Occupational hazards of a physical nature may be chemical, biological and physical. Exposure assessment is the process of measuring the intensity of exposures for the purpose of identifying hazards, classifying exposure levels and setting priorities for control. This must be done in the workplace itself. The professionals who conduct exposure assessment studies are called occupational hygienists. A typical exposure assessment first involves identifying which hazards are likely to be present and where they are likely to be in the workplace. The intensity of the exposure to specific hazards is then measured where they occur, using appropriate technology. Often, samples have to be taken for laboratory analysis but at other times the occupational hygienist uses portable instruments on the site. Building-related illness, which is often called “sick building syndrome” is a particular problem in exposure assessment. Workers in some buildings have unusually high rates of health complaints and symptoms. Building-related illness due to irritant exposures often causes symptoms in people with asthma and allergies, who tend to be much more susceptible to irritants, before other people even notice a problem. Occasionally, there is no cause and the reasons for the building-related illness are psychological, although one never assumes this until an assessment has been completed. Most often, it is caused by poor ventilation, especially when a building is airtight to save energy.
Keywords: occupational hazards, exposure assessment, exposure levels, occupational hygienists, hazards, building-related illness, sick building syndrome, irritants, health complaints, occupational hygiene
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