Month: August 2014

The AIOH Canary – It Could be Yours!

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AIOH Canary

Have you always wanted to go to an AIOH Conference, but could never quite get there? Or perhaps you already know how awesome it is, but you just don’t want to pay for it next year? Well you will love the latest offering from the AIOH.

A new Prize offered by the AIOH aims to bring the best out of our members by gathering ideas on the topic of, “What is Occupational Hygiene”  or “What does an Occupational Hygienist do?”  or “What can an occupational hygienist do for your workers and the company’s bottom line?” 

Enter – The AIOH CANARY!

It doesn’t matter if you are a Student member or a Fellow member, no doubt as an Occupational Hygienist you have heard these questions at least a few times before.

Whilst we have all developed our own ways to answer this question, what we haven’t done a very good job of as a collective group is informing people of the answer so they stop asking the question!

The AIOH CANARY is all about Communicating Awareness – a New Approach Representing us on YouTube.

It involves creating a short video (less than 5-minutes) that helps answer these questions. The video might be entirely video footage, or it might be a cartoon, a narrated series of photographs or drawings – the possibilities are endless!

Entrants upload their video to YouTube and then promote it through social media using the hashtags #TheCanary and #Occupationalhygiene.

Don’t worry if you are a social media novice, and the idea of twitter sends you into a twit, the AIOH Communications Committee are eager and willing to help you.

If you think you have the best answer to the questions posed…and a video camera, then you could win yourself the AIOH CANARY.

The AIOH CANARY provides the recipient complementary registration for the 2015 AIOH Conference in Perth. The winner will be announced at the 2014 AIOH Conference by the newly elected AIOH President for 2015.

 Entries are now open for all members (Student, Associate, Provisional, Full and Fellow) and close on October 31st, 2014…so get your video cameras out and get rolling!

More details will also be available in the next AIOH Newsletter….and I’ll update you here 🙂

Do you need some inspiration to get you started? Check out this example (not an official entry…just use it for inspiration!)

Not a member of the AIOH? No problems…it’s easy to join, just click here.

High Vis Work Wear – small victories

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One of the plus sides to working on a construction site is that you don’t have to spend time in the morning trying to figure out what to wear. One of the down-sides if you are a woman, is that you will probably be wearing some oversized shirt with sleeves that are too short and you might show your mid-rift if you put your arms in the air. This is overcome by wearing an especially large shirt…which is as you can imagine…very attractive.

Some times in life it’s the small things that make you smile. Last week Kristy and I finally got fed up with what some manufacturers call “women’s” work wear and we decided to try something new. Our brand-new She’s Empowered Shirts arrived which are long shirts made of a light fabric with long arms which are comfy with non-revealing buttons. In summary – we are in love.

Thanks to a fab woman in the mining industry who came up with a great idea and a great product – we’re now hitting the (sandstone) pavement in style…sometimes it’s the little things that brighten your day!



The AIOH Conference

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Boy a year rolls around really quickly these days!  It’s only 3 months until the next AIOH Conference, and this time it’s in Australia’s shopping capital of Melbourne. If any part of your role at work includes occupational health, occupational hygiene, or safety, then I encourage you to attend this conference.

Even more exciting is the vast range of Continuing Education Sessions (CES) offered this year. They range from guided tours of an operating Oil Refinery and Paint Manufacturing Facility, to ventilation design, noise control and audiometry, asbestos identification, chemical classification, safety behaviour, prevention of workplace injury and illness, electromagnetic fields, ionising radiation, occupational dermatitis, air sampling, legionella, hazardous materials emergencies, chemical protective clothing, fatigue, and risk management. Your problem will be making a choice of which one!

If you have never been to an AIOH Conference before then there are a few things you need to know. Firstly – this isn’t an ordinary boring conference where people just go through the motions. We occupational hygienists take these things seriously. You may have multiple people randomly come up to you and ask you how you are going and what you are interested in. You may then find yourself speaking to the world’s expert in that topic over lunch who will most likely want to help you. You might be taken back by how nice and friendly people are and you will grow your professional network. You’ve been warned.

Secondly, you will probably learn something new. Even if you have been doing what you’ve been doing for 15 years, there is a 99.5% chance that you will learn a new or better way of doing it. These are scientifically proven numbers I am quoting.

Thirdly, we take the social program very seriously. There are 3 nights of social events and it is an unspoken rule that you should participate, have fun, randomly strike up a conversation with someone you don’t already know, and not be home in bed by 8pm. We also take the 3M-sponsored night incredibly seriously. Each year it is a themed event, with this year’s 3M-night themed, “Exploration”. Expect to see some serious costumes.

The AIOH Conference is not the sort of event where you need to bring a friend to be comfortable. It is a warm and inviting event full of like-minded professionals who want to share their knowledge and grow the profession. First time attendees are made to feel especially welcome at the “Speed Networking” session on the first night…which is kind of like Speed Dating…only less awkward and far less pressure!

Have I convinced you yet? Good! You can register here.

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Carter Ficklen CIH CSP [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

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Carter is one of those rare persons you meet, full of life with infectious amounts of energy.  Carter is a graduate of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. He works as a Program Manager for Safety and Quality Assurance Alliance, Inc. at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virgina, where he manages contracts that provide safety, industrial hygiene, risk management, quality assurance, and construction management consulting services.

He has served as a Special Government Employee in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program and is very active in AIHA at both local and national levels. He has served as chair of the AIHA Student and Early Career Professionals Committee, the president AIHA Tidewater Local Section, the president of the American Industrial Hygiene Foundation, and the chair of the 2011 AIHA Future Leaders Institute Advisory Team.

In 2009, Carter earned AIHA’s Kuznetz Award, recognizing an IH under 40 has provided for the highest standards of health and safety protection for employees shows promise of leadership in the profession. I even found a YouTube video of Carter speaking as an AIHA Thought Leader – What a guy! Here is 5-mins with Carter:

Best location I have worked: Being a contractor supporting the Health and Safety program at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia for the past 17 years. Occasionally I take working at such a great place for granted, but when I look around at all of the cool research going on I remember why I’ve stayed here for almost my whole career. Plus we have a bar onsite……it’s only open after working hours;-)

The best thing about my job is: Variety. Getting to deal with people at all levels of an organization that all do different things and have different backgrounds. I joke that as hygienists we interact with people from the boardroom to the basement. At NASA it can be the crawlspace to outer space.

Career Highlight: There have been a bunch, but the one that stands out the most is getting the letter from the American Board of Industrial Hygiene that I had passed the CIH exam. The best part was that I didn’t have to open the envelope; the three letters were already after my name. At the time passing the exam seemed like such a milestone, but in retrospect it was just a beginning. I put more effort into studying and improving on my weaknesses than I’ve put into anything in my career. The best part has been the doors it has opened and the amazing friends I’ve met from all over the world.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Telling people things that they don’t always want to hear. And figuring out ways to communicate these messages in terms that the information we are delivering provides value to protecting worker health and also reducing risk for an organization.

People normally think my job involves: Cleaning buildings. Or teeth. Or maybe both.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Be part of a team that responded to provide health and safety assistance NASA facilities that were impacted by Hurricane Katrina almost 9 years ago. So many of our workers in the area lost everything, it was nice to try and do a little bit to try and restore some sort of normalcy to their lives.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Look for sewage leak in a roach infested crawlspace. There were so many roaches that the crawlspace felt like it had a pulse.

CFicklen CFicklen2

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Michelle Coutu [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

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With degrees in Chemistry and Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, Michelle is a Safety Health and Environmental Specialist based in Maryland, USA.

Michelle co-authored a paper in the Annals of Occupational Hygiene on Toluene exposure during spray painting, and lucky for us, Brooke Best bumped into her at this year’s AIHce and can bring us this snapshot so we can learn more! Here is 5-mins with Michelle:

Best location I have worked: Hawaii

The best thing about my job is: Meeting people. I really enjoy talking to people, learning about what they do, and how they do it.

Career Highlight: Traveling to different places to support military personnel. I was a US military contractor for two years and was able to see parts of the world and the United States that I wouldn’t have visited on my own. I was also able to help people who are so dedicated to their mission of assisting others that they often neglect their own occupational health needs.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: People thinking that you are a doctor, engineer, and research scientist all rolled into one.

People normally think my job involves: This is a tie between OSHA enforcement and/or teeth cleaning!

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Conduct noise surveys on military aircraft; specifically helicopters UH60 (Blackhawks), and CH47 (Chinooks).

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Do data entry as my primary job duty for weeks at a time.

Confession: I don’t know everything. I try, but there is still a lot I need to look up.

Influences: My colleagues and mentors are my biggest influences. They push me to do better, so that I can better help others.

Noise Survey of CH47

My top 3 tips for the Young Hygienist Award – Apply Now!

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If you are an Occupational Hygienist and a full or provisional member of the AIOH, you should get cracking and start your application for the Drager Safety Pacific Young Hygienist Award. Applications are open now and close in the first week of September.

This is not the type of award application you can leave to the last minute – it takes time (lots of time!), but the reward is so incredible it’s all worth it. The winner receives an expenses paid trip to the UK and attendance at the Annual BOHS Conference. This year’s award however is extra special as next year’s BOHS Conference is being held in conjunction with the 10th IOHA International Scientific Conference, in the heart of London, so it will be even more awesome than usual…if that is possible.  The winner also gets to visit Drager’s research & development facility in Germany, which is by all standards – amazing. Given the prize – sparing a few days aside to get your application together doesn’t seem like too much effort does it?

Here are my top 3 tips for young hygienists who are looking to apply for this award:

1. Pay Attention to Detail. The application process involves submitting examples of your professional work in the form of one to two maximum 10-page reports. Do not underestimate how much time it will take you to a) find a suitable report you have written that will set you apart from other applicants, and b) condense it into 10-pages. There are few occupational hygiene reports that are 10-pages long….therefore you will need to choose the right detail to include and the sections that really matter…which takes time!

2. Why do you want to go? You should include details on why you actually want to go, and what benefits it will bring you. For example, one of the people I really wanted to meet with was Kate Jones from the Health and Safety Laboratory, UK. I had referenced her work on biological monitoring many times and had followed her work in the Annals of Occupational Hygiene for a few years (#hygienenerd alert!). I had very specific things I wanted to know and ask – and the Drager Young Hygienist award would help me do that. That’s one example….top tip would be to have more than one!

3. Why you? What makes you different from the many other applicants? Include details of your involvement in the practice of occupational hygiene including volunteer activities. Clearly articulate the things that you do to demonstrate your passion for the profession and what sets you apart.

Good luck!




Young Hygienist Snapshot: Peter Calder

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Pete and I worked together long long ago on a heavily contaminated site in the middle of Sydney, back in the days when I was an Engineer and Pete was a Safety Advisor…boy have things changed! Pete is now a Health and Safety Specialist with BHP Billiton, Illawarra and manages the Health and Hygiene program for Illawarra Coal. Pete has a Masters in OHS from the UOW and is currently in the process of completing the Masters in Occupational Hygiene Practice at UOW also. Outside of work he keeps very busy training and completing in triathlons of all things! Here is 5-mins with Pete:

Best location I have worked: There isn’t one specific location that stands out, however working across numerous projects has been enjoyable, as it allows diversity. Working with processing plants, construction, civil, electrical, facilities maintenance, transport & logistics and now mining has given me a broad range of skills which I can apply anywhere.

The best thing about my job is: The range of work I am able to undertake. Working within Health, Safety and Environment provides an opportunity to work closely with people. At times working with people provides opportunity, the benefits of working with people and understanding what motivates individuals has allowed me to develop various skills, developing professionally.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Random working hours. It’s all about working within the operational needs (generally). Not everyone being as passionate about HSEC or OHH as you.

People normally think my job involves: Writing procedures and being a pseudo WorkCover officer.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Implement a process resulting in positive change. It could be as simple as a quit smoking campaign, seeing one person take up the offer and improving their lifestyle makes it all worth it.  

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Injury Management. Not the process, but whenever you have to deal with an injured person it’s disappointing in that they have sustained an injury. We never want people to go home in a different state of that which the attending work.

Pete Calder