Chemical exposures account for more than 190,000 workplace illnesses and 50,000 fatalities every year, according to OSHA. Addressing this challenge requires safety professionals to have a process in place to identify chemical hazards, examine the potential health impacts and establish controls to mitigate or eliminate those hazards.
A new NIOSH document, Current Intelligence Bulletin 69: NIOSH Practices in Occupational Risk Assessment, guides readers through the process and logic the agency uses to conduct chemical risk assessments in the workplace. NIOSH follows a four-step process, carried out by a team industrial hygienists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians and other exposure scientists:
- Determine the hazards associated with a chemical or other agent.
- Collate scientific evidence indicating whether the chemical or other agent causes illness or injury.
- Evaluate scientific data to determine how much exposure to the chemical or other agent would be harmful to workers.
- Carefully consider all relevant evidence to make the best, scientifically supported decisions.
Along with this framework, the bulletin emphasizes the importance of transparency, clarity, consistency and reasonableness in all NIOSH risk assessments. NIOSH uses these guiding principles to ensure that risk assessments are explicit and easy to understand, use sound science and sensible judgement, and have conclusions that align with other risk assessments and NIOSH actions.
Understanding Risk Management and Assessment
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