The Importance of Hygiene in the Future of the Workplace

By: Michael Zalle, Contributor

Did you know that private industry employers reported a decrease of 5.7% in non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses between 2019 and 2020? This seems to be promising for the future of safety in the workplace but, in actuality, this statistic coincides with a startling fact. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although injuries went down, reported illness cases more than quadrupled—from 127,000 cases in 2019 up to 544,600 cases in 2020. It is evident that, now more than ever, not only occupational safety, but also occupational health in the workplace, needs to be taken seriously in order to ensure these rates do not get worse in the coming years.

Course Correction

So how can we correct this? There needs to be a change in the ideology that health and safety checks are tedious for companies to complete, so there is more willingness for businesses to have their risks decreased. In the long run, it will save them and their employees time and money to check if their occupational health (also called industrial hygiene) protocols are up to required standards—before getting an OSHA violation and putting employees in danger.

One of the main difficulties for companies is getting the checks they need to be sure their hygiene standards are up to date. The process of connecting businesses with health and safety professionals can often take weeks, resulting in it being drawn out and opening them up to being more susceptible to health issues. Additionally, figuring out what jobs suit your expertise and certifications can be tough. This is not the fault of either side, but an outdated system of helping EHS professionals get connected with the companies they can help.

I saw this need back when starting up YellowBird. I saw how important EHS professionals’ work is and wanted to offer opportunities with a nationwide gig economy marketplace to match vetted risk and EHS professionals with businesses on-demand. The AI-powered digital platform helps companies eliminate wasted time searching for qualified professionals who keep people safe by conducting inspections; developing and implementing training policies; handling OSHA reports; and other necessary tasks. We are able to match professionals and companies within minutes and know the job suits the expertise of the professional taking the job.

Partnership with AIHA

We recently began a partnership with the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) in order to help even more professionals connect with industries in need. We share a common goal of wanting to keep high-risk industries and their employees safe with the help of qualified health and safety professionals. AIHA aims to empower and advance those who apply scientific knowledge to protect all workers and their communities from occupational and environmental hazards.

Adding AIHA members who have earned their Certified Industrial Hygienist® (CIH®) designation to our growing list of vetted professionals allows us to serve even more companies that are in need.

We were able to see this in action during the pandemic. YellowBird’s EHS professionals helped small businesses, schools and religious organizations develop safety protocols and training with a COVID-19 return-to-work program. We were able to provide experts within 24 hours to conduct on-site inspections, assess surfaces, test air quality and compile recommendations. They were even able to help train the staff, giving employees the confidence to return to work. Additionally, with how hard the pandemic hit many businesses, it was great to be able to offer gig opportunities to help EHS professionals supplement their income when people were having to take so much time away from their jobs.

This is a step in the right direction for the health and hygiene of America’s workers to help improve the statistics for the upcoming year. The health, safety and hygiene industry has become invaluable to the function of America’s workforce, as we move through the pandemic and the beginning of 2022.

About the Author

Michael Zalle is Founder and CEO of YellowBird, a gig-economy marketplace that quickly and easily connects risk and safety professionals with businesses on-demand. By providing a fast, efficient method for insurance companies, business leaders and skilled professionals to consult, YellowBird matches the right people, in the right location, with the right experience for the job.

Lawrence D. Sloan, FASAE, CAE, is CEO of AIHA.

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