Jen started working in Environmental Science after completing a science degree, however it only took 18 months before she realised there was something called Occupational Hygiene and that it tied in the work environment and people, and so she started studying at Deakin University (Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hygiene). 10 years later Jen completed the UoW Masters (Occupational Hygiene Practice) as there were some awesome subjects and #hygienegod lecturers. Jen has worked in both the private sector and consulting, and currently has her own consulting business in the Illawarra, NSW (EHS Solutions). Jen is a superwoman with a family of 3 children that keep her busy and on my toes, and (so she tells me) an awesome husband that understands how dedicated she is to the profession. Here is 5-mins with Jen:
Best location I have worked: Papua New Guinea. I went to OK Tedi Mine for three weeks to conduct baseline monitoring. I had a huge range of contaminants, I worked with the most friendly people doing both day and night time monitoring, I was able to stay down in the pit while explosives were detonated and watch it up close and personal while hiding behind a landcruiser (not so safe..). It was a fantastic experience.
The best thing about my job is: Variety! There is never a dull day. One day you will be working on a monitoring programme for a large company involving hundreds of samples of different varieties, the next you will be researching and writing a proposal for a contaminant you have not previously worked with, and the next you will be giving a presentation to a room full of people on an occupational hygiene related topic.
Career Highlight: I have two of these – the first was receiving the Air-Met award and travelling to AIHce conference in Anaheim followed by a visit to CANMET in Ottawa Canada to the Mining and Mineral Science Laboratory where they were busily working on the Diesel Emissions Evaluation Program (DEEP). A visit to SKC in Pittsburgh to see how they made 226-01 charcoal tubes (amongst others) was also impressive. The second highlight was being part of a group of workers to reduce noise exposure in an underground mine. This project received a number of awards for its innovation and success, however, the most rewarding aspect of the project was that the workers instigated and made the improvements happen. They had/have complete control over the project and therefore really ‘own’ it. I provided advice and support only.
If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Odd hours, early starts, it NEVER being the right day for sampling because yesterday or last week was worse and really it is a conspiracy theory that you are monitoring today.. Also thinking on your feet! You can be asked about any contaminant or situation at any time, and you need to have the right response.
People normally think my job involves: Ensuring people have superior hand washing techniques and clean workplaces. To the smallest of degrees they are right, I have done plenty of lead work where this is important, but I know this is drawing a long bow, and the usual explanations of contaminants in the workplace, noise, heat etc…then follows.
The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Work on the Diesel ChekMate® with Dr Brian Davies. Brian has been my mentor and friend for approximately 14 years and is a diesel particulate matter guru (#hygienegod). When he started talking about a device that could be used by the shop floor workers to measure elemental carbon from an engine, and this information could be used to reduce exposure to the workers, improve productivity and save money for sites, I was up for the challenge. If you want to know more about it, come to AIOH2014 in Melbourne, Nov 29 – Dec 3, and you can see it for yourself.
The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Sample a worksite for sewage contamination following a spill and flooding. Obviously this occurred on a Friday night, and the site needed to be ready to go again for Monday. I had the union, the regulators and the workers all very interested in the process.