Although the challenges of the occupational hygienist are still the same as at the beginning of our profession, the role of Industrial Hygienists is changing. To understand the changes that are happening all around us we have to see the bigger picture. Key trends and changes in the world of work can be found in relation to economic, demographic, technological and environmental changes.
The effect of economic growth still influences decent employment and social protection (moving heavy industry to developing countries with less (strict) OSH regulations). The demographic changes influences the different areas of the world differently. Looking at our profession we see these changes influence our own future.
Towards technological and environmental changes, we see it will bring new jobs but it will also destruct jobs as a result of the automatization, robotization. The trend in our work as occupational hygienist has, shifted over years from reducing the number of exposed workers in heavy industries (welding, foundries) to the more psychosocial risks and optimisation of comfort/wellbeing (operator in control room, higher workloads, outsourcing and temporary contracts).
The developments in measurement-techniques (exposure to dust/vapours) have not changed enormously since the personal sampling pump has been developed. But the influence of computer technology and direct readable/ continuous sensing equipment (sensor, monitors, use of apps on mobile phones) will increase the amount of data largely and the way the occupational hygienist will use this for exposure assessment.
But overseeing all of these changes, in the end, it will still be the question whether we as occupational hygienist are able to tell our stories in a way that companies and governments see the business relevance of our case. To get our business back on the political agenda we have to learn to communicate about risks in the right way and address our skill gaps.
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