For more information visit www.socotec.co.uk