Month: July 2014

Instagram of the Week

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I don’t often blog about what I do day-to-day myself, as the whole aim of this blog was to raise awareness of what occupational hygienists do as a group…rather than just me. I had such a great week last week though, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for some shameless self promotion…so here I am with the Managing Director of Thiess accepting the coveted MD’s Blue Blood Award!

I started with Thiess more than 15 years ago as an Engineer and gradually turned into an Occupational Hygienist. I am very fortunate to work for such a great company doing what I love to do, so it was very humbling to be recognised and rewarded for it.

…also a bonus for me was that someone took a photo of me whilst not wearing high-vis…finally!


Young Hygienist Snapshot: Braxton Lewis [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

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Braxton works as a consultant Industrial Hygienist with Concurrent Technologies Corporation. He has degrees in both Engineering and Industrial Hygiene and has been involved with designing STEM educational programs under a partnership between the National Science Foundation and West Virginia University, and is Director of Research for, a multinational Student Platform of Engineering Education Development. His programs have been presented at technical colleges across the globe with tremendous success toward retention and development of young professionals. He is the Chair of the AIHA Hazard Prevention and Engineering Controls Committee and is one of the founding Directors of the award winning AIHA Mentoring Program.

Pretty impressive hey! Here is 5-mins with Braxton:

Best location I have worked: Baie Comeau, Canada (in winter). I was able to watch small icebergs floating down the St. Lawrence river from my hotel window. The people, the food, the international experience (French speaking town) all made the exposure research effort that much better.

The best thing about my job is: Teaching Industrial Hygiene each time I have the opportunity to meet with a client or a shop-floor stakeholder. When we are afforded the time to explain what we do and why we do it, we gain far greater respect for our efforts and responsiveness to our tasks. You can feel it, the moment that supervisor buys-in, we’ve just made a new IH. This person will, from now on, keep the tenets of Industrial Hygiene in the back of their mind when overseeing, designing, or planning operations.

Career Highlight: My first experience in the field was to provide the data OSHA needed for the Beryllium Standard & Small Business Impact Study. This entryway into the field was a monumental team effort and it is the experience that hooked me as a career IH.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: You’d better get used to the misinterpretation of your goals by the perception of your client and stakeholders. Communication is, by-far, the greatest tool in our box.

People normally think my job involves:Regulatory compliance inspections and fines.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Make a business case for an investment toward Industrial Hygiene efforts. This experience broadened my understanding of the industry and created another tool that I can rely on for communicating.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Carefully applying my skill, knowledge, and experience to a client who showed no interest in the protection of his workforce; who actively limited participation and would not take the time to discuss the necessity and long-term benefits of the effort. It becomes physically and emotionally draining to know your hard work will be left on the floor.

Braxton Lewis

What’s in a name? Occupational Hygiene: Is it time for a rebrand?

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One of the reasons why Kate started this blog was to raise the profile of occupational hygiene amongst uses of social media and possibly the younger generation who are thinking about new careers. Occupational Hygiene or Industrial Hygiene is often not recognised as the profession it actually is. I am sure most Occupational Hygienists agree that if we received a gold coin for every time someone didn’t know what we do then we would all be putting the leprechaun’s out of business.

But what is in the name really? Do we make a bigger thing of it than we need to? Should we be just focussing on making our skills known to a wider community? Should we be making sure that governments, trade bodies, organisations, senior managers, workers and even the public know what we do and the value it brings? Is a name important or is it the results that matter most?

Back in 2012 two of my colleagues and senior peers Andy Gillies and Adrian Hirst debated this in an article for the Journal Occupational Health at Work 2012; 9 (2): 30-31. The title What’s in a name? Occupational Hygiene: is it time for a rebrand? Helps show both sides of this predicament we find ourselves in as professionals.

Both authors state a good case and I ask you to make your own mind up as to what you think but I am sure you will agree that it’s what we do that matters and not what we are called, however we do need an identity, there you go I am still undecided.

It the UK there are around 1-million people who suffer from some form of work related ill-health, the latest stats from the UK HSE say that 12,000 people died last year of work related ill health. So there still in a great need for occupational / industrial hygienists. Let’s persuade people to see value in what we do and then they will know who we are. The decision is yours!

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Fouad Rizk

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Fouad is an Occupational Hygienist with a special passion for radiation and works as a Senior Radiation Safety Officer in the minerals industry. A graduate of University of Sydney (multiple times), Fouad is now working on his degree trilogy rounding it off with an MSc OHP at the UOW. Here is 5-mins with Fouad:

Best location I have worked: Olympic Dam has been the most fascinating location I have worked at. It is a uranium, copper, gold and silver mine. It is Australia’s largest underground mine – up to 500 km of ‘roads’. The processing plant has mills, calciner, smelter and 2 refineries.

The best thing about my job is: It is knowing that any decision you make or influence others in making has the potential to have a profound difference in the health of a worker 40 years from now.

Career Highlight: My career highlight to date has been graduating in 2011 with my Master of Applied Nuclear Science from USYD. I hope to match that this year with a MSc in OHP at UOW!

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: People having no idea what you do. You will save yourself time and heartache if you prepare a rehearsed answer. Depending on who is asking, mine is ‘I tell people what dust mask to wear!”.

People normally think my job involves: cleaning services on an industrial level.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Manage the implementation of the Occupational Hygiene module of the new data management system, Medgate, which offers exceptional functionality and helps the department deliver on its regulatory and reporting requirements.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was:… anytime I am working in 50 degree heat! Avoid… at… all… costs…


Check Your Hygiene: Dust Masks

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Check Your Hygiene

It’s been a while between hygiene checks lately, so I thought I’d get back to basics with the dust mask, or to be technical, the “air purifying respiratory protective device“. This has to be the most common thing people associate occupational hygienists with. The “dust mask” lady is coming, I can hear it already.

Respirators, or “dust masks” can commonly be seen as an easy solution to a dust problem, but in fact, when you do all the things you are supposed to do, you quickly realise that going higher up the control hierarchy and suppressing the dust or using ventilation is going to be easier in the long run.

Here are some things to keep in mind before you run to use (or give your workers) respirators:

1. The WHS Regulations require that risks to health and safety are eliminated, and where not reasonably practicable to do so, that they are minimised so far as reasonably practicable. You need to control the risk in accordance with the hierarchy of controls by first substituting the hazard, secondly isolating the hazard, or thirdly by implementing engineering controls and document all of it. If the risk then remains, then you can use administrative controls, with the residual risk controlled by the use of PPE. You can’t jump straight to the use of respirators (or PPE) first.

2. The use of respirators as the sole control to exposure to hazardous substances relies heavily on worker compliance, worker acceptability and the uncertainties and unpredictability of worker attitudes and behaviour. A significant amount of compliance effort is involved where respirators are used. So expect to spend some time performing and documenting inspections for compliance, having discussions about why its important, and when and where to use them.

3. A comprehensive Respiratory Protective Programme must be developed before you provide respirators to the workforce. Such a programme is explained in AS/NZS 1715:2009 and includes the following items at a minimum:

  • The basis for selection of the particular PPE;
  • Medical screening for each employee assigned to wear the PPE;
  • An employee training programme where the worker can become familiar with the PPE and includes its proper use, the nature of the hazard, and the need for protection;
  • Training in the limitations of the PPE;
  • Proper fitting of the PPE (fit testing);
  • Regular cleaning and disinfection of the equipment (or when to dispose of it and get a new one)
  • Proper storage of the equipment;
  • Provision for periodic inspection and maintenance of the equipment and replacement where required; and
  • Periodic evaluation to assure its continuing effectiveness

4. If you are uncertain if the Workplace Exposure Standard for the hazardous substance will be exceeded, then you need to perform air monitoring to determine the airborne concentration of the hazardous substance (eg: dust) in the air. This means you need to do personal exposure monitoring, which is different from static monitoring (ie: putting a sample pump in the work area or measuring it using a DustTrack). You also need more than one sample…but you knew this already!

These are just a few items to consider before you hand a worker a dust mask. Keep in mind that different chemicals (and dusts) have different properties and may require different types of respiratory protection (not all dust masks are created equally!).

If you have questions or need help, then you should contact your friendly occupational hygienist. The AIOH has a Consultant directory here.


Young Hygienist Snapshot: Liam Wilson

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Liam is an award-winning Occupational Hygienist having scooped up the coveted Airmet Scientific Professional Award (commonly known as “Hygienist of the Year“) at the 2013 AIOH Conference. As part of winning that Award, Liam travelled to the American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo (AIHce) in June this year. Am I jealous? …Absolutely!

Liam is a fellow graduate of UOW (there must be something about that uni!) and is currently the Manager, Health and Safety at Rio Tinto Coal Australia. Here is 5-mins with Liam:

Best location I have worked: A tie between working at a diamond mine in the North West Territories of Canada and working in Central Iceland

The best thing about my job is: The amount of variation in the work, it is never the same from one day to the next, always new challenges!

Career Highlight: Winning the 2013 Air-Met Scientific Award at the AIOH Conference in Sydney last December!

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Working in most places on sites that no one else wants too.

People normally think my job involves: The cleaning of bathrooms at workplaces and telling everyone to wash their hands.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Present to senior school students on what I have done and do in regard to their opportunities in the future

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: It’s a tie between sampling on a 40 degree day at an abattoir and sampling at a sewerage facility, I recall the temperature was similar!

Liam Wilson

liam wilson2

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Damien Eaves [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

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Another trip across the world this week to meet Damien Eaves. He graduated from the University of Bradford in 2002 and then went on to attain professional qualifications in Diplomas in Occupational Hygiene and Acoustics.  Three years ago he set up his own consultancy Validate Consulting Ltd  in the UK which is going extremely well.  Damien now sits on the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) Education Committee, helps run the bursary scheme and is also one of the BOHS lecturers who goes into universities and schools teaching about what Occupational Hygiene is all about. Here is 5-mins with Damien:

Best location I have worked: One of the best was undertaking a microbiological assessment during a hip replacement in an operating theatre – not for the feint hearted.

The best thing about my job is: The variety, one day I am in an operating theatre then I am down a mine then I am watch doughnuts being made then I am at a foundry.

Career Highlight: I have had two highlights the first was getting my Diploma of Occupational Hygiene so I can be called a Chartered Occupational Hygienist and the second was starting my own business.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Thinking on your feet, occasionally equipment brakes, processes you are measuring change, people don’t do what they say they will do, people go missing, some people even try and sabotage results.

People normally think my job involves: Going into restaurants to see how clean they are.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Be the approved consultant to provide occupational hygiene advice and monitoring for a multinational group of companies with 1000 sites across the UK and Ireland.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Conduct a hydrogen sulphide assessment at a waste water treatment works – smelly!

 damien eaves