Month: June 2014

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Neil Grace [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

Posted on Updated on


A flash back to some earlier months ago when I met this lovely man at the BOHS Conference in Nottingham. Neil Grace is a Senior Occupational Hygienist in the Oil and Gas Industry, and has stressed to me that he should be considered, “young at heart”, rather than “young in age”.  I say the term “young” was always going to be relative when I was using it!

Here is 5-mins with Neil:

Best location I have worked: Plenty and all varied. Offshore on a beautiful summers day, with dolphins swimming around the platform, to the top of reactor tower 400ft in the air.

The best thing about my job is: it’s always changing and I get to meet lots of different folk.

Career Highlight:Delivering my MSc thesis at the BOHS Conference in Stratford.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: processes/plants never being on time…a lot of waiting around…and also people saying “you think that is bad, you should of been here yesterday“!

People normally think my job involves: The medical side of Occupational Health, where they come into my office and start stripping off to show me a growth or similar!

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Carry out noise monitoring in a police firing range!

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was:Waste sewerage issues offshore….or suited up carrying out a Thermal Heat stress survey within a nuclear reactor building.

neil grace

AIHce Movie Matinee: Blackfish – Safety when swimming with Killer Whales

Posted on

Fletcher Best

One of the many interesting sessions at AIHce was the Movie Matinee – Blackfish: Safety when Swimming with Killer Whales. As we arrived to the session, there was even popcorn and American “candy” on offer, just like the movies! The session enabled us to watch the documentary Blackfish, which was followed by a discussion about the findings presented in the movie and the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administrations (OHSA) citation to SeaWorld.


For those who haven’t seen the movie, Blackfish is a documentary about the 2010 death of a SeaWorld killer whale trainer. The trainer, Dawn Brancheau, was involved in a fatal incident involving a killer whale named Tilikum, at SeaWorld’s Orlando, Florida theme park.

The documentary outlined that Tilikum had been involved in three human fatalities, the first in 1991, where a part time trainer fell into the pool that housed Tilikum and two other female killer whales. The part time trainer, Keltie Byrne, fell into the pool housing the three mammals, when they submerged her, and held her underwater, then surfaced several times with her, before she drowned. The second occurrence was in 1999, when a member of the public stayed in SeaWorld, after it closed for the night, and entered the killer whale tank. Daniel Dukes body was found draped over Tilikums body in the morning. His genitals had been bitten off, he was also covered in lacerations and contusions. The third fatality involved Brancheau, on February 24, 2010. Brancheau was Tilikums trainer, during a performance at SeaWorld, Brancheau was pulled into the pool by Tilikum. Reports of her injuries included severing of her arm, scalping, broken bones, spinal injuries and drowning.


Following this incident, OSHA conducted an investigation, where they found SeaWorld to be in violation of the Workplace Health and Safety Act. OSHA claimed that SeaWorld exposed workers to a known hazard in the workplace, i.e. Tilikum, an animal who had been involved in two prior human fatalities. SeaWorld was subsequently fined and enforced to implement the control where trainers were no longer allowed to physically interact with the killer whales, so a physical barrier was to be in place between trainers and animals at all times.  This citation was appealed by SeaWorld, however, in November 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals denied the appeal.


This finding by OSHA raises questions as to the responsibility of businesses to protect workers in the entertainment industry. Many of these people work with animals as part of their daily job such as in wildlife parks, theme parks, and even circus performers. Are risks adequately assessed and controlled to meet the requirements of OSHA, or in Australia, the requirements of our legislation and associated documents as published by Safe Work Australia?

Working with animals will always present an unpredictable behaviour hazard, but it does not mean that the risk should not be assessed or control measures cannot be put in place to safeguard workers. It will be interesting to see how the outcome of this investigation may impact on workplaces in Australia that have human-animal interaction.

Instagram of the Week

Posted on Updated on

This weeks Instagram is brought to you all the way from NASA!

Hygienists get to work in some pretty awesome places, but I think this one takes the cake so far. Carter, we are very jealous!

View this post on Instagram

Not a bad view for the week. #nasa #vab #ksc

A post shared by carterficklen (@carterficklen) on

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Scott Meulman

Posted on Updated on


Scott is very lucky. He is an Environmental Engineer who has worked with Thiess since 2010. He is lucky because he has gotten to work on some very contaminated sites which makes project-life very interesting! Somehow Kristy and I managed to convince Scott to come to the dark-side and become an Occupational Hygienist a year or so ago….and now we are the lucky ones as Scott finally saw the light and is currently completing his Masters Degree in Occupational Hygiene Practice at the UOW!  Hang around us for too long and we might convince you to become an occupational hygienist too!

Here is 5-mins with Scott:

Best location I have worked: I’ve been very lucky to be based on a lot of marine projects – including on the iconic Sydney Harbour foreshore and now on the Swan River with the dolphins.

The best thing about my job is: I’m able to blend the Environment and Occupational Hygiene fields every day. Who else can start the day on a boat to look for dolphins and then do some noise assessments?

Career Highlight: Being a part of a number of award-winning major projects and completely removing the contaminated legacy from some of Australia’s most contaminated lands.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: People trying not to make eye contact when you have a handful of sampling pumps in your hand.

People normally think my job involves: Working with health and safety, especially enforcing PPE.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Complete a Masters in Occupational Health and Hygiene for my work

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Swabbing the rafters of a shed used to store contaminated materials, kitted out in tyvek suits and a self-contained breathing apparatus from the top of an EWP basket in summer!

Scott M

Is the Brisbane ColorRun less hazardous to your health?

Posted on


Welcome to my inaugural blog.

Some of you may have noticed that I was a participant in the initial round of monitoring for the Newcastle ColorRun. Why go back for more you may ask? Well I claim I am doing this in the name of science and for the greater good… believe that if you will 🙂

The Brisbane ColourRun took place on a sunny Sunday in May, and I was keen to see how the QLD run compared to the three NSW runs I had completed previously (some sort of state of origin maybe).

Generally, I saw less “Color” thrown at participant faces and above shoulder height. Most volunteers were well versed in aiming the Color at chest height and the amount of Color being thrown at us appeared to be less than that experienced in Newcastle (and Sydney). I didn’t get as many direct hits with the Color on the sampler as I had in Newcastle either (those Novocastrians do know how to throw a Color party!).

I saw a number of volunteers wearing respiratory protection in the form of a P2 disposable respirator which was a pleasant change from previous runs, where volunteers were observed to be covered in Color and stayed within the “Color Zones” for up to 4 hours without any form of respiratory protection.

The sampling methodology was the same as that implemented for the Newcastle ColorRun, with all samples pre and post calibrated in accordance with AS3640 (2009). Four willing participants wore sampling pumps throughout the run and whilst they were in the Color throw area at the end of the run. All samples ran for approximately 2.5 hours with exposure for the remainder of the day estimated to be zero as per the methodology used previously.

The table below lists the results in relation to the Workplace Exposure Standard.

Participant Result (calculated over 8-hours, assumed no exposure for remaining time after the ColorRun) Exposure Standard
Renee 1.5 mg/m3 4 mg/m3
Dani 0.8 mg/m3 4 mg/m3
Evan 14.2 mg/m3 4 mg/m3
Kristy 14.7 mg/m3 4 mg/m3

Half of the samples exceeded the exposure standard. This correlated well with the samples collected in Newcastle where 3 out of 5 samples exceeded the exposure standard.

In order to answer the initial question “Is the ColorRun hazardous to your health?”, I first combined the Brisbane results with the Newcastle results and performed statistical analysis of the data. As was the case with the Newcastle dataset, the 95th percentile was calculated to be well over the Exposure Standard. This again was due to the high sample results and the large degree of variability in the data set.

So what does this all mean? These results confirm that overall, although it is fun, participating in the ColorRun is hazardous to your health. However…the results demonstrated that some participants fared better than others. It was interesting to note each participants strategy during the run influenced the amount of Color inhaled.

For example, Dani ran the whole race and did not pause in the Color Zones, which resulted in an exposure well below the Exposure Standard. The same can be said for Renee who jogged the course and partook in the Color throw but was not overly covered in Color. On the other hand, both Evan and I jogged the course and willingly were covered in Color dust on all occasions, finishing the course covered in Color Dust.


Further to the recommendations made previously, it could be suggested that the way in which you approach the ColorRun course will influence the amount of Color you may potentially inhale. If you make a diligent effort to not linger in the Color Zones and progress directly through these with volunteers throwing Color at only chest height, you may well be able to complete the ColorRun with your exposure falling below the Exposure Standard.

Speaking from personal experience, the Color Dust is an irritant and it does clog your nose, mouth and eyes if inhaled or ingested and symptoms last up to three days. So consideration should be taken prior to participating in the ColorRun, in particular for those with young children or asthmatics.

If you do choose to participate in this event in the future, then take caution when going through the Color throws at each kilometre, which would include skipping them entirely, or wear respiratory protection in the form of a P1 or P2 disposable dust mask. I also recommend skipping the final colour throw entirely as this is where the majority of Color Dust is inhaled when Color is thrown into the air on 20 minute intervals.

The implementation of respiratory protection for volunteers at the Brisbane event was a welcome sight, but it appeared that this was worn on an individual basis (not everyone had them on) and volunteers may not have been educated in the health effects of breathing in all that Color Dust throughout the day (based on the fact some had respirators and some didn’t). Further education and information is recommended for both volunteers and participants alike to ensure people are aware of the potential risks to health prior to partaking in these runs in the future. As a side note, there are a number of items that need to be implemented when you provide respiratory protection to workers including fit testing, maintenance, and training in their use and limitations. Australian Standard 1715 is a good place to start if you’re unfamiliar with all of this.

The biggest risk to health appears to be for the volunteers based on the time they spend in a visually dusty environment. While we do not have personal exposure data to demonstrate their exposure above the Workplace Exposure Standard, they appear to be group at highest risk, and it is reasonably anticipated that exposure would exceed the Exposure Standard (and possibly above the protection factor afforded by the disposable respirators in use…they will only protect the volunteers up to a concentration up 40 mg/m3 if fitted and worn correctly). In accordance with the Work Health and Safety Regulations (which apply in both NSW and QLD), workers must not be exposed above the Exposure Standard, and if it is not certain on reasonable grounds whether the Exposure Standard will be exceeded, then air monitoring (personal exposure monitoring) must be performed. Out of the four ColorRuns I have participated in, I have not seen any volunteers set up with personal pumps to measure their exposure. This would be a key recommendation for event organisers to consider to both protect the health of volunteers and to ensure compliance with the Work Health and Safety Regulations. (Side note: it is entirely possible that this assessment and monitoring has occurred on other ColorRuns that I have not participated in!)

If any other occupational hygienists plan on attending a ColorRun in the future, I encourage you to perform additional exposure monitoring as additional data will provide more certainty and confidence in the results obtained to date.


Young Professional Development at the #AIHce

Posted on

Fletcher Best

Having recently returned from our first American Industrial Hygiene Conference (AIHce), held in San Antonio, Texas, we have been forced to look back and reflect upon our experience and learning’s with many people asking “how was it?, “what did you enjoy the most?” Well, the answer to the first question is easy. It was awesome… the power of RAD!!!

The second question is a little more difficult to answer, as first timers to the #AIHce we don’t know what was more daunting, the size of the conference and exhibition centre (120,773 m2 in total), the number of conference delegates (5000!) or choice of scientific programme (a small novel, 88 pages in total).

Lucky for us the AIHA recognise that the AIHce can be a little daunting and have purposefully implemented an AIHce Students and Young Professionals Programme, that includes targeted sessions and activities designed especially for young professionals at AIHce.

Firstly, when we registered we signed up as first time attendees and opted to be assigned our very own #PAL (Personal AIHce Liaison). The PAL programme has been purposefully implemented by the AIHA in effort to welcome first-time attendees and students to AIHce allowing new professional attendees and students (“First Timers”) to be matched with seasoned AIHce attendees (“PALs”).

The goal of the PAL programme is to help the first timers network with fellow professionals and provide a better overall conference experience. Our PAL’s were able to share their knowledge and expertise about AIHce and assist us to get more involved in the activities (including supporting us to deliver our #IGNITE presentations) and capitalise on the opportunities on offer.


Rob Paulson (left), a Colorado State University graduate student with PAL Stephen Chiusano (right), AIHA Fellow at the First Timer’s Orientation Session, sponsored by DuPont.

We met our PAL’S at the First Timers Orientation Session (Sponsored by DuPont), a 6:45 am breakfast prior to the official conference opening session on Monday morning.

During “orientation” we were provided with an overview of the conference and a summary of the programme designed to target young professionals and students – this assistance was more than welcome and helped us to select the activities, events and technical sessions contained within the 88 page conference programme! Including technical sessions such as:

  • The real world: Industrial Hygiene: Roundtable presentation and interactive discussion incorporating topics relevant to navigating the exciting and unique challenges that face up-and-coming young professionals where presenters provided practical advice including communication skills, knowledge application, building workplace networks, and professional support systems; and
  • Preparing for the CIH – An Insider’s Experience: Roundtable covering requirements to sit the CIH exam including information on preparation strategies and personal perspectives and lessons learned from those who were not successful initially.

That evening we attended the Future Leaders and Young Member Reception (Sponsored by 3M). When attending the reception it was obvious how passionate the AIHA members are about encouraging and developing future young hygienists. Within minutes of arrival, we had been approached by and introduced to many #hygienegods who were sincere in ‘giving back’ to the occupational hygiene profession through mentoring. We left feeling inspired and encouraged to develop ourselves into great hygienists, knowing we have the support of many #hygienegods.


(L to R) Alex Wilson, Brooke Best and Holly Fletcher at the 3M sponsored Future Leaders and Young Member Reception

The best part about participating in the events associated with the Students and Young Professionals Programme was the fact that we were introduced to so many other young hygienists, along with their PAL’s (who then became surrogate PAL’s). We were able to make real connections with so many other likeminded #younghygienists, and more importantly we felt like we had been embraced by the greater hygiene community!

So now thinking back to our experience, yes there were technical sessions, social events, #hygienegods and even a movie matinée that stood out as key highlights, however what the most enjoyable aspect of AIHce? As a young hygienist that’s easy to answer!

Without a doubt, as young hygienists and first time attendees at AIHce the most memorable aspect was the concerted effort and interaction we experienced with established and younger members of the AIHA which no doubt has, and will continue to contribute to our professional network along with strengthening our opportunities for development.


Check Your Hygiene: Dusts Not Otherwise Specified – New Trigger Values Recommended

Posted on

Check Your Hygiene

What is it?  Dusts Not Otherwise Specified (known as “Dust NOS”) are quite simply just dusts, that are insoluble or poorly soluble in water and have not been classified due to their toxicity (eg: they don’t have any toxic impurities such as quartz or lead etc). Dust NOS may come from vehicle traffic, drilling, blasting, grinding, screening etc.

What does it do? Whilst there are still information gaps for health aspects of Dust NOS, workers may still be susceptible to eye/nose/throat irritation or dust-related diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

What is the “safe limit”? Interestingly, Safe Work Australia does not specify a Workplace Exposure Standard for Dust NOS in the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations in Australia. Dust NOS would be one good example of how simply complying with the WHS Regulations is not enough to prevent occupational illness and disease in your workplace.

The Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) has just published their Position Paper on Dust NOS and their associated health issues. That Position Paper recommends two Dust NOS “trigger values” to protect workers from potentially serious health effects. These are:

  • 5mg/m3 for inhalable dust; and
  • 1mg/m3 for respirable dust.

You need to figure out which dust fraction (inhalable or respirable) is likely to have the greatest likelihood of exceeding the associated trigger value…or potentially look at both.

What is the difference between “inhalable” and ‘respirable”?

Inhalable dust is basically all of the dust that you can breathe in through your nose and mouth, while Respirable Dust is the dust that makes its way down deep into your lungs into the unciliated airway (the alveolar region). You can find more info in Australian Standard AS3640 for inhalable dust and AS2985 for respirable dust.


What do these new trigger values mean? This is a big deal in the world of dust. Previously in 2013, Safe Work Australia recommended that Dust NOS (as inhalable dust) should be maintained below 10mg/m3 and they made no mention of respirable dust. It turns out that that magic number was introduced back in 1990 and wasn’t reviewed or updated since that time. Think back to 1990…I was in Year 7; perms were in, I think I had a pair of mustard coloured jeans. It wasn’t a good year. Times have changed. More studies have been performed, and we are better informed on many things, including perms….so with new information comes new recommendations.

In the world of mining (which have different Regulations), there are exposure standards for Respirable Dust ranging from 2.5mg/m3 to 5mg/m3, and you’ll note that this new trigger value is even lower than that.

So these new trigger values mean that as hygienists we want to put more control measures in place a bit earlier than Safe Work Australia recommended previously. This might include more dust suppression, more ventilation, containment, or the use of respiratory protection as a last resort. The Position Paper lists some practical control measures that can be used to reduce exposure to Dust NOS that would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Why do you care? Why recommend even more stringent requirements than the WHS Regulations? Ultimately, occupational hygienists are focused on protecting worker health and preventing occupational illness and disease. Implementing these trigger values in your workplace is one example of how you can reduce exposure to workers and therefore reduce the associated occurrence of illness and disease associated with Dust NOS.

Need an Occupational Hygienist? The AIOH has a Consultant Directory here.