Chatting with Helen Chambers, Principal Occupational Hygienist at the HSL

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Helen heads up a team of occupational hygienists at the Health and Safety Laboratory. Due to the sheer number of resources, facilities, and ancillary activities going on at the HSL, Helen’s team works in a range of industry sectors, and like hygienists in Australia, gets to do a lot of weird and wonderful things across the UK and beyond. Helens’ team works closely with HSE enforcement where necessary, performs research for the HSE, helps inform guidance published by the HSE, and works for external clients also.

As you can see she is a busy lady, so I was very much appreciative of the time she spent with me today. I was spoiled with a tour of the ventilation lab, where controlled environments with laminar flow are setup (exciting!!). There was also a purpose-built setup to mimic an electroplating facility to be used to study exposure during electroplating. Seriously – amazeballs.

I’m going to share with you some of Helen’s advice for aspiring young hygienists:

  1. Don’t be shy or afraid to ask the daft questions. Occupational hygienists need to see the whole picture, and you’re not going to be able to see it unless you ask lots and lots of questions.
  2. Try to work in as many sectors as you caan to gain balanced experience.
  3. Do your research before you do the work. Make sure you are using the right tools and the right methods. It pays to spend that time up front to prevent errors during the process.

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This is just a taste of the interview I was fortunate enough to have today at the HSL. For more information, including Helen Chambers’ explanation of UK WELs and personal gripes, look out for the article in the next edition of OH Matters. Not a member of the AIOH? It’s easy…just join here and you’ll be on the mailing list.

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