Month: February 2014

The Young Occupational Hygienist and the stay at home Mum

Video Posted on Updated on

This is what happens when you leave two occupational hygienists alone with a video camera…

High-vis Fashion

Posted on Updated on

Taking reflective-vests to a new level?

Check Your Hygiene: Vapour Recovery

Posted on Updated on

Check Your Hygiene

What is Vapour Recovery? This is the process where the vapours of petrol or other fuels are recovered so they don’t escape into the open air. In the photo below – it refers to the vapour recovery system being installed on the pump itself, which is known as Stage 2 vapour recovery (VR2).

VR2 captures petrol vapours at the petrol pump when motor vehicles refuel. It captures the vapour in the vehicle’s fuel tank and transfers these vapours to the underground storage tank, preventing their release into the atmosphere.

Aside from reducing potentially explosive vapours and pollution, vapour recovery has the excellent side effect of also reducing your exposure to hazardous substances, including benzene.

…and Benzene is important because…?  It causes cancer in humans. Specifically it causes acute myeloid leukaemia.

Why do some petrol stations have it and some don’t? In NSW, service stations have up until the 1st of January, 2015 to install vapour recovery units (the actual technology to be installed depends on location and annual petrol throughput…more information here)

Which should I chose? Given that I have three children – the decision of where I buy my petrol is typically governed by wherever I am when they are not all in the car! However, when I do have the choice, I go to a service station where they have VR2 installed. I haven’t noticed these service stations being more expensive than others, but even if they were, I figure that spending a few extra dollars is better than the potential impact on my health.

Basically if you go to a service station where they have VR2, then you will be exposed to fewer concentrations of hazardous substances such as benzene, than if you went to one without it.  I used to live in New Jersey, USA, and one of the perks of living there was that you weren’t permitted to, ‘pump your own gas’. So instead of me being exposed to fuel vapours, a worker had to deal with all those petrol vapours day-in and day-out. This is probably why vapour recovery was so prevalent so many years before it made its way to Australia.

Need more information? Technically this topic demonstrates the sometimes-blurred line that Occupational Hygienists share with Environmental Engineers/Scientists. If you’re looking at exposure to workers – then you need an Occupational Hygienist. If you’re looking at impacts to the environment by way of air or land pollution, you need an Environmental Engineer/Scientist…and sometimes, like me, this is actually the same person!

 Vapour Recovery

Need some tips and ideas for managing heat stress?

Posted on Updated on

Check out for great tips and ideas to manage heat stress at work and at play!


Instagrams of the Week

Posted on Updated on

Once again a good week for social media and the #occupationalhygienist.  Just a couple of my favourites from this week.

Get hash-tagging people!

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Al Threlfall

Posted on Updated on


Al is an Occupational Hygienist, a graduate of the University of Newcastle, and is currently completing the MSc OHP at the UOW. Al has worked in some pretty rare and remote regions of Australia, and always has a fresh perspective on things…which also makes him an interesting tweeter! Follow him at his new home @topendhygienist Here is 5 mins with Al:

Best location I have worked: Nothing stands out but I love going to new places and seeing how things are done, I’ve now worked on large open cut mines, 1.5 km underground, on huge processing plants and in important public buildings.  I’m now on one of the largest construction projects in the country as the only hygienist.

The best thing about my job is: that its a lot like myth busters, there are so many things people think will hurt them but in reality the things they don’t worry about are the things they should worry about. Using science as a hygienist, I can help people see the real problems.

Career Highlight:  In terms of actually doing hygiene work, would be being able to show that installation of exhaust filters on underground plant dramatically reduced DPM exposure backing up an expensive call by management to put people before the budget. [Technical Note: DPM = Diesel Particulate Matter, a carcinogen]

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: weird hours and people not being totally cooperative.

People normally think my job involves: how clean surfaces are. You know that look when people think they know what you do, but aren’t too sure, and wonder why anyone would do what they are thinking it is.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: crawl around the hidden spaces and back collections for a number of our museums and galleries.  I got to see a lot of stuff that the general public wouldn’t get the opportunity to see as well as having the curators as the tour guide.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: take samples of sewerage at a dog pound.

The best part of a career in hygiene is: the other hygienists. Even though we quite often work for competitors, the collaboration between us is amazing. I know I can pick up the phone and talk to someone else that understands my problems and talk through it with them.  I haven’t met a hygienist yet that turns their back on another hygienist.

photo 2 photo 1

Respirators Gone Wrong

Posted on Updated on

I like the neon glow light…nice touch. Although once again I see no cartridges installed.

Visual effect = 10

Actual effectiveness = zero!