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Air Sampling/Testing of Workers Exposed To Chemicals

If you need air sampling/testing of workers exposed to chemicals discussed in this article, call us at 973-366-4660 or email us at info@atlenv.com for details and a free estimate.

Written By: Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President
February 18, 2020; updated August 12, 2021

Air Sampling/Testing of Workers Exposed to Chemicals

As of 2019 and hopefully, into 2020, industrial work in the United States certainly seems to be expanding. The concern is: Is the effort to control the air that a worker breathes, keeping pace with the industrial expansion? Experience says that it likely will lag behind putting workers—often new hires- at risk for work-related illnesses.

In short, the potential for worker exposure to chemicals that may be detrimental to health in the workplace will result in an increase in illness, worker compensation claims and OSHA recordable illnesses.

Steps To Identify Potential Risk of Workers Exposed to Chemicals

The first step is to do a baseline occupation health (Industrial Hygiene) survey to identify potential exposure risks.

The next step in worker exposure control is monitoring the work environment. The best method of determining worker exposure is sampling the worker while performing the chemical exposure task. Miniaturization of sampling equipment now allows samplers to be directly attached to the worker. This can be a small, battery-powered sampler or even a tiny, passive badge sampler attached to the worker while a particular task is performed. The testing can be as short as a few minutes, often referred to as a “STEL” (Short Term Exposure Limit) or an entire shift. Some samplers are so small they can be attached to the worker’s lapel for a complete shift (8, 10, 12-hrs)! Once the exposure testing period is total, the sample can be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Results, are compared to OSHA PEL’s, ACGIH, and NIOSH Threshold Limit Values (TLV’s).

The proper person tasked with sampling is an industrial hygienist—or a specially trained safety person. This industrial hygienist would generally observe the sampled worker for a portion of their shift, so that they can be interpreted in line with the work performed  when results are obtained from the laboratory. From this analysis, a professional judgment can be made as to whether the exposure was safe, and within acceptable exposure limits, and not above mandated limitations.

Interpreting the results, the impact of exposure, and the need for corrective measures are more critical than the sampling itself—even if done correctly. This requires the input of an experienced Industrial Hygienist or other health professional.

As time goes on, the sampling equipment and methods become more accurate, but the interpretation of the test results becomes more complex. Thus, as time goes on and testing equipment methods improve, the need for an experienced industrial hygienist, toxicologist, and epidemiologist becomes more critical.

Testing and Analysis

Another complexity involves testing and analysis that duplicates the acceptable sampling criteria for OSHA-regulated substances. There are about 500 chemical agents in the U.S. Workplace that OSHA specifically regulates. Sampling and analysis, and interpretation of results regarding OSHA compliance must be made by a person/organization that can duplicate the sampling according to OSHA methods, and determine compliance with the appropriate regulations. Where no OSHA limits exist, the qualified professional must identify other sources of information to determine a safe exposure level, such as ACGIH, NIOSH, or WHO. For more toxic substances, the qualified professional can recommend controls and substitutions that are less toxic.


We have the technical and professional staff to do sampling and interpretation.

If further information is desired, feel free to contact us at 973-366-4660 or info@atlenv.com.

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