This will be the last Young Hygienist Snapshot for 2014. I have been officially replaced as the “Young Hygienist” now as the winner of the 2014 Draeger Young Hygienist Award was announced at the AIOH Conference in early December – Congratulations goes to Mitch Thompson!!!
This doesn’t mean that this blog is over, it just means that it’s time for a change and a bit of a chance to mix things up a bit. I have been incredibly fortunate to have a lot of support from other young hygienists who have graciously let me profile them over the past year, so now, before all is revealed as to what exciting plans there are in place for this space next year, I figured that I should at least take 5-minutes and answer the questions I made up myself.
So here is 5-mins with me!
Best location I have worked: The Platypus Remediation Project in Neutral Bay, Sydney. It was the best as it was the most challenging environment to work in given that there were multiple occupational hazards including benzene, PAHs, heavy metals, hydrogen cyanide, noise and thermal heat stress to name a few. It was also the best as I got to work closely with my fantastic team including Scott and Kristy which made each day a joy to come to work!
The best thing about my job is: I work for a great company that supports me, I am lucky to work with a great team of people who get excited about the same nerdy things that I do, and I have as many complex and challenging projects to work on as I have the time. It’s hard to pick one thing, so I’d have to say that my job is the best thing about my job!
Career Highlight: This is not an easy question I realise! I have been incredibly fortunate to win many awards, but I honestly think that my career highlight was gaining my Certification as a COH….or more the relief that I didn’t have to sit the exam again!
If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Putting the health of the workforce in the front of your mind at all times. There are many competing pressures in business (time, cost etc), but protecting the health of the workforce is the end goal. There is a balance in there of being too cautious and counter-productive and being too optimistic and having issues. It’s a fine line sometimes, so I’d say that if you decide to be an Occupational Hygienist that you should understand you will never stop needing to learn, spend time reading journal articles, listening to others’ experiences, attending conferences to hear the latest research etc. This isn’t a bad thing though!
People normally think my job involves: Cleaning teeth or handing out dust masks. As I have 3 kids, I spend a lot of time actually cleaning teeth…and I have handed out dust masks before…so maybe they are right!
The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Develop the occupational health and hygiene program for the $1.15 billion North West Rail Link project in Sydney. It is a fantastic project staffed with a great management team who have the health and safety of the workforce as a top priority. It is also a technically challenging project due to the sheer scale of the project with many project sites spread over a large area, and a complex work environment (underground tunnelling).
The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: I don’t think anyone actually asked me to do this, but somehow I ended up hand-washing over 100 full face respirators on a project site many years ago. It came as I made repeated attempts and pleas to the workers to decontaminate them after their shifts. They had gotten so bad that I feared their effectiveness would have been drastically reduced (and given where they were working they needed to be good!), so I convinced a colleague to help me wash them out one day. Afterwards I think the workers felt bad for us, and when they used them they could see & feel the difference. Thankfully I never had to do it again!
See you in 2015!!
Brett is a Certified Occupational Hygienist (COH) working for INPEX Australia as the Senior Health and Hygiene Advisor on the Ichthys LNG Project. Based in Perth, Western Australia he is developing INPEX’s health and hygiene management system, SAP IH, hygiene training requirements and service contracts in preparation for operations, which is expected to commence in late 2016.
Prior to joining INPEX in April 2012, Brett worked for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) for eight years where he was a Senior Industrial Hygienist. PDO is the main oil and gas exploration and production provider in Oman with a concession area over 100,000 km2. His job involved working extensively in the interior of Oman, in remote areas, with a multicultural 40000 plus workforce. He was recruited by PDO after meeting an Omani hygienist at the BOHS Conference in the UK. This chance meeting came about after he won the Draeger Young Hygienist of the Year Award in 2002, which supported his attendance to the conference. He has certainly made the most of winning this and other AIOH awards.
Prior to working in Oman, Brett worked for seven years with the Queensland and Northern Territory Workplace Health and Safety Divisions as an occupational hygiene advisor / Inspector and in his distant, distant past he was a hygiene technician performing asbestos removal and clearance work in all parts of Victoria.
All I can say is…wow! Here is 5-mins with Brett:
Best location I have worked: Having lived and worked now in four Australian States/Territories, I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Brisbane, but undoubtedly the best location I have worked was the eight years spent living, working and playing in the PDO concession area and deserts of Oman.
The best thing about my job is: Promoting and protecting the health and wellbeing of my colleagues, friends and contractors at work.
Career Highlight(s): 1. Winning the Draeger Young Hygienist Award, which introduced me to the World. 2. Being an organising member of the first Occupational Health Conference held in the Middle East (Oman) in 2006 and co-authoring a workshop on Occupational Hygiene with Dr. Brian Davies. This introduced occupational hygiene to the greater Middle East 3. Mentoring three young Omani’s to become Occupational Hygienists, one of whom is the first female Omani Occupational Hygienist who recently completed her Masters of OH through the University of Wollongong. Hopefully this will translate to a legacy for future Omani hygienists.
If you want to be an effective Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Explaining health and hygiene to management in terms of return on investment, how implementing health and hygiene systems reduces indirect costs, improves productivity and is most effective when implemented in the design phase of projects.
People normally think my job involves: Everything to do with health risks, wellbeing, public health, hygiene, biting insects, air pollution, hazardous process contaminants……on Mondays. Everything else Tuesday to Friday
The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Plan, develop and execute the first NORM (naturally occurring radioactive material) Decontamination Facility in Bahja, Oman which was responsible for decontaminating tonnes of NORM contaminated sub-surface and surface equipment which could be safely refurbished and reused or scrapped.
The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: I’ve been very lucky with my career, however I didn’t enjoy issuing infringement notices or prosecuting employers when working as an inspector. I also didn’t appreciate a cold decontamination shower in the early hours of a Melbourne winter following asbestos clearance work, but we all had to start somewhere.
Well the AIOH conference is over for another year. We have had a week for the dust to settle and heads to recover. Melbourne put on a great event, but I don’t think my body could have handled another night of social events. I need at least a year to recover – bring on #AIOH2015!
The CES sessions kicked off on Saturday. I attended the session “Strategies to get attention on your safety message.” The session covered a range of ways to communicate your safety message including taking the technical information and message and comparing it to activities people do every day, which I am sure some of us as hygienists find hard to do since we tend to focus on the technical aspects. It was a good session to reinforce the importance of getting your message across in a way that appeals to your audience.
On Sunday I attended a CES on “Minimising and Managing Fatigue in the Workplace”. Fatigue is such an area of interest at the moment, in particular on sites working long hours and 24-hr shifts. The presenter, Paula, was really insightful with her knowledge and passion for fatigue management and the importance of monitoring and managing fatigue and fatigue related risks in the workplace. The thought provoking aspect of this session was that we “the hygienists and safety professionals” are often the ones working the long hours (getting to work early and leaving late) and we may be more at risk of fatigue than the workers we are trying to protect.
The official conference proceedings were just as exciting. We were treated to sessions by John Henshaw and Dr Mike Brandt among others. The lessons learnt and knowledge passed on in these sessions is always a treat and I look forward to what next year will bring. The concurrent sessions were just as exciting, and I found it hard to choose who I wanted to see more with competing sessions running alongside each other. The presentations by students based on their major projects were great and I would encourage anyone currently completing a university Project to present your findings next year. The international guests were amazing and it was great to hear of challenges they are facing overseas are not too dissimilar to ours.
The social events were the star of the show as usual. AES kicked things off with the welcome drinks with the flashing shot glasses which somehow always find themselves in my cupboard at home. This was followed by a great welcome dinner where it was nice to catch up with people I hadn’t seen since the last conference. The 3M night followed with the usual frivolity and outrageous costumes. A great night was had by all in attendance and although my table wasn’t great with the trivia, we made for it with the dance moves later on. The social calendar wouldn’t be complete without the awards night, and what a night it was. Great food and company with highly deserving award winners. Congratulations to all the winners!
So that’s a wrap for this year. I’m looking forward to the Conference next year which will be in Perth, where hopefully (if it is even possible), things will be even bigger and better and we can all catch up on the past year and our adventures over a few (quiet) drinks.
Letty is a fellow FLI graduate and an occupational hygienist (CIH/ROH) practicing in Toronto, Canada (eh?). She is an OH consultant working for BluMetric Environmental Inc., a Canadian consulting firm, and leading the Toronto OHS group. Professionally, she has been an OHS consultant pretty much all of career (with two short stints as an occupational hygienist in a hospital). In the past, she has served on several committees, including the OH learning scholarship committee, and a local construction committee to advise on lead abatement procedures. Last year, she was a mentor for an incoming hygiene student at her alma mater, the University of Toronto. She is also currently on the Board of Directors at her local OH organization, the Occupational Hygiene Association of Ontario (OHAO).
Here is 5-mins with Letty:
Best location I have worked: As a consultant, I get to see lots of different workplaces, and learn about different processes! Some of the highlights include sampling at a scented candle factory, auditing at an aerospace facility, a behind-the-scenes look at a popular global retail chain, indoor air quality at a TV news studio, and a visit to a noodle factory!
The best thing about my job is: The diversity of work! I love being a consultant and I love going to new workplaces and learning about what they do. I love meeting workers, and talking to them about worker health and safety. I have never once been bored at my job.
Career Highlight: The highlight so far, is being accepted into, and participating in AIHA’s Future Leaders Institute (FLI). It was such an amazing, and inspirational experience, to connect with other hygienists who were also passionate about the profession, and about bringing awareness to the greater community.
If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Explaining your profession over and over again!! Not many people understand what I do… it is all part of the on-going education and awareness :)
People normally think my job involves: Teeth
The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: I love most of the things I get to do at my job, but one of the best things I have done is to be able to speak at my high school about my profession. I love bringing awareness about the profession to young people. I didn’t hear about the profession until I was in fourth year university. I really want to change that, to educate more young people going into university about the profession. They might be a future hygienist! Or even if they don’t choose hygiene, at least they are in a better place to effect H&S cultural change in the workplace.
The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Once, we were contracted to figure out how to get rid of a “scum” like material on surgical tools. For days, I had to scrub out the instruments with various chemical concoctions, wearing only gloves. It was boring, tedious and really just glorified dishwashing, and I’m pretty sure I got repetitive strain injury from it. Another time, we were asked to help battle legionella in a nursing home. Part of the work involved turning on all of the hot water faucets. I spent a lot of over night shifts turning on and off water taps, while getting harassed by old men and old ladies with no teeth, in their dressing gown, asking us what we were doing. Although I have highlighted these experiences as the “worst” – looking back, I have to say I did learn from both experiences. I wouldn’t necessarily do them again – but it is always nice to have war stories to tell.
The AIOH Canary is all about Communicating Awareness – a New Approach Representing us on YouTube. It involved entrants creating a short video (less than 5-minutes) that helped any or all of a series of questions, basically all revolving around raising awareness of our profession. A special thank you goes to Scott Safety for sponsoring such a terrific competition!
You can view the winning entry here from Alex Wilson:
…and the runner up here by Kristy Thornton:
You can view all the other entrants here. Congratulations to all the fantastic entries!
I was lucky enough to meet Brandon at AIHA’s FLI program in October. Brandon has a Bachelor’s degree in Science with an emphasis in Industrial Hygiene from Utah State University. Brandon is somewhat of an honorary Australian as he spent 3 years working in Perth and travelling out to various gold mines across Australia – how awesome is that! He now works in Nevada and manages the Safety and Health Management System on a large mine site. Here is 5-mins with Brandon:
Best location I have worked: Without a doubt Australia! I loved working in Perth for a multinational mining company as the Regional Industrial Hygienist for three years. My responsibilities not only meant that I worked in Australia, but also Papua New Guinea, Zambia, Saudi Arabia, and occasionally Tanzania.
The best thing about my job is: I have a specific and valuable set of skills that not many, and sometimes no one else has in my immediate sphere of influence. I feel valued and relied upon in order to protect the health of the employees. The specific part that I like most about my job is the control part of my work. Whether its helping to design ventilation systems, or ensuring the correct personal protective equipment is available it satisfying to know that the culmination of the work is a reduction in risk for employees.
Career Highlight: Playing a part in the implementation of a sustainable industrial hygiene system for ten mine sites in a region, where one previously did not exist.
If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Speaking, interacting, and developing relationships with people across the organization. From senior leaders, to ground level employees an occupational hygienist needs to work with everyone.
People normally think my job involves: Cleaning large industrial toilets :-(. Which is why we (Americans) need to call it Occupational Hygiene, and not Industrial Hygiene!
The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Volunteer to help my professional association define the strategic direction for the next few years.
The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: I really don’t recall being asked to do anything bad!
Raised in a small town in northwestern Pennsyltuckey, USA (for you city folk that’s what we call rural Pennsylvania) and having never experienced air travel I attended Clarion University (a whopping 59 miles from home) with no ardent academic interests. After years of playing rugby and cruising through basic coursework I determined that I would study biology, and for all the right reasons (my Biology 101 professor was pretty cool and I enjoyed the outdoors). After graduation I worked for RJ Lee Group in their Pittsburgh laboratory, quickly discovering that the lab position didn’t fit my lifestyle. Fighting an early-life crisis I volunteered for fieldwork. The project was environmental sampling at the World Trade Center Site in the aftermath of 9/11. I hopped on an airplane for the first time and began a personal and professional transformational journey. While living in big-city hotels and working full-time in a newly formed field office, I attended Hunter College in New York City and received a master’s degree in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. Shortly thereafter I became a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Project Manager with RJ Lee Group’s technical consulting division, traveling the country providing IH services for various industries including, emergency response, manufacturing, healthcare and nanotechnology. Recently I switched gears (pun intended) by joining the transportation/trucking industry, accepting a position at FedEx Ground’s Corporate Safety Advisory Center. Back to my roots of western Pennsylvania, I live with my family (wife Kerstin, daughter Lily and son Evan) in Pittsburgh.
I was lucky enough to meet Matt at the AIHA’s FLI program back in October…and now you’re lucky to get 5-mins with Matt!
Best location I have worked: Anywhere south during the Northeastern US winters. Notables: Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Perth, Western Australia.
The best thing about my job is: Having the opportunity to influence others to conduct their business and live their lives safely and healthily.
Career Highlight: Applying leading-edge scientific knowledge to help solve real-world problems, e.g., conducting personal breathing zone exposure assessments for engineered nanoparticles; surveying cancer treatment facilities for environmental with antineoplastic (chemotherapy) agents; exposure simulation for product stewardship and exposure reconstruction to determine historical exposure potential.
If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Educating. Unseen hazards, moon suit-like PPE, and beeping/blinking sampling gadgets can be scary to some people.
People normally think my job involves: Here is an actual response from a recent random pub-dweller: “Do you clean stuff…like, in industrial buildings?”
The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Get involved with the American Industrial Hygiene Association, including volunteer working groups and committees. The learning, connections and opportunities are endless
The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: I’m a firm believer that a hygienist, regardless of your level, position, etc. should never be afraid to get your hands dirty alongside the workers you are monitoring. But since other Young Hygienist Snapshots seem to use this section to describe a job that was particularly smelly, I can relate. Following a train derailment and chlorine release in a small rural community, I was working with a team of hygienists and environmental scientists to enter homes and businesses in an evacuation zone and provide clearance air sampling. One home that was closed-up for nearly a week during warm weather had several dogs, cats and other small pets trapped inside. Upon entrance we discovered that, luckily, all of the animals were OK. The carpet was not OK.