Young Hygienist Snapshot: Fritz Djukic

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Fritz is a lucky guy. While he was undertaking his Science degree at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 1993, he was being lectured by Dr David Grantham (#hygienegod) who inspired him to pursue a career in Occupational Hygiene!

Up until that point of time Fritz lamented that he really wasn’t sure where he was headed…but since then he has never looked back. Fritz has worked as a regulator, a consultant and for industry.  I bumped into Fritz a few years ago when he was in his current role as an Inspector of Mines (Occupational Hygiene). Like most of us, Fritz did the tedious hard yards, and spent many hours, days, months and years in mines, sugar mills  and factories taking the measurements while observing the task. He credits his past roles in the field for giving him a greater appreciation for the importance of measurement and the people he now serves (the mine workers!).

Here is 5-mins with Fritz:

Best location I have worked: There have been some pretty good ones ranging from inspecting cooling towers throughout the Whitsunday Islands to a Silica Sand mine in the middle of Kinkuna National Park, to the tiny Quarries located in platypus country in the QLD tropical tablelands.

The best thing about my job is: The variety, the challenge and the people I work with. I have great flexibility in my role and to a large degree I am self-managed.

Career Highlight:  Without doubt it has been very satisfying to be directly involved with raising of the occupational health and hygiene profile in the Queensland Mining Industry. I have worked with some brilliant people within both industry and government along the way. There is much still to do but we have come such a long way in a relatively short time.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to:

  1. Getting all the jobs from the too hard basket.
  2. Understanding that managing emotion and outrage can be just as important as managing actual risk.
  3. Grow a thick skin because some people just don’t want to hear what you have to say or value the importance of the role we play.
  4. Being able to deliver a consistent message to all the different layers of the organisation
  5. Learning how to get quality sleep at night with a full bank of charging pumps in your room flashing all night.

People normally think my job involves: Providing advice on personal hygiene and cleaning toilets.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Please go over to Hamilton Island for the Easter weekend to ensure lighting levels on the Tennis Courts are satisfactory. The fishing rods and snorkelling gear were packed well before the lux-meter!!

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Go undercover into a small (backyard) gold mine and recover/neutralise a suspicious substance (sodium cyanide) while being particularly careful not to get shot at!!!


U.S.A. here we come!

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In around 3-weeks we are making the long-haul 22-hour flight to the east coast of the U.S.A. and the count-down is on! I apologise in advance for any other travellers who have also bought the cheapest seats on the airplane we will be on as it is most likely that one of our three children will squeal with ear-pitching excitement, spill their apple juice on you, vomit near your hand bag, or just cry the entire journey. This will be our 14th long-haul flight to/from the US with our children…and all of these things have happened before. I may have to re-consider my “no iPad, just talk to me” rule that I have going. But once we are there it’s a world full of wonderful family, friendly people, cheap clothes, big cars, and big meals (must always remember to order the small cappuccino!), so the very very long flight is worth it.

This trip will be extra special as it will combine visiting our dearly missed family and friends with my other passion occupational Industrial Hygiene! For a few days I am lucky enough to be able to go down to Washington, DC to participate in the Future Leaders Institute hosted by the AIHA. The focus areas are on broadening interpersonal perspectives, broadening organizational perspectives, collaborative and teamwork efforts, and managing the future. Sounds great to me – I can’t wait to go, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Now, to find my suitcase…


Young Hygienist Snapshot: Kim Merritt [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

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This Snapshot comes all the way from the USA. Kim manages the radiation and laser safety programs for NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. Our guest bloggers tell me that he is the leader on the social front at all the AIHA Conferences – but overall he is a guy that is dedicated to his job, his profession and his family – how nice! Kim is a major part of the AIHA Ignite sessions and seems to have at least an annual presence on YouTube with his presentations. Check these out:

Here is 5-mins with Kim:

Best location I have worked: Here at NASA!

The best thing about my job is: There is always some new challenge to work on

Career Highlight: Tough call, but I’d say that getting to participate in projects that are satellites or get launches to the space station has been pretty awesome

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Small spaces and bad smells

People normally think my job involves: Since I’m technically a Health Physicist I think the best one was being asked if I design exercise machines

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Do the risk analysis for the laser camera system that scanned the bottom of space shuttle after launch. It was built by a Canadian firm by they specifically wanted me to do it, so it’s nice to have someone you don’t even know specifically acknowledge your abilities.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: investigate bad smells in crawl spaces that end up being sewer line ruptures.

Kim Merritt 1 Kim Merritt Ignite

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Solitaire Gadsby

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Solitaire is a Health and Safety Specialist at Bengalla Mine in Muswellbrook, NSW. Sol started out with a Bachelor of Science, Sport and Exercise Science and did some work experience in a back rehabilitation clinic whilst at university. During this time she came to realise that perhaps she was working on the wrong side of the fence – ie: trying to help people who had already been injured at work, rather than working to prevent those injuries from occurring in the first place! So she started working for the mining industry in health and safety and ended up performing a lot of occupational hygiene related work, and loved it. So much so that she decided to study a post graduate diploma in Occupational Hygiene at Deakin University. Sol graduated in 2012 and has never looked back! Here is 5-mins with Solitaire:

Best location I have worked: The Upper Hunter Valley, NSW. This is where I currently live and work, it’s an awesome location! It takes me 15 minutes to get to work each day, and on weekends I get to take advantage of the beautiful countryside, the vineyards and the close proximity to Newcastle and Sydney.

The best thing about my job is: The people. Occupational hygiene is all about protecting people. I love that my job requires me to get out in the field to observe and talk to people about their jobs; help them to understand and identify hazards and determine what controls will be appropriate to protect their health.

Career Highlight: Graduating from Deakin University with my Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hygiene in 2012. I had been working in the field for a number of years before this but it was a really great feeling to receive an official qualification.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: being a “jack of all trades”, the list of things that you can assist with is never ending. That’s part of the attraction for most people.

People normally think my job involves: Cleaning, or checking that people washed their hands correctly after visiting the bathroom. I recently travelled around Central America on extended leave and one of the first things that people ask when you meet them is “what do you do back home for work?”. Saying that you work as an Occupational Hygienist always results in a few blank looks. You have to be prepared with an accompanying spiel“it involves making sure aspects of people’s work (like noise, dust, vibration etc.) does not affect their health”. In the end it was easier to say I was a safety officer!

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: A whole body vibration monitoring project on dozers at the mine I work. I got to spend loads of time in the pit with various operators jumping on and off dozers, learning about the different operation techniques they use and ground conditions they work on. I had a few people who were reluctant to sit on the accelerometer until I explained that to only measured vibration, it did not cause vibrations.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: I can’t think of the worst, I love it all!


The AIOH Canary – It Could be Yours!

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AIOH Canary

Have you always wanted to go to an AIOH Conference, but could never quite get there? Or perhaps you already know how awesome it is, but you just don’t want to pay for it next year? Well you will love the latest offering from the AIOH.

A new Prize offered by the AIOH aims to bring the best out of our members by gathering ideas on the topic of, “What is Occupational Hygiene”  or “What does an Occupational Hygienist do?”  or “What can an occupational hygienist do for your workers and the company’s bottom line?” 

Enter – The AIOH CANARY!

It doesn’t matter if you are a Student member or a Fellow member, no doubt as an Occupational Hygienist you have heard these questions at least a few times before.

Whilst we have all developed our own ways to answer this question, what we haven’t done a very good job of as a collective group is informing people of the answer so they stop asking the question!

The AIOH CANARY is all about Communicating Awareness – a New Approach Representing us on YouTube.

It involves creating a short video (less than 5-minutes) that helps answer these questions. The video might be entirely video footage, or it might be a cartoon, a narrated series of photographs or drawings – the possibilities are endless!

Entrants upload their video to YouTube and then promote it through social media using the hashtags #TheCanary and #Occupationalhygiene.

Don’t worry if you are a social media novice, and the idea of twitter sends you into a twit, the AIOH Communications Committee are eager and willing to help you.

If you think you have the best answer to the questions posed…and a video camera, then you could win yourself the AIOH CANARY.

The AIOH CANARY provides the recipient complementary registration for the 2015 AIOH Conference in Perth. The winner will be announced at the 2014 AIOH Conference by the newly elected AIOH President for 2015.

 Entries are now open for all members (Student, Associate, Provisional, Full and Fellow) and close on October 31st, 2014…so get your video cameras out and get rolling!

More details will also be available in the next AIOH Newsletter….and I’ll update you here :)

Do you need some inspiration to get you started? Check out this example (not an official entry…just use it for inspiration!)

Not a member of the AIOH? No problems…it’s easy to join, just click here.

High Vis Work Wear – small victories

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One of the plus sides to working on a construction site is that you don’t have to spend time in the morning trying to figure out what to wear. One of the down-sides if you are a woman, is that you will probably be wearing some oversized shirt with sleeves that are too short and you might show your mid-rift if you put your arms in the air. This is overcome by wearing an especially large shirt…which is as you can imagine…very attractive.

Some times in life it’s the small things that make you smile. Last week Kristy and I finally got fed up with what some manufacturers call “women’s” work wear and we decided to try something new. Our brand-new She’s Empowered Shirts arrived which are long shirts made of a light fabric with long arms which are comfy with non-revealing buttons. In summary – we are in love.

Thanks to a fab woman in the mining industry who came up with a great idea and a great product – we’re now hitting the (sandstone) pavement in style…sometimes it’s the little things that brighten your day!



The AIOH Conference

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Boy a year rolls around really quickly these days!  It’s only 3 months until the next AIOH Conference, and this time it’s in Australia’s shopping capital of Melbourne. If any part of your role at work includes occupational health, occupational hygiene, or safety, then I encourage you to attend this conference.

Even more exciting is the vast range of Continuing Education Sessions (CES) offered this year. They range from guided tours of an operating Oil Refinery and Paint Manufacturing Facility, to ventilation design, noise control and audiometry, asbestos identification, chemical classification, safety behaviour, prevention of workplace injury and illness, electromagnetic fields, ionising radiation, occupational dermatitis, air sampling, legionella, hazardous materials emergencies, chemical protective clothing, fatigue, and risk management. Your problem will be making a choice of which one!

If you have never been to an AIOH Conference before then there are a few things you need to know. Firstly – this isn’t an ordinary boring conference where people just go through the motions. We occupational hygienists take these things seriously. You may have multiple people randomly come up to you and ask you how you are going and what you are interested in. You may then find yourself speaking to the world’s expert in that topic over lunch who will most likely want to help you. You might be taken back by how nice and friendly people are and you will grow your professional network. You’ve been warned.

Secondly, you will probably learn something new. Even if you have been doing what you’ve been doing for 15 years, there is a 99.5% chance that you will learn a new or better way of doing it. These are scientifically proven numbers I am quoting.

Thirdly, we take the social program very seriously. There are 3 nights of social events and it is an unspoken rule that you should participate, have fun, randomly strike up a conversation with someone you don’t already know, and not be home in bed by 8pm. We also take the 3M-sponsored night incredibly seriously. Each year it is a themed event, with this year’s 3M-night themed, “Exploration”. Expect to see some serious costumes.

The AIOH Conference is not the sort of event where you need to bring a friend to be comfortable. It is a warm and inviting event full of like-minded professionals who want to share their knowledge and grow the profession. First time attendees are made to feel especially welcome at the “Speed Networking” session on the first night…which is kind of like Speed Dating…only less awkward and far less pressure!

Have I convinced you yet? Good! You can register here.