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.


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