I was fortunate enough to attend the FLI program this past weekend hosted by the AIHA. It brought together a great bunch of people from diverse backgrounds, roles, and cultures, but we all had one thing in common which was a drive and a passion for our profession as industrial hygienists….which therefore made it one of the best weekends of my professional career!
I will admit that if I hear the term, “group exercise” or “group assignment”, I normally go into a state of depression and frustration. But there were many group exercises as part of FLI, and they were actually pretty awesome. They seemed to centre on the fact that we all needed to know each other better and by continuously changing up the mix of who was in the group, and the number of people in the group, it became very engaging and actually pretty interesting.
The program was facilitated by Jeffrey Cufaude who was absolutely fantastic, made even more amazing with his heavy awesome accent which I adored. Jeffrey went to great lengths to help us along our “leadership journey”, and although he couldn’t promise that we’d be leaders in 30 days (must sign up for that course!), he definitely steered us on to the right path. I especially loved the “conversation cafe” which was on the morning of the last day – a great idea!
I was inspired to take on new challenges and to engage others on that journey. I learnt how to be a better listener and how to go about a better way of doing things by having a greater appreciation of how others may view the situation at hand. I was motivated to continue to do my best to promote our profession given the many people who came up to personally thank me for getting this blog started and for offering their feedback and suggestions, and assistance in the future (thanks for the support!).
I was also in a tad state of #hygieneshock (yes, new term) as we were treated to an afternoon session with some AIHA luminaries (aka #hygienegods). After conversing with a lovely man next to me for a bit, I almost fell over when I realised it was Billy Bullock (from “Ignacio & Bullock” fame). You will probably really only know what I am talking about if you are an IH, so to put it into perspective, it’s kind of like meeting Einstein, if Einstein was clever enough to be an industrial hygienist. Yes I did ask for an autograph. Yes I had to convince him I was serious. Multiple times.
I was also very excited to find out that out of a group of around 35 people, that another Aussie was also lucky enough to be part of it. Amazingly we have both worked in the profession for a long time, know many of the same people, and have been to the same AIOH Conference many times. It was a bit sad that we both had to fly over 22-hours away to meet each other, but we got there in the end! Here is Andrew Bennett and I in front of the White House, which was part of the Washington D.C. night tour held on the second night which was amazeballs.
I personally took away a great deal from the program and am very grateful to the AIHA, the FLI Advisory Panel, and to the numerous sponsors who supported the program to make it a reality. Now one of the challenges for me is to figure out how to channel this great experience to help other hygienists along their leadership journey…so stay tuned!
On Sunday I’m making the treck from Pennsylvania down to Virginia for the AIHA’s Future Leaders Institute (FLI) program.
I honestly don’t know too much about it, other than if Perry Logan (#hygienegod) is involved, I know it’s going to be good. Perry presented at the AIOH Conference in Sydney last year about FLI. He spoke about leadership, and the fact that occupational hygienists need to be able to communicate and interact with a wide spectrum of people effectively.
You see, occupational hygiene is both an art and a science. You could be the best in the world at measuring and assessing exposure to a certain chemical, but if you can’t change a bad situation, or “positively influence and effect change” then, all of your good work will go to waste, and ultimately there was no point to it.
The FLI (as I understand it) focusses on individual and organisational leadership which includes things like: personality assessments (which I assume will just tell me how awesome I am, surely!); understanding different styles, building leadership foundation elements; the fundamentals of teamwork; strengthening professional organisations; leadership in technology; and creating a compelling future together.
It all sounds great to me! But apart from looking forward to being a part of FLI, I’m also secretly looking forward to sitting in a room full of occupational hygienists and not having to explain what I do for a living!
Safe Work Australia Month (safety month) is on right now, if you have missed it so far! Safety month is held around Australia throughout the month of October, and encourages people to get involved in and concentrate on safety in their workplace to reduce death, injury and disease.
This year’s theme is Work safe. Home safe which reminds us that the most important reason for making our workplace safe, is not at work at all. As part of safety month, Safe Work Australia are running the Australian Strategy Virtual Seminar Series (VSS), which is a free online event.
The VSS showcases some of the latest work health and safety thinking, developments, innovations and research and supports the vision of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022–the ten year framework to encourage improvements in Australia’s workplace health and safety. The VSS is aimed at those with an interest in work health and safety and features live interactive panels and video presentations by work health and safety regulators, experts, business leaders and academics. The themes for the VSS are:
- leadership and culture
- responsive and effective regulation
- agriculture and road freight transport industries, and
- small business.
There is a great variety of free presentations with a new one coming up live each day. Just before I left for the US, Kristy and I sat down and recorded a webinar as part of the VSS with a focus on occupational noise for small business which goes live on October 27th at 2pm. Why don’t you check out the program and have a look at what interests you – check it out here: www.swa.gov.au There is a lot of a) great and b) freely available information to assist you!
I was lucky enought to meet Sara whilst studying at the UOW. Sara has worked in Occupational Hygiene for about 5 years, primarily as a consultant for the mining and manufacturing industries. She currently works for SLR Consulting and is based in Perth, but gets to travel throughout Australia. In Sara’s words, “I love my job!” which honestly is what most occupational hygienists say! Occupational hygiene combines science with helping people, problem solving, getting out in the field and chatting to workers and finding out about what they do. Hygiene is awesome :)
Sara also has a passion for horse riding and has 3 horses at home, with a new foal due anytime which is very exciting! Sara is interested in bringing hygiene to the equestrian industry and helping to investigate and solve some hygiene issues in the industry that may have been overlooked in the past. If you haven’t read her study on exposure to respirable crystalline silica from arena dust- you should! So here is 5-mins with Sara:
Best location I have worked: Rottnest Island! On a gorgeous spring day, it was fantastic
The best thing about my job is: That I get to meet so many different people and find out what they do for a living. I love to go behind the scenes at different workplaces and to see how things are made or processed.
Career Highlight: Getting to incorporate my hygiene skills with my other passion – horse riding, by doing a research project looking at the respirable crystalline silica exposure of horse riding instructors working in sand arenas. It turns out the exposure can be quite high.
If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Not being able to let go of hygiene when you are not at work. Everywhere I go I see people exposing themselves to hazards and I have to point it out!! My family know all about some of the more common hazards and what PPE to wear. Now they also notice when others are exposed.
People normally think my job involves: Telling people to wash their hands.
The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: As I mentioned above I love my job so every day is pretty awesome, but doing a noise survey and atmospheric monitoring at Rottnest Island was a great day.
The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Noise and atmospheric monitoring at an indoor rubbish composting plant. It stunk so much, I definitely couldn’t eat anything that day!
I’m in the USA getting ready to attend the Future Leaders Institute (FLI) hosted by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). Unlike when I went to the UK alone, this time the entire family is with me, so it has been an action packed two weeks so far!
After the long-haul plane ride, which is probably as bad as you can imagine with an 18-month old in tow, we arrived into LAX jet-lagged, tired, and ready to sleep. Unfortunately it was only the morning, so we got in a car, and drove a few hours into the desert town of Palm Springs…and it was beautiful! It was hot, the architecture was amazing, and we had a swimming pool. It was 37C at around 9pm at night, which was perfect because that’s when we were awake and swimming in the pool!
We followed Palm Springs with a day-trip to Santa Monica, where we visited the famous Pier and watched the sun-set – lush!
We then braved another 6-hour flight, which was once again challenging with the baby – there is only so much Wiggles that a grown up can take before it starts to send you batty!! But once we made it to the East Coast, everything settled back down. Turns out Lachie (the baby) is a big city kind of guy. We all drove down to Pennsylvania to visit family and to take in the Fall leaves – beautiful!
After much family-time and much Pierogi-eating, we headed over to Hoboken, New Jersey for a few days. Hoboken has to be our all-time favourite place to visit. Hubby and I lived there for 3 years when we were first married and we loved every minute of it. Only a stone’s throw from Manhattan, with the world at your feet, it’s a beautiful city, with some of the best views in the world.
As part of our perpetual quest to ensure that our children take up some sort of STEM career, we took them to the Liberty Science Center. Although we spend the best part of the day there, we only managed to see around half of it. There was a great exhibit to teach kids where oil comes from and to let them build their own hydrocarbon molecule. Despite many attempts though, the configuration didn’t let me make a benzene molecule which was a bit dissapointing…where’s the fun unless you can make a carcinogen I say!
It’s been a great trip so far and I still have a week before I go down to Arlington, VA for FLI…so I can’t wait to see what else we can get up to before then. It’s prime pumpkin pie eating season at the moment, so I’m sure it will be good!
Tina is an occupational hygienist who has worked at Tata Steel for the last 6 years. She has a background in chemistry but now is a very enthusiastic hygienist. Tina helps with the organisation of the Yorkshire and East Midlands region for the BOHS and is about to start a new role to further her career. She has presented at several BOHS events including annual conferences. Here is 5-mins with Tina:
Best location I have worked: The majority of my work is centred around heavy industry (namely coke ovens) at Port Talbot or Scunthorpe, and I have to admit it’s a pretty hard choice between these two hot and exotic places!! I did enjoy a visit to Sweden to visit a manufacturers RPE (respiratory protective equipment) factory – found this very informative and interesting.
The best thing about my job is: There are never two days the same and plenty of variety in the work. This along with the satisfaction that you may have contributed to the prevention of people ending up with life debilitating such as NIHL (noise induced hearing loss), COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), etc. or even life threatening conditions such as cancer.
Career Highlight: Project managing and being part of the success of a companywide occupational hygiene programme to reduce exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at Tata Steel coke ovens. There are now several papers that been issued in the Coke Oven Managers Association (COMA) handbook. An overview of the project was also presented at the BOHS Annual Conference in 2014.
If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Strange hours, industrial workplaces, ever changing and developing workloads, communicating with people from all levels from shopfloor to senior management, using persuasion tactics and arguments to effect change, a lot of job satisfaction (and at times frustration) and a constant learning curve.
People normally think my job involves: all aspects of personal hygiene : ( and occupational health based work.
The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Project manage the aforementioned PAH project – Lots of research, awareness training, determination of control methods, implementation and sustainability strategies.
The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Luckily, I’m in an environment where people do know what I do. However, I’ve heard a few strange experiences from other colleagues, such as identifying worms, advising on how to clean a small patch of mould, etc.
Assessing and measuring exposure to nanoparticles is not something I have done in my career to date, so in an attempt to figure out all that I don’t know, I recently attended a seminar presented by Dr Howard Morris from Safe Work Australia and Peter McGarry from Workplace Health & Safety Queensland (WHSQ) on the topic.
It was a fantastic seminar (side note: keep up to date with the various seminars and events from the AIOH here!) and I learnt that there are a number of (very) useful guides that have been developed on nanotechnology in the Workplace. I also got to measure the amount of nanoparticles that were present in the middle of George St, Sydney…double bonus!
Like most other occupational hazards, the same assessment process exists. That being you need to identify the hazards, assess the risks; implement precautions; supervise and maintain controls; monitor exposure etc etc. To assist, WHSQ is implementing the Queensland nanotechnology work health and safety program as part of a national program facilitated by Nanotechnology and Work Health and Safety (Safe Work Australia). You can find out more about it here.
Safe Work Australia’s Nanotechnology work is Australia-focused, but also contributes to global efforts on nanotechnology work health and safety. Their focus areas are to:
- Ensure nanotechnology is covered appropriately within the Work Health and Safety Regulatory Framework;
- Improve understanding of the hazardous properties of engineered nanomaterials;
- Assess the effectiveness of workplace controls in preventing exposure to engineered nanomaterials;
- Develop procedures for detecting and measuring emissions exposure in workplaces;
- Provide information and guidance for Australian nanotechnology organizations; and
- Ensure consistency with international approaches & contributing to international work.
There are a number of very useful information sheets freely available on the SWA website which provide a great deal of information to get you off to a good start such as:
- Measuring and Assessing Emissions of Nanomaterials from Processes
- Safe handling and use of carbon nanotubes in the workplace information sheet
- Emissions of Nanomaterials during Machine Processes
- Safety Hazards of engineered nanomaterials
- Classification of Carbon Nanotubes as Hazardous Chemicals
- Assessing and Controlling Laser Printer Particle Emissions in Workplace Environments
Overall I left this seminar knowing a lot more about these little particles than I did before. I’m by no-means an expert, so if you have consulted the information above, and you still need help, consider contacting your friendly occupational hygienist. The AIOH has a consultant directory here.