Month: April 2014

Check Your Hygiene: Health Effects from Welding

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Check Your Hygiene

Welding is an essential industrial process. It’s so commonly performed these days, you could say that it’s ubiquitous in industry. Welding produces a range of potentially toxic metal fumes from welded material, welding rods or fluxes. Appreciating the hazards involved, Noah Seixas gave a keynote lecture at the recent BOHS Conference in the UK on the recent advances in welding exposure assessment and control. One of the main items of focus was on fume-related health effects, particularly the neurological health effects of welders who develop a condition known as “Manganism” brought about by exposure to manganese.

Although manganese is an essential trace element, when welders are exposed to high concentrations over a prolonged period of time, it can cause neurological disorders involving the central nervous system, where the worker develops a tremor-like syndrome which resembles Parkinson’s disease. Manganism usually begins with psychological symptoms such as hallucinations, emotional instability and disturbances in behaviour. These may be followed by neurological symptoms such as muscular weakness, speech disturbances and headaches, as well as symptoms resembling those of Parkinson’s disease. If exposure ceases after the neurological symptoms appear, the worker generally recovers, but some speech and balance problems may remain.

Controlling exposure to manganese is crucial to preventing occupational illness and may include elimination (eg: changing the welding type), substitution (eg: changing the welding rod with one that contains less manganese), engineering (eg: local exhaust ventilation), administration (eg: reducing exposure time, medicals, and training), and the use of PPE (eg: respirators).

Using a box model, Noah broke down the often complicated explanation of the determination of welding smoke exposure as a simple communication tool. As is shown in the graphic below (sourced here) it includes the number and types of welding, the room size, and the amount of air moved through the space.

Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 8.34.43 PM

Using a similar format, Noah then explained the top three ways that workers can reduce their welding smoke exposure using the simple graphic below.

Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 8.34.54 PM

The study that Noah discussed, involved a review of peer-reviewed literature and demonstrated that stick welding, MIG welding, and dual shield welding brought about the highest risk of exposure to manganese in air to the welder. The key is to make sure that if you can’t reduce the amount of manganese at the source, then you need to focus your energy into a local exhaust ventilation system to remove the welding fume rather than relying on PPE, which will always be less effective. Whilst numerous control methods were discussed, it was clear that unfortunately there still remains a heavy reliance on the welder to wear PPE such as the use of Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs).

Where PPE is used to control exposure, it can be difficult to know how effective it really is at protecting the worker. In such cases, biological monitoring is typically recommended. This is tricky when it comes to manganese though. In Australia, Safe Work Australia state, “In regard to biological monitoring, the significance of manganese in urine is still difficult to assess. On a group basis, manganese in blood seems to be more of an index of body burden than of current exposure. Accordingly, results from biological monitoring for manganese need to be treated with particular caution”. The NSW TestSafe WorkCover Laboratory go on to state, “Manganese in urine reflects recent exposure. Better interpretation of exposure is obtained on a group basis as excretion rates vary with dose. It has been suggested that blood and urine measurements are useful for confirming exposure”. So basically it’s not as simple as collecting a urine sample and comparing that measurement to a reference value provided by Safe Work Australia (there isn’t one). It’s times like these when you really need an Occupational Hygienist to provide advice and assistance to make sure your workers are protected.

So getting back to the study Noah presented, one of the (many) interesting things he discussed was the potential use of hair as an exposure biomarker as it’s easily collected and has a fairly constant growth rate. Biological monitoring tends to be invasive, so its great when other methods are identified that may achieve the same outcome. As with any method, limitations exist in using them, and in the case of using hair, the limitations include the uncertainty for Manganese affinity and the need to thoroughly remove all surface contamination…but it’s a great start!

If you are a welder or have welding activities located in your place of work and want some advice from an Occupational Hygienist, then you can find one in the AIOH consultant directory here.

Occupational Hygiene Training Materials

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Are you interested in Occupational Health? Are you a Health and Safety Manager with the need to understand more about the “H” in “H&S”? Perhaps you’ve just started a new job and all of a sudden you realise you need to know about noise in the workplace?

These are just some of the reasons why you will love OH Learning. You can search for upcoming training events in your area, such the Basic Principles of Occupational Hygiene which is a great course to take if you need to manage or provide advice on workplace health issues, or what about the Thermal Environment  where you can master the art of controlling heat stress. Have a browse and start planning the rest of your year with good quality training courses. Or if you can’t make them, then there are freely available training materials to get you started.

The very popular one-week Basic Principles in Occupational Hygiene course in Perth is coming up next…so book it in before it sells out once again.



Young Hygienist Snapshot: Tamara Warry

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Tamara is an Occupational Hygienist who works as a Senior Health, Hygiene and Safety Advisor. She has the claim to fame of being the very first Occupational Hygiene graduate from the Masters program at the UOW, and lives in one of the most beautiful spots in the country!  Here is 5-mins with Tamara:

Best location I have worked:  I’d say where I am currently working- Ravensthorpe (mine) in the Great Southern Region in WA. My role here is very varied with occupational hygiene (i.e. coordinating sampling and hygiene programs, ear fit testing, noise testing etc.). I’m about to do some work on fatigue and am in the process of setting up onsite health testing such as audiometric and spirometry testing. I also do injury management and am very fortunate to have a boss who allows me to work autonomously.

In addition to that, the location of work is great. We are surrounded by the Fitzgerald National Park, which is Australia’s only world biodiversity hot spot, has more species of flora than the entire United Kingdom & is truly a beautiful part of the world. In fact I liked it so much I moved my husband and 2 dogs down here to Hopetoun- a little sea side town.

The best thing about my job is:  The variation in my work. I don’t do much sampling anymore as we have a hygiene technician on site, but pretty much every day I’m doing something different, thinking of something new to try and improve people’s health 🙂 Health is definitely a passion of mine.

Career Highlight:  I’d say finishing my Masters of Occupational Hygiene Practice at UOW.  Training under Brian Davies was also amazing, and meeting some wonderful people along the way, such as Peter Adlington, Jen Hines, Hendo, Jane…. The list goes on.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to….. People thinking you have something to do with personal hygiene- showering, deodorant, washing hands! That gets annoying.

People normally think my job involves…Pretty much the above- or are just unsure! To be honest until I met Brian Davies by accident at a careers day at Uni, I had no idea what it was either. I was planning on becoming a dietician!

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was…I’m not too sure! I think just setting up hygiene programs almost from scratch has been good and getting the opportunity to travel all around to different work sites, and mines and seeing parts of the country that people don’t even know exist! I worked as a consultant in WA for a couple of years after moving from Wollongong NSW, and I travelled all over. I learnt a lot about myself and had to adapt to many different situations.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was….I didn’t have to do it- but I was asked if I clean out the sanitary bins in the girls toilets! This was assumed to be my job due to working in ‘hygiene’…..hmmmmm no!

The worst thing I actually had to do was try and find somewhere to go to the toilet in an underground coal mine, in a onesie with 100% male population….. I held on! I also learnt not to wear perfume to an underground mine!


Instagram of the Week

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Occupational hygienists are so happy that they can even make PAPRs exciting. I mean look at how excited this worker is to wear a respirator – you only get that type of happiness from having the process explained by an occupational hygienist 🙂

In case you are wondering what a PAPR is, it stands for Powered Air Purifying Respirator. PAPRs are motorised systems that force filtered air into the breathing zone of the worker and can provide a protection factor of up to 1,000 dependant on the type used.






Check Your Hygiene: How do you take your gloves off without contaminating yourself?

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Check Your Hygiene

The use of chemical protective gloves is one of the most common mechanisms used to prevent skin contact with hazardous chemicals. When you provide gloves to the workforce for use, you also need to provide training in how to use them. This might sound a bit silly (I mean how hard is it to put on a pair of gloves?), but there are actually a lot of things that can go wrong when there is just a thin piece of material between you and a hazardous substance. Two common things that I see happen include failing to inspect them before putting them on and/or getting the hazardous substance on your skin whilst they are being taken off.

For example, take a look at the gloves in the photo below. One has the cuffs stuck together (granted you probably would have figured that one out without an inspection!), one has faulty cuff moulding, and one has a puncture hole in it. These were fresh out of the manufacturers box, so it pays to inspect them before putting them on.


While I was at the Health and Safety Laboratory in the UK, I asked the expert Martin Roff, for his advice on the correct way to take your gloves off. Martin was kind enough to share the video below, where he demonstrates the correct method verses a common method used to take gloves off (known as “doffing”). He uses a fluorescent tracer under UV light so you can see how ineffective the common method is. I also couldn’t resist putting a backing track on it…everything sounds cooler with rock music behind it 🙂

So if you ever have trouble convincing people the correct way to remove their gloves, why don’t you try showing them this video? Thanks Martin!


Disclaimer: The above video was provided by Martin Roff as his personal “unofficial method”, and not one that is endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive. He is a #hygienegod though, so he knows what he is talking about!


Young Hygienist Snapshot: Mitch Thompson

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Mitch is a Senior Occupational Hygienist based in Sydney. He is a fellow graduate of the MSc OHP program at the UOW, and is lucky enough to work for Hibbs & Associates, which means that he gets to do some pretty interesting work! Mitch is also one of those all-round nice guys, with a great sense of humour…as this is only a ‘snapshot’, I’ll leave the examples of his humour for future posts perhaps 🙂

Here is 5-mins with Mitch:

So how did you get into Occupational Hygiene? In the beginning, I was under the impression I wanted to be a physiotherapist….how wrong I was!  I happened upon occupational hygiene while studying at university, and really haven’t looked back since then. In late 2007, I was offered a vocational role with a large mining company, and since then my passion for the profession has only grown.  This profession allows you so much freedom, in that you can specialise in one particular area of interest (e.g. clandestine drug laboratory remediation) or you could work in all sorts of different fields such as; noise, vibration, thermal stress etc etc.  The list literally goes on and on.  Not only this, but the sharing of information between professionals within the field is like nothing I have ever seen or heard of before.  Working as a hygienist in Australia means that you can call on pretty much anyone in the AIOH community for assistance, and they will in fact do their best to help you out.

I’m a pretty active person in my normal day to day life, luckily hygiene allows me to maintain this during my working day.  Site work could include walking all over mine sites or up and down stairs of a vessel to get to another area where work is underway.  While there is definitely some computer based reporting time, there is an even balance between time spent in the office and time spent out in the field.

Best location you have worked: It’s hard to narrow down the best location as I’ve worked in so many places over my relatively short career, but I’d have to say the following topped the list:

– On top of the Harbour Bridge, what a view;

– North Stradbroke Island in summer, not a bad location for a beach lover; and

– Working on Naval/Bulk/Cruise motor vessels travelling along the Australian east coast, an amazing way to see the ocean and the land from the sea (see pic)

The best thing about your job is: I’d say the most enjoyable thing about my consulting job is getting to meet new people and visiting new workplaces. You’re definitely never bored as a hygienist consultant, the requests to review differing manufacturing process and other varying activities are endless.

Career Highlight: I’ve only been in the game since late 2007, however, I’d say the highlight thus far has been being recognised by my peers by becoming a Certified Occupational Hygienist with the AIOH.  In addition, I’d have to say I’ve been extremely lucky to have been educated by and worked with a number of well-respected hygienists, which include; Brian Davies, Jennifer Hines, Philip Hibbs and Dan Le Van.  All four of these people have played an extremely important role in shaping not only the professional I am today, but also the person that I have become.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Be prepared for unusual hours of work, as an Occupational Hygienist you’re the first to get to site and the last one to leave.  You could be working in the middle of the night or early in the morning, this is all governed by when the process you wish to assess is conducted.  One of my favourites for early starts was waking up at 3:30am 5 days in a row, needless to say I was getting a little weary by the fifth day!

People normally think your job involves: Showing people how to wash their hands and cleaning toilets

The best thing you’ve been asked to do was:  This would be an endless list, but one of the more interesting jobs I’ve had was working at facility that manufactured and tested weapons and artillery.  This was an extremely interesting project, as I was able to see the full process from start (e.g. milling of barrels) to finish (e.g. firing of weapons in the range)!  Another awesome thing I got involved in, thanks to Philip Hibbs, was the AIOH conference organising committee.  I had a terrific time giving back to the institute and got to forge and strengthen new and old friendships  (see pic!).

The most challenging thing you’ve been asked to do was: The most challenging role I’ve had, would be indirectly dealing with union officials on a construction site.  This was definitely a difficult situation which I learnt a lot from!

Mitch_1 Mitch_2

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Craig Hendry [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

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Craig worked as a stonemason in Scotland for around 8 years before leaving to study a degree in Industrial and Environmental Hygiene. Upon graduating, he worked as an asbestos surveyor and then an industrial hygienist in a consultancy. He later joined ExxonMobil where he has been for over 13 years. Craig started supporting a refinery in England and provided occasional support for aviation, retail, distribution and shipping. He stayed for 8 years and then moved back to Scotland about 5 years ago to work at a Chemical plant. As part of that role, Craig supports the chemical plant and the global IH function which includes assisting in corporate SHE audits of refineries/chemical plants. He has recently been given a support role with the upstream function.

Craig is a chartered member of the BOHS and passed the BOHS Diploma in Professional Competence in Occupational Hygiene in 2009….I also finally met him last week! Here is 5-mins with Craig:

Best location I have worked: I was part of an audit team that conducted a SHE audit at an ExxonMobil refinery in Nicaragua.  We were there for nearly 2 weeks and Nicaragua was such an interesting place to visit and the people were really friendly.  We were there during election time and there were quite a few pro and anti-government demonstrations going on.

The best thing about my job is: I get the opportunity to travel a fair bit and with travelling to other locations, you can start to understand some of the difficulties with implementing IH requirements across global operations.  What may not be a major obstacle in the UK could present significant challenges elsewhere.

Career Highlight: I would probably say passing my BOHS Diploma has been my main career highlight but at work I wouldn’t say there has been a big career highlight but smaller achievements such as assisting in successful SHE audits or providing successful IH support during plant shutdowns

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Ensuring that you know how to conduct monitoring surveys and know the relevant methodologies and the potential inaccuracies with these methodologies.  Even if you don’t routinely do surveys anymore, you still need to be able to interpret results.  You need to be flexible as you may get asked to respond to concerns at short notice and also be prepared for questions relating to issues that you have no experience in

People normally think my job involves:  Most people in ExxonMobil understand what I do but I guess most people outside of work think it relates to food hygiene or health and safety.  I haven’t had anyone ask if me if my job is related to dentistry.  Most of the time I tend to say I work as an Industrial Health advisor and not an Industrial Hygienist as I used to get a lot of blank stares.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: I would probably say the opportunity to provide support to other locations.  I have been lucky enough to provide support to SHE audits in Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia and a few other locations, IH survey on a Crude Oil Tanker in Singapore, IH reviews in Italy and upstream support in Angola and Liberia.  I would say travel certainly allows you to view things a bit differently.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: I wouldn’t say that I have had that many bad experiences but I guess in my early days being asked to present a 2 hour noise training session to about 200 people was quite nerve wracking although thankfully went quite well.  Not something that would bother me now but at the time I was quite nervous presenting to such a large audience.  Also having to climb to the top of a tower (using tower ladders) to conduct some monitoring, only to find I forgot something and had to go back down and back up. The tower was pretty high up!