What is Occupational Hygiene?

Occupational Hygienists are the Scientists of Health and Safety

Occupational Hygienists play a significant role in preventing and reducing disease and injury by using science and engineering to prevent ill health caused by work.

Occupational hygiene is a multi-disciplinary science which means it draws on aspects of toxicology, chemistry, physics, physiology, maths, and engineering to be able to assess workplace toxins such as dust, noise, vibration, light and toxic gases.

Those in the profession are protecting and enhancing the health and safety of people at work.


What’s involved in the work?

No two days as an occupational hygienist will be the same, it’s an extremely varied career, and you’ll get to work in some pretty interesting spots!


Noise monitoring on a glacier

A week in the life of an occupational hygienist can include:

  • spending time in workplaces measuring exposure levels to toxins, gases or dust
  • observing different sites and the potential for exposure to ill health or injury
  • talking to the people in their workplace about whether the controls to prevent harm are effective
  • back at the lab, interpreting results
  • designing practical solutions from scientific data
  • preparing reports for organisational leaders, recommending new controls or ways of working to protect people and communities.

New Zealand needs more occupational hygienists over the coming years to ensure their important work of protecting New Zealanders at work can continue.  These roles can either be in-house for a large organisation, or working for yourself as an occupational hygienist consultant.


What qualifications and skills do I need to become an occupational hygienist?                 

An occupational hygienist will work with a huge range of people within a great many organisations across New Zealand and internationally.  They need to be able to work with people easily and understand the varying risks workers and others will face in a workplace.

The qualifications required to become an occupational hygienist are typically an undergraduate degree in either Science, Maths or Engineering.

Take a look at the Bachelor of Science programmes offered in these subjects here at Massey University, or Otago University.

The next step would be to complete an International Certificate of Occupational Hygiene, or a Masters in Science specialising in Toxicology and Occupational Hygiene.

In New Zealand, you can complete an International Certificate of Occupational Hygiene via NZOHS or an overseas provider.  NZOHS is currently working on creating a certification option here in New Zealand that can be recognised internationally.


Occupational hygienists at work


Who can I get in touch with to find out more about becoming an occupational hygienist? 

Get in touch with us at admin@nzohs.org.nz and we’ll point you in the right direction.  We can put you in touch with an occupational hygienist in your area to talk to.  We can also organise an occupational hygienist to speak to your University, school or group of interested people.