Tips for Improving Collaboration between Field IHs and Laboratory Professionals
In the early days of industrial hygiene, the industrial hygienist would collect air samples in the field, then perform the analysis. With the same person doing both, it was easier to consider both the sampling and analytical variables when evaluating the legitimacy of a sample result. As the science of analytical testing evolved and the IH industry matured, sampling and analysis became separate, specialized job functions. Today, field industrial hygienists develop the sampling strategies, collect the samples, and evaluate the results, while laboratory specialists perform the analysis—generally with limited involvement in the sampling process or knowledge of the original field environment. This specialization can lead to important variables being missed, which can severely affect the legitimacy of a sample result.
Field practitioners and laboratory specialists make their work look too easy to outsiders, say industrial hygiene consultant and AIHA Vice President Cindy Ostrowski, CIH, and Laura Parker, HSE laboratory service manager with Bureau Veritas North America, Inc. Laboratory specialists do not see the advance research conducted by field specialists to develop effective sampling strategies; therefore, hanging pumps in the field appears easy. On the other hand, the chemistry expertise required for producing valid exposure data is hidden when published methods show 10 simple steps to the correct result. Field practitioners are often not aware of the complex quality control statistics, instrument calibration and maintenance, and accreditation requirements necessary for defensible data. Ostrowski and Parker spoke with The Synergist about the need for communication to bridge the gap between the field practitioner and the laboratory personnel.

THE SYNERGIST (TS): Why is it important to choose a laboratory accredited by AIHA-LAP? LAURA PARKER (LP): Although accreditation doesn’t guarantee good data, it indicates that the laboratory’s quality system and technical expertise have been evaluated by an outside, independent third party. An assessment for accreditation includes an on-site visit at the lab facility, personnel interviews, and a review of the procedures and quality assurance that the lab uses to generate reproducible and defensible results. CINDY OSTROWSKI (CO): Accreditation is important when survey results are questioned either by employers, unions, workers’ compensation claims, or worse, lawyers. Use of an accredited lab provides more credence to the sample results. As practitioners, we strive to monitor chemical exposures based on sound sampling strategies, calibrated equipment and instruments, and proper sampling methods. We understand that the results depend upon the use of correct analytical methods and practices to obtain defensible data to protect worker health. LP: Accreditation from AIHA-LAP also demonstrates compliance with the international standard for testing laboratories, ISO/IEC 17025:2005, and additional AIHA-LAP requirements. AIHA-LAP assesses labs against this standard along with other technical requirements, specific to the type of testing—industrial hygiene, environmental lead, environmental microbiology, food, and unique scopes. It’s important to note that accreditation includes specific Scopes of Accreditation and Fields of Testing, or FOTs, so accreditation is not a “yes” or “no” question. Therefore, clients have to dig deeper into these accreditation aspects with their laboratory service provider. For example, a lab accredited to analyze asbestos samples might not have been assessed to analyze solvents using a gas chromatograph. Therefore, an organic solvent sample, such as toluene, would not be covered by the lab’s accreditation. CO: To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the specifics of FOTs until I became the AIHA Board liaison to AIHA-LAP. As Laura indicated, laboratories must be accredited for analyses using certain detector types or technologies and specific methods. Different analytical techniques are required for metals, organics, and even fungal or bacteria. As a field practitioner, you need to confirm your lab is accredited for the FOTs you need for your exposure assessment. A reputable laboratory must alert you if they are not accredited for specific methods, which are linked to analytes or contaminants of interest. TS: What are the practitioner’s responsibilities in this partnership? CO: As a field practitioner, I’m responsible for developing a sampling strategy to evaluate employee exposures to airborne contaminants. I need to determine potential exposures based on operations, job tasks, safety data sheets, occupational exposure limits, engineering and administrative controls, and personal protective equipment, to develop the sampling strategy and conduct the exposure assessment. Based on this information, I need to communicate with the lab to determine which contaminants have published sampling and analytical methods. LP: Some customers check the published methods to find a reporting limit or limit of quantitation, to see if they can achieve the necessary sensitivity for a particular exposure sample. It’s extremely important that the customer contact the lab for the lab’s specific reporting limit for a particular contaminant. Reporting limits will vary between labs, since each laboratory has its own standard operating procedures and instrumentation.
Disadvantages of being unacclimatized:
  • Readily show signs of heat stress when exposed to hot environments.
  • Difficulty replacing all of the water lost in sweat.
  • Failure to replace the water lost will slow or prevent acclimatization.
Benefits of acclimatization:
  • Increased sweating efficiency (earlier onset of sweating, greater sweat production, and reduced electrolyte loss in sweat).
  • Stabilization of the circulation.
  • Work is performed with lower core temperature and heart rate.
  • Increased skin blood flow at a given core temperature.
Acclimatization plan:
  • Gradually increase exposure time in hot environmental conditions over a period of 7 to 14 days.
  • For new workers, the schedule should be no more than 20% of the usual duration of work in the hot environment on day 1 and a no more than 20% increase on each additional day.
  • For workers who have had previous experience with the job, the acclimatization regimen should be no more than 50% of the usual duration of work in the hot environment on day 1, 60% on day 2, 80% on day 3, and 100% on day 4.
  • The time required for non–physically fit individuals to develop acclimatization is about 50% greater than for the physically fit.
Level of acclimatization:
  • Relative to the initial level of physical fitness and the total heat stress experienced by the individual.
Maintaining acclimatization:
  • Can be maintained for a few days of non-heat exposure.
  • Absence from work in the heat for a week or more results in a significant loss in the beneficial adaptations leading to an increase likelihood of acute dehydration, illness, or fatigue.
  • Can be regained in 2 to 3 days upon return to a hot job.
  • Appears to be better maintained by those who are physically fit.
  • Seasonal shifts in temperatures may result in difficulties.
  • Working in hot, humid environments provides adaptive benefits that also apply in hot, desert environments, and vice versa.
  • Air conditioning will not affect acclimatization.
Acclimatization in Workers