Month: September 2014

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Heather Rowsell

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Heather Rowsell is an Occupational Hygienist working with 3M Australia.  Heather’s hygiene career began almost 15 years ago in Canada when, working as a lifeguard during uni, she became interested in worker health and prevention of workplace illness.  Heather moved from Newfoundland to Ontario, Canada to complete a Master’s in Occupational and Environmental Health (Occupational Hygiene) at the University of Toronto.  After completing her Masters, Heather returned home to work with the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador, and later the Government of Canada as a CBRN specialist occupational hygienist.  Heather then moved to Australia to spend more time enjoying the “lucky land” and has been working in Australia for about 6 years now.  Heather topped this all off by receiving her COH designation from the AIOH last year. What a career! I was lucky enough to finally meet Heather last week…and now you are lucky as you get to spend 5-mins with Heather also!

Best location I have worked: This is a tough one because my time in hygiene has brought me to many different and interesting places… how about Australia? Or a very remote Labradorite mine off the coast of Nain, the furthest north community in Labrador, Canada. Or one of the “G” Summits, working with the emergency response team.

The best thing about my job is: The variety – hands down.  The number of places I have visited, the people I have met (& hopefully helped), the situations I have been exposed to or involved in, the processes I have learned about… Variety is the spice of a hygienist’s life.

Career Highlight: Being one of the first three Canadians to participate in a training program involving live chemical agents, organised by the US Department of Homeland Security.  The memory of entering the training facility still stands out in my mind… there was plenty of razor wire and multiple lines of fencing to transit through.  Just before arriving at our destination I remember stopping at a gate bearing a sign stating “Lethal Force Authorized” which was flanked by soldiers holding large firearms.

People normally think my job involves: I suspect most hygienists will be familiar with these… Occupational therapist…  teaching good hand hygiene in the workplace… helping out a dentist who focuses on workers…

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Not knowing what comes next; and being expected to have definitive answers to vague questions about scenarios lacking the necessary detail.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Assist with a project to clean up old chemical weapons in Australia.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was:  When working with OHS enforcement, I had a request to assess a worksite at a waste treatment plant where a worker had shared concern regarding conditions at a workplace.  As it turned out, this worker sat all day in a small wooden hut which was slightly elevated.  Why was it elevated? It sat above a stream of effluent that was regularly provided by the waste trucks arriving at the depot.  Best part… the worker used a “stick” to separate the more solid matter from the stream.  Needless to say this role has since been… adjusted.

ATT00003 ATT00002

An update on the ISRP Conference in Prague #Burton #DPM

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Kerrie Burton is a MSc Candidate at the University of Wollongong and gave a (standing room only) concurrent presentation at the AIOH conference last year on the progress of her research so far. Kerrie is currently in Prague attending the ISRP Conference and has been kind enough to write about her experience. So please welcome our newest guest blogger #Burton !!


In July of 2013 I was given the fantastic opportunity to study a Masters of Science by Research at the University of Wollongong, under a scholarship provided by the S.E.A. Group. It was a chance for me to “go back to school” and I was excited to have the opportunity to develop my research skills and knowledge, focussed on the topic of Respirator Filter Efficiency Against Diesel Particulate Matter.

At the initial meeting with my supervisors, I was informed that there was an expectation to present my findings at the International Society for Respiratory Protection Conference in Prague – yes that’s right Prague, Czech Republic!

Fast forward to September 2014 and Prague here I come – nervous about giving my presentation in front of International respiratory protection experts but also excited for the same reasons.

The 17th annual ISRP conference was held at the Hilton Old Town in Prague and brought together approximately 140 participants from 14 countries. The conference kicked off with a welcome drinks on the Sunday evening. The opening plenary was given by Dr Maryann D’Allessandro, Director of the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory who outlined the United States Respiratory Protection priorities of pandemic preparedness, conformity assessment and integration of ISO Standards. Another theme that continued throughout the conference included issues surrounding health care workers and the implementation of the ISO standards.

Dr Yoshimi Matsumara from the Technology Institution of Industrial Safety gave an interesting presentation on the issues from a respiratory perspective in natural disasters in Japan such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, including the 2011 earthquake and tsunami which induced the melt down of the Fukushima Atomic Power plants. These disasters required consideration of how to manage potential exposures to asbestos and radioactive contaminants. Another issue she touched on was the provision of respiratory protection to workers exposed to indium compounds, such as those used in the manufacture of semiconductors in flat panel televisions and mobile phones, with a sufficient protection factor to protect workers to the very low exposure standard in Japan. She also invited us to the next ISRP conference in Yokohama Japan, November 7-11 2016,

Australia was represented by myself and Graham Powe, Managing Director the S.E.A. Group (I should also mention Shaun, a New Zealander who is working on developing filter material made from wool). Graham presented on the development of a device which can be attached to the exhalation valve of a respirator to allow measurement of work rate. This will be useful in gathering data to enable appropriate selection of respiratory protection under the revised ISO standards. He described some of the data collected so far to validate the device.


Graham Powe, Kerrie Burton and Goran Berndtsson – honorary Australian.

Wednesday morning was focussed on the development of ISO RPE standards that the ISRP has been leading. The aim is to standardise it on an international level and close the gaps in some of the current standards, many of which are dated. Protection of the wearer is the focus so it is a Human Factors Driven standardisation, moving from the current product focussed standards to performance focussed standards, based on selection, performance and classification. 30 documents are in preparation, with 15 published thus far, with a target for completion of 2016/2017. The benefit will be that RPD (respiratory protective devices) are capable to protect the wearer at the metabolic rate the wearer demands for the application / task. This will also encourage manufacturers to develop improved and innovative products.

The update was followed by a Discussion Panel on the ISO standards and it reminded me of some of the AIOH forums where some very passionate members get the opportunity to express their concerns and opinions – always informative and an eye opener! Graham Powe advised the group that the AS/NZS1716 committee will be reactivated with a focus on adopting the ISO technical standards that have already been published. The committee will meet in October to begin this deliberation.

Simon Smith, ISRP Education officer, discussed the one day training course developed covering the why and the how of using respiratory protection. This program was piloted in Cambodia at the Ministry of Health in 2010, using a train the trainer approach with 32 participants. Subsequently 3000 healthcare workers have been trained in all provinces in Cambodia and respiratory protection is part of the government mandated PPE for infection prevention and control – what a great achievement! ISRP have also formed links with Workplace Health without borders.

Mike Clayton (HSL Labs and incoming ISRP president) outlined a web based respirator selection tool that the HSE have developed.

The social aspects of the conference were well covered with beer tasting organised in a gorgeous art deco building. The awards dinner involved taking a tram through the beautiful city of Prague, with an accordion player providing background music for the journey. The dinner was held in the Grand Monastery Restaurant, usual monastic practices of a glass or two were observed, however silence certainly wasn’t.


On Thursday morning Nikki McCullough from 3M spoke about the Ebola virus and the challenge faced in terms of balancing the personal protective equipment required under a precautionary approach and the pros and cons of that such as the increased heat stress risk, supply and decontamination management issues.

A great conference and of course so much more than I’ve been able to cover here, I’m extremely grateful to the University of Wollongong and my supervisors – Mrs Jane Whitelaw and Professor Alison Jones, the S.E.A. Group and Dr Brian Davies for his helpful guidance. Presentations can be found at Oh and what about my paper, I hear you all ask. Well come along to AIOH2014 in Melbourne, Nov 29 – Dec 3, and I’ll tell you all about it (


Thank you #UOW and #3M

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Back in 2010, I met a very special occupational hygienist. She was (and still is!) really up-beat and energetic – but the thing that stuck out for me, was how she was able to pretty much solve any technical scenario on foot, without having to go back to the office and spend days or weeks looking it up. This got me intrigued and when I asked her how she did this, she just said that she had just finished studying at Uni – and spent the past year listening to #hygienegods and now all that magical information was permanently implanted in her brain.

I asked her what course/ where etc and then quickly concluded that there was probably no way that I could ever do a Master’s degree living 4 hours away with a young family in tow. She saw this as no obstacle and encouraged me (repeatedly!) to apply.

So one night, glass of wine in hand, I got on the University of Wollongong website and I applied. I nearly fell over when I got accepted, and I remember that feeling of “OMG what have I done!”

I reminisce driving down for my first ever subject. It was so refreshing to use a part of my brain that I think lay dormant for a while there, and I was instantly hooked. Going back to Uni after 10 years was a bit different to how I remember it when I was younger. I revelled spending time in the library (no screaming children!) and I never actually went into the Uni bar, which was quite the change from how I remember being an undergrad science student!!

Two years flew by, and I ended up graduating last year, largely in part to having the world’s most patient husband, a very supportive employer, and a baby that didn’t mind being fed whilst I typed my thesis on my computer late at night.

Last night, I drove down to Wollongong one more time, although this time with hubby in tow, as I was honoured to receive a very special award. Somehow, amongst all the juggling of family life, I managed to top the entire Occupational Health and Safety and Occupational Hygiene programme. Whilst my brother may argue that it was a “slow year”, I’m still chuffed!

A great deal of thanks goes to the UOW for putting on a fantastic and rewarding programme, with a very special thank you to Jane Whitelaw (Head of the OHP Academic Programme) and to 3M for their support for the award. Being on the other side of the degree reinforces how lucky I was to have met an enthusiastic occupational hygienist who persuaded me to do it in the first place. Luckily for me, Holly Fletcher is also now a great friend! In return I have been doing my best at encouraging others to go back to Uni and study it also…so far I am 2 from 2.

So what about you? Have you always had an interest in science? Why don’t you apply for the next intake for the course at the University of Wollongong? The course may have changed in name, but the content is what’s important – why don’t you consider applying for the Master of Work Health & Safety over a glass of wine tonight?

Just before we left the UOW, I couldn’t resist taking the hubby to the Uni bar for the very first time. We indulged in a Corona and fish and chips…so I now feel like my University experience is truly complete.

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Simon Thomas

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Simon is an occupational hygiene advisor at the Mobil Altona Refinery in Victoria. He is a graduate of Deakin University (Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hygiene), a Full Member of the AIOH and has just enrolled to study a Master of Applied Science course also at Deakin. If you are lucky enough to get to any AIOH events in Victoria, you will likely get to meet Simon as he is also the Victorian State Liaison Officer (SLO) for the AIOH.

Here is 5-mins with Simon:

Best location I have worked: My current work place – Mobil Altona Refinery

The best thing about my job is: The cross-functional nature of the profession where interactions with management to workers on the shop floor are commonplace.

Career Highlight: Becoming the Victorian State Liaison Officer for the AIOH and receiving my Full Membership from the AIOH.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Public speaking! Being able to explain technical information in a way that all people can understand.

People normally think my job involves: When I first started in the profession someone asked me once if I was the guy who filled up the liquid soap in the bathroom soap dispensers! I found that quite amusing and I occasionally bring that up in presentations to new groups of people as to what my job DOESN’T involve!

 The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Nothing really springs to mind, as all areas of occupational hygiene that I have been involved in are special and rewarding in their own way. Probably the least favourite and my no means worst part of my job however, has been talking to groups of angry workers on different occasions who believe they have been exposed to a particular health hazard. This is also one of the challenges of my profession, although it is a satisfying feeling knowing you have helped get the right information out there and hopefully put their minds at ease after an open discussion.

simon thomasGraduation Photo

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Fritz Djukic

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Fritz is a lucky guy. While he was undertaking his Science degree at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 1993, he was being lectured by Dr David Grantham (#hygienegod) who inspired him to pursue a career in Occupational Hygiene!

Up until that point of time Fritz lamented that he really wasn’t sure where he was headed…but since then he has never looked back. Fritz has worked as a regulator, a consultant and for industry.  I bumped into Fritz a few years ago when he was in his current role as an Inspector of Mines (Occupational Hygiene). Like most of us, Fritz did the tedious hard yards, and spent many hours, days, months and years in mines, sugar mills  and factories taking the measurements while observing the task. He credits his past roles in the field for giving him a greater appreciation for the importance of measurement and the people he now serves (the mine workers!).

Here is 5-mins with Fritz:

Best location I have worked: There have been some pretty good ones ranging from inspecting cooling towers throughout the Whitsunday Islands to a Silica Sand mine in the middle of Kinkuna National Park, to the tiny Quarries located in platypus country in the QLD tropical tablelands.

The best thing about my job is: The variety, the challenge and the people I work with. I have great flexibility in my role and to a large degree I am self-managed.

Career Highlight:  Without doubt it has been very satisfying to be directly involved with raising of the occupational health and hygiene profile in the Queensland Mining Industry. I have worked with some brilliant people within both industry and government along the way. There is much still to do but we have come such a long way in a relatively short time.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to:

  1. Getting all the jobs from the too hard basket.
  2. Understanding that managing emotion and outrage can be just as important as managing actual risk.
  3. Grow a thick skin because some people just don’t want to hear what you have to say or value the importance of the role we play.
  4. Being able to deliver a consistent message to all the different layers of the organisation
  5. Learning how to get quality sleep at night with a full bank of charging pumps in your room flashing all night.

People normally think my job involves: Providing advice on personal hygiene and cleaning toilets.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Please go over to Hamilton Island for the Easter weekend to ensure lighting levels on the Tennis Courts are satisfactory. The fishing rods and snorkelling gear were packed well before the lux-meter!!

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Go undercover into a small (backyard) gold mine and recover/neutralise a suspicious substance (sodium cyanide) while being particularly careful not to get shot at!!!


U.S.A. here we come!

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In around 3-weeks we are making the long-haul 22-hour flight to the east coast of the U.S.A. and the count-down is on! I apologise in advance for any other travellers who have also bought the cheapest seats on the airplane we will be on as it is most likely that one of our three children will squeal with ear-pitching excitement, spill their apple juice on you, vomit near your hand bag, or just cry the entire journey. This will be our 14th long-haul flight to/from the US with our children…and all of these things have happened before. I may have to re-consider my “no iPad, just talk to me” rule that I have going. But once we are there it’s a world full of wonderful family, friendly people, cheap clothes, big cars, and big meals (must always remember to order the small cappuccino!), so the very very long flight is worth it.

This trip will be extra special as it will combine visiting our dearly missed family and friends with my other passion occupational Industrial Hygiene! For a few days I am lucky enough to be able to go down to Washington, DC to participate in the Future Leaders Institute hosted by the AIHA. The focus areas are on broadening interpersonal perspectives, broadening organizational perspectives, collaborative and teamwork efforts, and managing the future. Sounds great to me – I can’t wait to go, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Now, to find my suitcase…


Young Hygienist Snapshot: Kim Merritt [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

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This Snapshot comes all the way from the USA. Kim manages the radiation and laser safety programs for NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. Our guest bloggers tell me that he is the leader on the social front at all the AIHA Conferences – but overall he is a guy that is dedicated to his job, his profession and his family – how nice! Kim is a major part of the AIHA Ignite sessions and seems to have at least an annual presence on YouTube with his presentations. Check these out:

Here is 5-mins with Kim:

Best location I have worked: Here at NASA!

The best thing about my job is: There is always some new challenge to work on

Career Highlight: Tough call, but I’d say that getting to participate in projects that are satellites or get launches to the space station has been pretty awesome

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Small spaces and bad smells

People normally think my job involves: Since I’m technically a Health Physicist I think the best one was being asked if I design exercise machines

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Do the risk analysis for the laser camera system that scanned the bottom of space shuttle after launch. It was built by a Canadian firm by they specifically wanted me to do it, so it’s nice to have someone you don’t even know specifically acknowledge your abilities.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: investigate bad smells in crawl spaces that end up being sewer line ruptures.

Kim Merritt 1 Kim Merritt Ignite