OHS Canada Magazine

Q&A: What is an occupational hygienist’s role in workplace safety?

ROHs, ROHTs anticipate, evaluate and control hazards


Sarah McCurdy is CRBOH’s president.

Occupational hygiene is the discipline of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating and controlling health hazards in the working environment with the objective of protecting worker health and well-being and safeguarding the community at large.

This is according to the Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienists (CRBOH), a national, not-for-profit organization which sets standards of professional competence for occupational hygienists and occupational hygiene technologists.

Sarah McCurdy is the president of CRBOH.

Responses have been edited for length.

OHS Canada: What is the board mandate through 2021 and beyond?

Sarah McCurdy:  Our mandate is to:

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  • advance the professional practice of occupational hygiene by defining the minimum levels of processional and technical competence in the practice of occupational hygiene
  • register members demonstrating such competence, which is determined through our examination process
  • further the practice and foster the procession of occupational hygiene in Canada and internationally.

OHS: What unique perspective to you bring to the CRBOH?

SM: I do not think there is a single path to take in order to get into the world of occupational hygiene. Like many others, when I initially went to post-secondary, occupational hygiene was not on the forefront of what I was intending to do with my career.

Completing the environmental technology program at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., was my introduction to occupational hygiene. The program was chemistry- focused with air quality courses as well as an occupational hygiene course.

When I started my first job after graduating from the program, I was fortunate enough to be hired on with an occupational hygiene consulting firm in Calgary.

This is where I learned my passion for occupational hygiene and how I could make a difference in people’s health in the workplace.

Occupational hygiene holds important place within profession

I am currently one of our 65 Registered Occupational Hygiene Technologists (ROHT®) throughout the entire CRBOH membership.

ROHTs are our minority designation, as we have 258 full-time and partially retired Registered Occupational Hygienists (ROHs®). The board holds two positions for ROHT representation, one covering the East (Ontario and east) and one covering the West (Manitoba and west).

Being in the minority designation — starting as a technologist with determination of obtaining my ROH in the future — I bring a unique perspective through my previous experience.

And this one may still be out for debate; however, I think that being a millennial brings a unique perspective to the CRBOH board, too.

I wanted to see a change in how we promoted occupational hygiene, how we conducted our business, and bring some of our technology up to date.

I have enjoy being involved in discussions around the future of our profession, wanting to promote occupational hygiene to younger generations, and see the CRBOH succeed as an organization.

OHS: What role does the CRBOH serve in workplace health and safety?

SM: The CRBOH sets the minimum standards of what it takes to be a ROH or ROHT.

Through our rigorous process, which is internationally recognized by the International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA), this is the highest level of professional designation for occupational hygienists in Canada.

ROHs or ROHTs serve an important role in workplace health and safety by anticipating, recognizing, evaluating and controlling health hazards in the working environment with the objective of protecting worker health and well-being, and safeguarding the community at large.

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OHS: What do you believe is the most pressing issue affecting occupational hygiene today?

SM: Like many professions, we have an aging membership, therefore we do foresee a portion of our members retiring in the next five to 10 years.

Since our membership is so small to begin with, we have a tough road ahead of us to promote the professional of occupational hygiene in Canada.

As most people in the health and safety world know, there is a movement towards having title protection and scope of practice protection put into our health and safety legislation.

Having our professions be legally recognized may help with our membership as more people learn about the role of the occupational hygienist.

As other organizations further progress the legislative initiative and changes, I can only hope that there will be more educational opportunities in Canada for occupational hygiene technologists and occupational hygienists to be able to pursue.

This Person of Interest feature was published in the November/December 2021 issue of OHS Canada.