Month: November 2014

Welcome to #AIOH2014

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The Annual AIOH Conference has kicked off with a bang with the Continuing Education Sessions (CES) today. As with all Conferences, the first thing I love to do is to check out the Conference App to see what’s on. This year the AIOH2014 app features a “Click Game”.  The game started at 7am this morning and runs until Thursday afternoon. It involves you taking photos and posting them to the app to match a certain description provided. Eg: “You and a Colleague”, which was pretty easy ..

…and “Group Hug”…

But some are a little harder, such as “Your doppleganger” or “An exhibitor you’ve never met”.  So far the Click Game has consumed both Kristy and I (well slightly more Kristy!) but it has been a lot of fun and a great excuse to meet new delegates which we have not met before. It’s also a nice way to freshen things up and keep the conference new and exciting…if this is the start of it, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Tomorrow I’m learning about Principles of Occupational Hygiene at Hazardous Material Emergencies and Risk-based control from naturally occuring radioactive materials (NORM) in QLD mining…can’t wait!

Now on to find a photo of someone doing a hand stand…darn Click Game!


AIOH 2014 Melbourne

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The annual conference of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) kicks off in Melbourne this weekend. It is an international conference which promotes the science and practice of protecting worker health and brings together researchers, practitioners, regulators and those people interested in occupational hygiene, to discuss issues that affect health at work.

If you are an occupational hygienist in Australia, then this is the bees knees of Conferences. It is the technical (and social) highlight of the year. Apart from catching up with friends in person, rather than via email, there are a few awesome things happening this year.

Firstly, the Keynote for this year’s conference is John Henshaw. He is speaking on OSHA’s response to the 9/11 disaster; how OSHA became involved in the development of the National Response Plan (now the National Response Framework) and OSHA’s current role as the coordinating U.S. agency changed to ensure that worker safety and health was managed appropriately during major disasters. Cannot wait.

Secondly, the AIOH Conference is hosting its first round of Ignite sessions. Two sessions of five x 5-minute presentations set to enlighten us…very quickly. These are sure to be a hit, and will get uploaded to YouTube post-conference which is fantastic.

Thirdly, the award recipients will be announced….and the next Draeger Young Hygienist for 2014 will be unveiled. Award announcements are always kept under wraps until the Annual Gala Dinner on Tuesday night, so I can’t wait to see who will get to go to Draeger HQ in Germany and IOHA 2015 in London next year!

Of course the biggest item on the Conference agenda that hygienists across Australia plan for months in advance is the 3M themed night. Last year Kristy, Holly, and I came away with an apron (that’s a good thing!) for our impersonation of Kath, Kim, and Sharon. This year the plans have been in place for a few months now and we’re hoping fora repeat win…fingers crossed.


Hope to see you there!



Who will win The Canary?

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The AIOH launched The Canary this year which is all about Communicating Awareness – a New Approach Representing us on YouTube. It involves creating a short video (less than 5-minutes) that helps any or all of a series of questions, basically all revolving around raising awareness of our profession.  This year’s entries have now closed and they are in the process of being judged. The winner (and runner up) will announced next week at the Annual AIOH Conference in Melbourne.

Here are all the entries which I think are fantastic…so I am glad that I’m not on the judging panel!  They are presented in the order in which they were uploaded & promoted on Social Media….good luck to everyone!

(The only one I couldn’t get to embed into this post…sorry you will have to click the link above!)

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Ritesh Patel

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Ritesh began his career as an Industrial Hygienist and EHS Coordinator in India about 11 years ago after completing his master’s degree in Industrial Hygiene (MIH). He is an Industrial Chemistry graduate (B.Sc.). He has worked as a site and regional occupational hygienist and an EHS professional for multinational pharmaceuticals and chemicals manufacturing companies. After becoming a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) in 2009, he moved to Industrial Hygiene and Safety consulting company and worked as an Asia Pacific Project Manager leading a small team of occupational hygienists and health and safety consultants. He has worked at 100+ different workplaces conducting variety of qualitative and quantitative occupational hygiene assessments in Asia Pacific region including India, China, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Bangladesh etc. Ritesh moved to Australia two years ago to live with his wife. He is a full member of AIOH and currently works for Hibbs & Associates as a Senior Occupational Hygienist based in Sydney, but travels around Australia and abroad for work. Here is 5-mins with Ritesh!

Best location I have worked: There have been many exciting ones, but a few recent ones are travelling from WA, Australia to North East China and from Gladstone to Weipa voyage through the Great Barrier Reef and crossing the Northern Tip of Australia “Cape York Peninsula” on-board a cargo vessel while conducting occupational hygiene assessments for various chemical, physical and biological agents.

Also – Silver Springs QLD; driving on dirt roads, through bushes (some areas were affected by bush fire few months before my visit), no mobile network, no other vehicle on the road. I could see one car after driving through several Km on dirt roads. I spent a week visiting various oil and gas operations conducting occupational hygiene assessments.

The best thing about my job is: A new challenge every day! Working with different people and working at different locations. Utilising my knowledge and skills for people and community to make a positive and a healthier difference in their lives and learning every day!

Career Highlight:

  • Master’s degree in Industrial Hygiene in 2003 in India;
  • Passed exam in 2009 at first attempt and became a CIH
  • Moved from site/regional occupational hygiene role to occupational hygiene consulting and worked at several workplaces in the Asia Pacific region;
  • Moved to Australia in September 2012;
  • Became a full member of AIOH in 2014.

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

  • Know how to link your background qualifications, knowledge, skills or passion to occupational hygiene. It’s a vast multidisciplinary science + art
  • Work on situations with very limited information
  • Doing your own research – know where to get credible and relevant information
  • Communicate with and persuade people from different disciplines, cultures and levels of understanding

People normally think my job involves: Most people think it is something about housekeeping and personal hygiene services …, some people question “Occupational hygienist, what is that?”

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Travel and assess several different workplaces in the developing countries in Asia Pacific region and assisting in implementing interim and long term controls to minimise workers’ exposures to various hazardous chemical and physical agents.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: I don’t think anything!

Ritesh2 Ritesh

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Emma Gilmour [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

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Emma is a young and very enthusiastic hygienist who has shown herself to be eager to learn and get involved in a profession that needs people like her. She self funded herself on a MSc in Occ Hygiene with the University of Portsmouth as she felt that occupational hygiene was the right fit for her. She is interested in all aspects of the subject but is a little bit geeky when it comes to Legionella and asbestos Alex tells me. She has worked for a number of consultancies learning her trade and gets involved in the Regional BOHS forum. She recently presented on Legionella at a BOHS meeting and has also made the most of the BOHS mentoring program. Here is 5-mins with Emma:


Best Location I Have Worked? There are quite a few companies that I have worked for internationally, both consultancies and industrial companies. I worked for an international consultancy and was picked to undertake two weeks work in Zurich, Switzerland however, I fell ill just a few days before and so a colleague went in my place. I would think that would have probably have been high. However, for me the best locations are usually in heavy industrial environments observing processes that I find awe inspiring such as watching molten metals being turned into various items such as drain pipes, man hole coves or posts etc. In our line of work we are in such varied environments, there was an instance when I was asked to undertaken an air quality inspection of an office block in the centre of London and as part of it I was accessing the Air Handling Units located on the roof. The view was absolutely amazing and it made me think how privilege I was doing a job I love and being given access to views that not many people would ever have.

The best thing about my job?  The challenge. No two days are the same. Even when undertaking the same type of work there is always something different, some way in which you learn and develop.

Career Highlights? I conducted research into a very specialist area and theorised on potential outcomes of various scenarios that I then went on to prove were correct. Subsequently my research is helping to improve ongoing understanding and safety.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist you’d better get used to? People not understanding what your job is. Many people think that I’m a cleaner or an environmental health inspector. Everyone’s heard of Health and Safety but the term ‘Occupational Hygiene’ is misunderstood.

People normally think my job involves? Environmental health inspections or cleaning mostly. I’ve given up just giving people my title I always go on to explain what my role involves whenever I say what I do.

The best thing I have been asked to do was? I do get excited very easily and so there have been many things that have happened in my career that I have really enjoyed. One of the best things I have been asked to do is to undertake quite a length study in a well known sweetie factory. The process of how the different sweets were made was fantastic to watch and the people who worked there were so lovely but to top it off there was no limit to the number of sweets you could eat, at any stage of the process you could just pick them off the conveyor and gobble them up. It really is the simple things for some people and I am definitely one of them.

The worse thing I have been asked to do was? I have really been thinking about this one and I’m struggling. I have had long drives to locations and long days but the work has always been worth it and there’s always been something that’s balanced it out. I did worry when I was getting into this field that I may be asked to do something that went against my morals as we are in an industry that can be seen to reduce productivity for the benefit of health and safety but I’ve never felt uncomfortable. When situations arise where further consideration is required to improve the workers environment on the basis of improved health, then we work alongside the workers, managers and engineers to find the best solution therefore avoiding conflict and improving standards.

Confession? I have felt outside of my comfort zone so many times over the years that there have been times where I have thought, why didn’t I choose an easier career, but then getting to the other side of whatever the problem may be brings such a great sense of achievement.

Influences? I think my influences have been people that I have met over the years that have taught me so much. I worked at a company where the MD said the best way to learn is through osmosis and it’s kind of true. In a field which is so vast the best way to learn not just about the different subjects but about yourself and where your passion lies is to keep in contact with knowledgeable people and learn from their experiences, observe how they work and find out what they’re thinking process is when they are facing a new challenge (even the most experienced people face new challenges in our sector). Seeing how they draw on their experiences and absorbing that information has been crucial to my career development.


AIHA FLI Reflections….Pinky Bhatt

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Part of the application process for the AIHA’s Future Leaders Institute involved submitting a “Statement of Interest”. A one-page document was really all you got to sell yourself to the judging panel that you were serious about attending the Future Leaders Institute (FLI).

Pinky Bhatt is a fellow FLI graduate, and she was commended for her submission. She was generous enough to share it with me, and when I read it, I started to realize that for some of us, that commitment to learning and leadership has been a process in the making for a very long time. It certainly put my application to shame!

Pinky is an Industrial Hygienist based in India. Although she had a degree in Chemical Engineering, after she married, she was left with no choice but to stay at home. She volunteered her time to a local school, which was over 10km’s away (which in India, is probably as difficult as me travelling 50kms in Sydney!), and began teaching children. From there she volunteered to the development of an effluent treatment plant, and went back to University shortly after the birth of her first child. She received a gold medal from the University for her efforts and ended up working in Industrial Hygiene shortly after. You can start to realize the level of dedication when the University she went to required her to travel over 450 km’s away!

Pinky doesn’t seem like the type of person who is satisfied with only a little bit of knowledge. She went back to University to study science in parallel to completing six intermediate modules from the BOHS at the same time. Serious dedication.

Pinky now has global responsibilities as an Industrial Hygienist across South East Asia and manages a large team as a Project Manager. Pinky credits the leaders that she has been lucky enough to work with for part of her success in her career. But given everything she has achieved in a relatively difficult part of the world, it’s clear to me that this lady has put in the hard yards and demonstrated her commitment to learning.

Congratulations Pinky and great to meet you!

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AIHA FLI Class of 2015. Pinky Bhatt pictured in the front row, third from the left.

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Amanda Rice [INTERNATIONAL EDITION!]

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Amanda is a fellow FLI graduate who works at the 3M Center in St. Paul, Minnesota in Lab Safety as an Industrial Hygiene Specialist.  Amanda has an undergraduate degree in biology and a Masters in industrial hygiene from the University of Minnesota. Whilst her main focus is industrial hygiene, she has also had the opportunity to branch into safety, supervision of interns, hiring full-time EHS professionals, and operational leadership with lab management. This year she started working with 3M’s international R&D facilities more, including a two week trip to Shanghai for auditing and best practice sharing….pretty awesome! Here is 5-mins with Amanda:


Best location I have worked: I have two answers for this question. The best location I have worked outside of the EHS field is on a research sailing vessel. I spent a summer session in Woods Hole, Massachusetts doing marine research on the SSV Westward.  There’s nothing like being in a lab on the open sea collecting and analyzing samples at all hours of the day or night.  In addition to doing research, we also took turns working in shifts in the kitchen and managing the actual navigation of the ship. In my work as a hygienist, the research labs are a very engaging place to work.  Our campus has over 40 businesses, ranging from health care to tape to electronics.  In both examples, teamwork was the vital key to successful results.

The best thing about my job is: The opportunities for learning.  I’ve provided EHS support to a research and development organization for 8 years.  With over 6000 scientists on site, there is always something new and exciting taking place.  I know I have made a connection when people contact me to see a new experiment or pilot scale run, even if they don’t have an EHS question.

Career Highlight:  3M has a set of EHS Achievement Awards that are awarded on an annual basis.  In 2009, a team that I participated on won one of these corporate awards for the creation of a risk identification and management database customized to our site’s needs. It was great to have our peers nominate and select us for this award.  We’ve been using the system for 5 years now, and have had the opportunity to share it within the company at other sites around the world.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Change.  Even if you stay within the same company, the work is always changing as companies expand and perhaps contract.  Local and federal regulations have been changing recently (GHS, REACH, HazCom2012), in addition to any internal guidelines your workplace may have in effect.  Other areas of change include demographics of our workers and fellow EHS professionals, and advances in monitoring equipment and mobile capability.

People normally think my job involves: One of two things 1) dentistry of some sort 2) a vague understanding of federal EHS compliance.  This is a great reason to have a personal elevator speech ready to explain what we do in a short, meaningful manner.  If I am asked about my career, I tailor my response to reflect what that would look like in that person’s workplace.

amanda rice