Occupational Hygienist

Occupational or industrial hygienists perform a range of tasks to prevent and control chemical, physical and biological workplace health and safety hazards. Occupational hygienists identify biochemical risks across many industries and develop strategies to avoid and eliminate industrial hazards, which can cause disease or harm people’s health.

At a Glance

Imagine standing on an airport tarmac next to an enormous Boeing 747 airplane. The pilot has just started the plane's engines and even with protective earmuffs, it is still noisy. But that is why you are here - you are an occupational hygienist and you have just begun an evaluation of your city's brand-new airport. You will spend the next few weeks using a variety of instruments to measure the levels of potential hazards in and around the airport. You want to ensure that the multimillion-dollar complex employees have a safe, healthy work environment.

As an occupational hygienist, you are working at the airport to ensure sufficient measures are in place to protect employees from potential hazards. You start by assessing noise pollution. Employees must be sufficiently shielded from the noise of airplanes taxiing, taking off, and landing so as not to damage their hearing. You check that noise levels inside hangars and the terminal building do not exceed acceptable workplace limits.

When employees must be on the tarmac when jet engines are running, you check that adequate hearing protection has been provided and is being used properly. You will also measure air quality on the tarmac to ensure that exhaust from airplanes and the airport's vehicles are not threatening employees' health and air quality inside the terminal to see if the building's ventilation system is providing enough fresh air. The thousands of employees at the airport are counting on your evaluation to make their workplace safe.

Job Duties

Job duties vary significantly from one position to the next, but in general, occupational hygienists are involved in the following job duties:

  • Foster a positive safety culture to minimize and eliminate work-related exposures, injuries and illness.
  • Research and advise stakeholders on interpreting applicable occupational hygiene regulations and standards of practice.
  • Provide subject matter expertise and guidance in developing occupational hygiene programs, including written reports, training materials, and workplace operating procedures.
  • Monitor the safety programs, in collaboration with multiple stakeholders, by identifying benchmarks, developing audit plans, conducting program reviews, and performing sampling of environmental contaminants and physical hazards.
  • Develop process improvement plans and recommend changes to work processes & procedures to minimize and eliminate injury and sickness in the workplace.
  • Collaborate with cross-functional teams to investigate occupational hygiene issues arising from operational activities.
  • Provide leadership to managers and stakeholders in analyzing safety and hazard information and support the development of action plans to mitigate risk.
  • Review the work of staff and provide guidance and strategies to improve health and safety in the workplace.
  • Measure the level of risk, occupational hazards and prevent harmful exposure.
  • Protects people and property concerning occupational hygiene, including chemical, biological, heat, noise, and toxic gases.
  • Evaluate equipment and workplace environment to ensure control is implemented.

Work Environment

Occupational or industrial hygienists can work in various settings, including offices, laboratories, and field sites. The work environment will depend on the specific industry and specialization of the hygienist. Industrial hygienists work in several industries, such as manufacturing, construction, healthcare, government, and consulting. In specific work environments, occupational or industrial hygienists may spend time conducting assessments and sampling air, water, etc. They may also spend time in the laboratory analyzing samples and interpreting data. Additionally, work in the office might be required to write reports, develop hazard control plans, conduct research, and communicate with colleagues and clients.

The office:

  • Researching workplace hazards.
  • Analyzing and interpreting data from workplace monitoring and testing.
  • Writing reports and making recommendations for hazard control measures.
  • Communicating with colleagues, clients, and government departments on health and safety matters.
  • Developing and delivering training programs on workplace health and safety.

The field:

  • Conducting workplace hazard assessments and sampling such as air, heat, water, etc.
  • Using monitoring equipment to measure worker exposure to hazardous substances and physical stressors.
  • Conducting noise surveys and assessing the ergonomic risks associated with job tasks.
  • Implementing hazard control strategies, such as engineering controls and protective equipment.

The laboratory:

  • Analyzing samples collected from the field, such as air or water samples
  • Using laboratory equipment to measure the physical properties of materials and substances

Developing and validating laboratory methods and procedures for analyzing samples

Where to Work

Occupational hygienists can work for several different places, including:

  • Consulting firms
  • Health authorities and hospitals
  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Research companies
  • Education institutions
  • Environmental and conservation organizations
  • Self-employment

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills


If you are considering a career as an occupational hygienist, the high school subjects that will provide a strong foundation for this occupation are:

  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Health, Recreation and Human Services

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as an occupational hygienist is an undergraduate degree in the physical, life, engineering or environmental sciences.

In addition to education, certification is also considered an asset for occupational hygienists in Canada. The Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienists (CRBOH) offers certifications for Occupational Hygienists. These certifications are Registered Occupational Hygienist (ROH) or Registered Occupational Hygiene Technologist (ROHT).

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Biology
  • Pulmonology
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Auditing
  • Occupational health and safety assessment
  • Biological hazard mitigation
  • Risk analysis
  • Computer literacy with Microsoft Office Suite
  • Industrial hygiene sample collection and results advisement
  • Noise assessment and management

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Communication and presentation skills
  • Operations management
  • Self-motivation
  • Organizational skills
  • Investigation
  • Planning & leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Report writing

Environmental employers seek professionals who combine technical knowledge with personal and professional skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Role Models

Jean Westergard

Responsible companies that use industrial chemicals rely heavily on professionals such as Jean Westergard to make sure that their raw materials and products do not become a health or safety hazard for employees or the public. "My company produces bleach and fabric softener - products made from potentially hazardous chemicals such as chlorine," Miss Westergard explains. "As an environmental health and safety technician, my job is to make sure that those materials don't become a problem." "My work is divided into two areas, environmental and safety.

On the environmental side, I conduct air monitoring and sampling, monitor waste disposal, and keep close tabs on the treatment of waste effluents. My findings are reported both to company management and to the government. "On the safety side, I do regular safety checks, investigate accidents, help workers with compensation claims, and make sure safety equipment is working properly. I also do a lot of exposure monitoring - such as dust, fume and noise testing. "

Jean's job also requires excellent communication skills because an important dimension of her job is teaching others how to work safely with hazardous substances. "I do lots of training on topics such as the transportation of dangerous goods, and workplace hazardous materials information systems," Jean says. "It all contributes to making this plant safe for people and the environment."

Your Impact

Occupational and industrial hygienists are considered an environmental role because they play an important part in protecting workers and the environment from hazardous substances. Industrial hygiene is a profession focused on anticipating, identifying, evaluating, controlling, and preventing environmental factors and workplace stresses that could lead to illness, deteriorated health and well-being, or significant discomfort and inefficiency at the workplace.

Occupational and industrial hygienists significantly impact the environment because they work to identify, evaluate, and control workplace hazards that can have adverse effects on the environment. The work of occupational and industrial hygienists involves evaluating the potential for exposure to hazardous materials and chemicals in the workplace. By identifying these hazards and risks, they can develop and implement control measures to reduce or eliminate the risks to workers and the environment. Occupational and industrial hygiene professionals are trained to assess the potential environmental effects of workplace activities and to create and implement mitigation plans.

Occupational Classification

Occupational hygienists are classified in the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code: 41400 – Natural and applied science policy researchers, consultants and program officers

What is an NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

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