Sustainability has its roots in the mid-twentieth century, during a period of expanding industrialization and increased chemical usage and toxic waste production. Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962. Industrial waste in the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, began catching fire in the 1950s; the 1969 fire reached as high as five stories and shocked the nation. Love Canal and other disasters at hazardous waste sites empowered people to act. By the 1970s people were beginning to realize that a healthy environment was not a given and that the consequences of not paying attention to environmental health were dire.  In 1972 the United Nations launched its Environment Program, or UNEP, in Stockholm, Sweden, and held its first meeting in a series of worldwide environmental conferences that continue today. In the 1980s UNEP produced the Brundtland Report, also called “Our Common Future,” which presented one of the most enduring definitions of sustainability: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In the 1990s UNEP began to integrate the economy and the environment, promoting the idea that “humans are at the center of concerns about sustainable development” and are “entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.” The International Organization for Standardization, a voluntary nongovernmental organization made up of 164 national standards-setting bodies, has produced over ten thousand standards pertaining to a variety of industries including technology, food safety, healthcare, and environmental health. The first standard in the ISO 14000 series, a group of environmental management system standards, was published in 1996 and has been embraced by more than 200,000 companies in 171 countries. ISO 14001, Environmental Management Systems—Requirements with Guidance for Use, aligned environmental concerns with the ISO quality management system standard (ISO 9001) published almost a decade earlier. The environmental management system standard popularized lifecycle analysis and made it accessible to businesses  and consumers. This approach encouraged businesses to assess the entire lifecycle of its products and services and discouraged businesses from focusing only on issues inside the fence. ISO has also published a sustainability standard (ISO 26001), which broadens the concept of sustainability to include social, economic, and cultural aspects.

QUANTIFYING ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS Spurred by the achievements of UNEP, ISO, and many other initiatives, the environmental community developed tools to make the environmental cost of manufacturing and doing business more transparent both to companies and to consumers. One of the most creative tools was the integration of environmental costs into input/output tables used for economic accounting in over 64 countries. The World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and others rely on these I/O tables to make decisions. See the sidebar for more information about I/O tables.
The information developed from environmental I/O tables enables the calculation of embedded energy and water in products and services throughout the world. The calculation accounts for not only the energy used to make something but also the energy used to transport it, use it, and eventually dispose of it. Other calculations estimate the amount of water embodied in a product such as a pair of jeans, a gallon of milk, or a head of lettuce. Making the environmental, social, and economic costs of products and services accessible has enabled consumers to be mindful of environmental effects associated with their purchases. These approaches also give businesses the tools necessary to make good environmental decisions and ensure that companies who disregard adverse environmental effects will not flourish. When consumers demand the information to make sustainable choices, they send a powerful message to company leaders and board rooms, who are focused on the economic success of their organizations.  IH OVERLAP WITH SUSTAINABILITY This dual approach of engaging companies and their customers has helped drive environmental consciousness into the marketplace. Industrial hygiene has the opportunity to align itself with this approach. Like environmental disasters, large workplace disasters touch peoples’ emotions. Incremental improvements in workplace safety followed the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in 1911, the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel disaster in the early 1930s, the Bhopal gas leak tragedy in 1984, and the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013. Still, according to the International Labor Organization, more than 2.78 million people worldwide die each year from occupational accidents or work-related disease. In addition, more than 378 million people suffer nonfatal disabilities from work-related conditions. By integrating efforts and working together, industrial hygienists and sustainability professionals can become more effective. Some of industrial hygiene’s overlap with sustainability is direct, as is the case with health and safety. Demonstrating a robust and effective health and safety program is foundational in organizational sustainability. Documented compliance with applicable regulations, development of comprehensive risk management strategies, and status reporting around key program performance indicators are other examples of the direct link between IH and sustainability.  In today’s businesses, it is relatively uncommon to find a role with responsibilities strictly limited to the practice of industrial hygiene. Many industrial hygienists manage an organization’s environmental program, safety program, or even quality program. These responsibilities make the connection between sustainability and industrial hygiene even more apparent. Waste management, air emissions monitoring, wastewater discharge control, and many other environmental-facing assignments are often admirably completed by industrial hygienists, which ties IH to the core objective of sustainability programs: to minimize or eliminate environmental impacts. Supply chain integrity is an excellent example of the indirect connection between sustainability and industrial hygiene. An integral part of supply chain assessment is the consideration of workplace conditions and potential for adverse exposures at the supplier level that may result in occupational injury or illness. Though the supply chain work force may not be included in day-to-day industrial hygiene accountabilities, safeguarding the well-being of the worker who helps produce the “ingredients” used to make products sold in the marketplace is an essential part of the industrial hygiene ethic. Furthermore, an industrial hygienist’s problem-solving skills, deep understanding of processes associated with operating facilities, and ability to anticipate and recognize workplace hazards and to define and monitor the interventions and metrics that drive continuous improvement support not only worker health but environmental health as well.  ASSESSING SUPPLIERS The process of supply chain evaluation and monitoring is an essential component of any credible sustainability program. Organizations cannot dismiss the responsibility for ensuring their ultimate output is produced through responsible sourcing. The most basic scope entails assessment of economic, environmental, and social responsibility aspects at the supplier level. Within the supplier assessment process, an organization will likely require the supplier to provide information about relevant policies, procedures, and programs that can be used to evaluate compliance with that organization’s supply chain requirements. The documentation requested may include a copy of the supplier’s code of conduct, anti-corruption policy, hiring practices, and evidence of effective environmental, health, and safety elements.  With an understanding of the operating characteristics associated with the supplier’s product or service, the IH can anticipate pertinent regulatory and best practices. With that background, the IH can then evaluate EHS program documentation, perform a gap analysis, and identify areas of strength or compliance and areas of deficiency or concern. More robust sustainability programs call for actual audits at supplier locations to verify compliance with criteria for engagement. By participating in this effort as an audit team member, the IH gains invaluable firsthand knowledge of work practices, hazard controls, and possibly cultural elements that have bearing on the EHS program’s effectiveness. EXPANDING VALUE Another opportunity for the IH to participate in sustainability stems from the inherent objective of sustainability programs to minimize operating impacts wherever feasible and to the extent possible. To this end, an IH might work with process engineers to identify appropriate substitutes for a halogenated solvent currently in use, examine local ventilation to determine enhancements that will reduce emissions, or conduct mass-balance analysis to identify actual or potential losses with the goal of reducing both consumption and waste.  Businesses are increasingly interested in quantifying total impacts throughout the product lifecycle through activities such as the I/O analysis described earlier. The IH is perfectly suited to support efforts that intersect with EHS-related topics. The IH has the skill set to recognize hazards related to specific processes and anticipate the types of incidents that may arise if those hazards are not properly controlled. From there, the IH can research corresponding incidence benchmarks for rates and claim costs from which ultimate impact and cost can be estimated. Whether serving as part of the team or leading the program, the IH can be a significant contributor in the design, implementation, and assessment of sustainability programs. With sustainability now broadly recognized as a competitive advantage, more and more organizations have initiated, or are planning to initiate, a sustainability program. It is inevitable that IHs will be presented with the opportunity to expand their value to their organization through engagement in these efforts.
ENGAGING CONSUMERS It should be clear that sustainability encompasses a variety of aspects important to any organization. Business ethics, social responsibility, supply chain integrity, regulatory compliance, risk management, process and program auditing, transparent reporting, environmental stewardship, and employee health and safety are among the key elements in most sustainability programs. In addition, industrial hygiene can learn from sustainability how to engage consumers in the goal of protecting workplace health. AIHA’s Stewardship and Sustainability Committee is focused on elevating awareness within the profession around the role industrial hygienists can play in the overall development of sustainability programs. The committee has over 100 active or supporting members and meets on a monthly basis to review current projects, plan additional activities, and share related experiences and knowledge. AIHA members are invited to attend an upcoming meeting to learn more about the committee and its mission to integrate product stewardship and sustainability within the industrial hygiene profession.   MARY O’REILLY, PhD, CIH, CPE, is secretary-elect of the AIHA Stewardship and Sustainability Committee. She teaches principles of environmental sustainability in the Business Program at SUNY Empire State College and is vice president of Workplace Health Without Borders. BOB DEIST, CIH, CET, is senior vice president of Health, Safety, and Risk Management at Chartwell Staffing Solutions in Lancaster, Pa. Send feedback to The Synergist. EvgeniyShkolenko/Getty Images; SeanXu/Getty Images
Environmental Health: “The Work Environment Disability-Adjusted Life Year for Use with Life Cycle Assessment: A Methodological Approach” (March 2013). Environmental Science & Technology: “Impact of Occupational Exposure to Chemicals in Life Cycle Assessment: A Novel Characterization Model Based on Measured Concentrations and Labor Hours” (July 2015). Environmental Science & Technology: “Occupational Health Impacts Due to Exposure to Organic Chemicals Over an Entire Product Life Cycle” (December 2016). Journal for Industrial Ecology: “An Approach to Integrating Occupational Safety and Health into Life Cycle Assessment” (February 2015).  United Nations: “Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future” (PDF, 1987).
Input/Output Tables
I/O tables provide a snapshot of national economies. Yearly I/O tables typically include about 50 sectors, while tables that cover five-year periods may include over 400 sectors. The more sectors included, the more complicated the matrix. Each sector supplies products and services and consumes products and services from all the other sectors. The tables allow economists to predict what happens in other sectors when one sector changes its output.  For the past twenty years, environmental scientists have used environmental I/O tables to assess the environmental impact of national economies. I/O tables can also incorporate worker illness and injury so that lifecycle analyses include the impact and cost of lost workplace health by using the metric of disability-adjusted life years, or DALYs. For occupational health, each DALY represents the loss of one healthy year from the lifespan of a worker. The World Health Organization uses DALYs to calculate the global burden of disease. This approach provides a way to communicate the impact of worker injury and illness on a product or service and to integrate a workplace health metric into an already successful system. It puts worker injury and illness on the same footing as embodied energy and embodied water. It allows both the producer and the consumer to see the worker behind every product and service used every day. It makes the worker visible and provides a tool consumers can use to make choices that protect both environmental and occupational health.  More information on I/O tables is available from the World Input/Output Database, the World Bank, and the journal Resources (PDF).
The Convergence of Sustainability and Industrial Hygiene
Although the print version of The Synergist indicated The IAQ Investigator's Guide, 3rd edition, was already published, it isn't quite ready yet. We will be sure to let readers know when the Guide is available for purchase in the AIHA Marketplace.
My apologies for the error.
- Ed Rutkowski, Synergist editor
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