AIHce: Green Design and IH: Mutually Exclusive?

At an interesting roundtable session at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo in Dallas, several scientists discussed integrating green design and industrial hygiene practices. Is it possible to simultaneously reduce risks to the environment and workers, they wondered.

Yes, they concluded, but care must be taken that new, stiffer environmental regulations don't protect the environment while ignoring workers.

"Decisions made by industrial hygienists often have direct impact on the environment," said Jennifer Sahmel, EPA, Washington. "Exhaust [hazards] away from the work environment and outside the facility. The opposite can be true; regulations to protect the environment can certainly impact the workplace and the workforce."

Rafeal Moure-Eraso, Ph.D., CIH, of the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, said all EHS professionals "are public health officials, with a focus on workers in the workplace."

As such, he added, "our target population is the workforce, and their health is inherently attached to the health of the environment."

The traditional approach to resource management includes taking economic factors, community aspirations and environmental management into consideration, with economic management carrying the most weight. Resource management that is focused on the human impact also includes economic factors, community aspirations and environmental management, but all carry equal weight.

"To make changes [that do not adversely impact workers or the environment], we must integrate occupational hygiene into plant processes. We must become involved in management and strive to make occupational hygiene a line function in management," Moure-Eraso said. "Simple management tools are not enough to succeed. We need to be an essential part of the production process."

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