By John Shepardson
The SLAC Industrial Hygiene program (IH) is the recognition, evaluation
and control of health hazards in the workplace. The industrial hygienists
in the Safety and Health Assurance Department (SHA) of ES&H use surveys
and on-site evaluation to control health hazards. Industrial hygienists
are trained in engineering, physics, chemistry and biology to understand
how workplace operations can effect our employees. We use workplace
monitoring and analytical methods to assess worker exposure and employ
controls on potential health hazards.
Early Industrial Hygiene
In the first century AD, Pliny the Elder discovered health risks for
those working with certain minerals. He devised a face mask (made from
animal bladder) that protected workers from breathing lead dust. In the
second century AD, the Greek physician Galen identified the pathology of
lead poisoning and recorded the hazardous exposure of acid mists to
miners. In 1556, the German scholar Agricola advanced the science of
industrial hygiene even further in his book, De Re Metallica, where
he described the diseases of miners and included suggestions for mine
ventilation and worker protection. In 1700, Ramazzini, known as the father
of industrial medicine, published the first comprehensive book on
industrial medicine, De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (The Diseases of
Workmen). By suggesting that occupational diseases should be studied in
the work environment rather than in hospital wards, Ramazzini defined the
modern approach to IH.
Industrial Hygiene Today
Here at SLAC, IH involves the control of health hazards that occur in
everyday work. Some examples of hazards controlled by IH include:
• Chemical Hazards: Harmful chemical compounds in the form of solids,
liquids, gases, mists, dusts, fumes and vapors can exert toxic effects
through inhalation (breathing), absorption (direct contact with the skin)
or ingestion (eating or drinking).
• Biological Hazards: Bacteria, viruses, fungi and other living
organisms can cause acute and chronic infections by entering the body
either directly or through breaks in the skin.
• Physical Hazards: Non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, magnetic
fields, noise, illumination and temperature extremes can influence worker
For industrial hygiene support at SLAC, contact the IH department. You
can find contact information on the resource list for ES&H, available on
the web at http://www.slac.stanford.edu/esh/resource.pdf.