Total Worker Health and Total Exposure Health: An OEHS Equipment Manufacturer’s Perspective
(This article is sponsored by SKC Inc.)
SKC Inc.’s preparations for celebrating its 60th anniversary next year offer an opportunity to reflect on the past decades’ transformation of both the company and the industrial hygiene and occupational and environmental health and safety (IH/OEHS) field. Since SKC founder Lloyd V. Guild produced the first commercially available sorbent tubes for NIOSH in the 1970s, air sampling science has witnessed countless innovations. Generations of IH/OEHS professionals’ maintenance of their commitment to protecting worker health have created the conditions for significant advancements in awareness, approach, and technology.
While SKC Inc. entered the IH/OEHS field as a provider of air sampling equipment, the field now considers airborne hazards as one among many other issues facing workers today. Accordingly, NIOSH launched the Total Worker Health™ (TWH) initiative in 2011. This evidence-based, holistic approach is defined as policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being. In turn, workers’ families, communities, employers, and the economy as a whole benefit.
Total Worker Health addresses a broad range of factors that affect worker well-being, including prevention and control of chemical, biological, physical, and other environmental exposures, ergonomics, technology, community support for health and mental health. The related concept of Total Exposure Health (TEH), a framework and resource created specifically for OEHS professionals, accounts for occupational and non-occupational physical, chemical, and biological exposures and other factors that can cause negative health effects. TWH and TEH position the OEHS professional as an expert in anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling exposures of all types and in all environments—including the workplace, home, and community—that combine to impact human health. The role of OEHS professionals during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic demonstrates TWH and TEH in action. Over the next several years, IH/OEHS professionals can anticipate even greater increases in public awareness of environmental contaminants and their human health effects.
SKC has adopted both TWH and TEH, and the company has applied its capabilities to produce new tools that align with these increasingly widespread frameworks. It has never been more essential to help employers, workers, and IH/OEHS experts access innovative, easy-to-use tools for monitoring air quality, surface and dermal contaminants, noise levels, and biological secretions such as breath, urine, and blood. Biological monitoring, in particular, can provide IH/OEHS professionals with unique insights into the body burdens associated with exposures both inside and outside of the workplace.
SKC is excited for the IH/OEHS field’s transition toward the TWH and TEH frameworks and proud of its own evolution in helping professionals meet new challenges in exposure monitoring. Founded to put science in the service of people, SKC will build on that foundation with increasing awareness of the health impacts of environmental contaminants. SKC thanks AIHA for their partnership throughout the past six decades and looks forward to AIHA’s future support for TWH and TEH, according to their mission to promote healthier workplaces and a healthier world.
Doug Dowis, president of SKC Inc., has worked in industrial hygiene instrumentation for nearly 40 years. With an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management, he is also the managing director of SKC Asia. Dowis has served on the AIHA – Asia Pacific Conference organizing committee (years 1-3), Singapore; former chair of American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) International Affairs Committee; former director of Wisconsin Section of the AIHA. He is also a member of AIHA and several US and Canadian AIHA Sections.