Often when faced with an occupational illness risk, the first reaction is " we need to sample". In many cases sampling is appropriate, but in some cases it is not. The safety professional needs to consider several items when evaluating the need for sampling. Industrial hygiene sampling will require the use of a professional's science and math background and their observational and judgment skills.
A good pre-assessment survey of the operation should be conducted to develop important information. Some of the key factors to consider about the operations to be evaluated would include the materials or agents being investigated, how many people are present in the area, which occupational exposure limits apply, and any past exposure monitoring results. In some cases, no occupational exposure limit will exist for a particular material or there may not be a way to sample for the material presented. In those and other scenarios, the hygienist will need to apply the "art" of their knowledge and judgment as well as their science skills.
With so many factors involved, it is important to ask questions before setting out to perform industrial hygiene sampling. It is a good practice to go through some basic steps to confirm the need to sample before proceeding with the sampling plan.
Why we sample?
The need to consider sampling will develop for a variety of reasons. One of the more common reasons would be the need to evaluate an employee exposure risk. This usually involves the safety professional/hygienist getting involved to evaluate the scenario and develop the risk assessment of the situation. This may or may not lead to a full sampling plan.
Employee concerns are another scenario that can lead to additional investigations. An employee has presented a concern or complaint about a dust level, an odor, or skin rash potentially associated with a material they work with. These type of concerns need to be recognized and properly investigated so the employee can be given the appropriate feedback.