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What is Industrial Hygiene?

The American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) defines industrial hygiene as the science and practice devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of those environmental factors and stresses arising from the workplace that may cause sickness, impaired health and well being, or significant discomfort among worker's and may also impact the general community.

The industrial hygiene, part of Occupational Safety Program, is responsible to address health and safety issues such as:

  • Asbestos: Before 1970 asbestos was commonly used in many buildings. EH&S closely monitor asbestos management, supervise asbestos removal, provide training to Facilities staff and address employees concerns.
  • Ergonomics: The EH&S provides ergonomic workstation assessments and training.  With people spending more and more time at their computers it is of great importance to ensure that problems such as work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD´s), repetitive motion injuries, and back and neck strain are avoided. 
  • Indoor Air Quality: Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) at Columbia means insuring that the air in our building and office environments is in compliance with accepted standards.  Potential air contaminants may include molds and mildews, dusts, and chemicals associated with office products.  In addition, issues such as temperature, relative humidity, and ventilation are investigated.
  • Laser Safety: Many laboratories at Columbia University use lasers. Class 3 and class 4 lasers must be with EH&S. All laser users must attend laser safety training before their use. EH&S provides training and routinely do laser inspections.
  • Safety Data Sheets:  A Safety Data Sheet, or SDS, is a document that provides important health and safety information about the chemicals used in the workplace. All products shipped to the Morningside campus must be accompanied by an SDS.  SDS’s for all of the products used on campus are kept on file in the EH&S office. 
  • Respiratory Protection: Respirators may be worn for protection from dusts, vapors, fumes, and other types of respiratory hazards.  EH&S can provide Columbia employees with training on how to properly use and care for respirators and can also provide fit testing services. 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): EH&S provides information and training as to the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).  PPE includes such things as safety glasses and goggles, protective clothing, hearing protection, or hard hats. 
  • Noise: EH&S office can also assist in determining employee exposure to noise, and insures that noise from machinery on campus are in compliance with the NewYork City Noise Pollution regulations.
     
  • Non-Ionizing Radiation: Non-ionizing radiation, which includes electromagnetic frequencies (EMF), radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, and laser can be a potential occupational hazard.  EH&S can measure the strengths of various forms of non-ionizing radiation and provide training and guidelines for the safe use of lasers. 

If you have any questions about these topics, feel free to contact the EH&S Department at (212)854-8749 (MS) or (212)305-6780 (CUMC) or send e-mail to ehrs@columbia.edu (MS) or ehs-safety@columbia.edu (CUMC).