Month: February 2015

Young Hygienist Snapshot: Jane Whitelaw

Posted on

Jane Whitelaw is a true Australian Hygiene God and current coordinator of the Master of Work Health and Safety program at the University of Wollongong……………..among other things!

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have worked with, or be taught and mentored by Jane will testify to her energetic and relentless action to promote the education and development of hygienists, not just in Australia, but globally.  Speaking from my own personal experience I have no doubt Jane has significantly influenced the development and shaped the careers of countless hygienists and safety professionals, with many more yet to come.   And yes, I do consider myself to be one of the lucky ones!

So here’s 5 mins with Jane:

Best location I have worked: My first job as an 18yr old chemistry trainee was at an aluminium smelter in the middle of the Hunter Valley Vineyards. Part of my job was monthly environmental sampling where we’d pick the grape leaves to analyse for fluoride – at the same time picking up a few bottles of grape juice for later!

The best thing about my job is: Being a positive influence of peoples health…a small intervention today can reap lifelong reward as far as health goes.

Career Highlight: Achieving CIH at the age of 29 (in the days when there were no cheat sheets for the calculations) and still being considered a young (at heart) hygienist!

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Thinking on your feet and using all five of your senses.  As my Mum would say “God gave you two ears and one mouth – listen twice as much as you speak” I’m still working on that one!!!

People normally think my job involves: Health and Safety of some sort. I’ve had 30 yrs to get an answer ready for when I’m asked.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Join Brian Davies and the team at the University of Wollongong. I learn something new every day and it’s a great environment to work in. The most fulfilling part is sharing my passion with and sowing into the lives of the next generation of Occupational Hygienists across the world.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: For many years I analysed about 500 urinary fluorides/yr  for smelter workers who weren’t always the most hydrated workforce I’ve seen….wish I had that data to write up now!

Jane Whitelaw

Terrified of Public Speaking? You should do an Ignite Session!

Posted on Updated on



(OK so I couldn’t stay away for too long…yes I’m back for a fleeting moment…but as a guest blogger this time!)

If someone had told me a few years ago that I would get up and speak at an international conference, to a crowded room, and be filmed doing it, my heart would have popped up into my chest and an awful fear of dread would have come over me instantly. The fear that I had associated with public speaking had overcome any possibility of me ever considering dong anything like that.

There was nothing rational about the fear though. I have always had the ability to stand up, speak, and communicate a point…but doing that at pre-starts or tool box talks, or management meetings somehow was completely different in my brain, compared to standing behind a lectern with a microphone, where I would instantly lose my ability for words to flow out of my mouth in any normal order.

It was my manager who told me that I just had to get over it, and that the only way of doing that, was to go out and get outside my comfort zone and do some public speaking. He is actually a great guy, and he gave me some good tips along the way. The most useful one of which, was to practise repeatedly…over and over…so much that you can do it with your eyes closed.

So, with that in mind, I submitted an abstract at the AIOH conference back in 2012. When it got accepted…and I realised that I actually had to speak at the Conference, I felt a small amount of joy, and a lot of fear! At the time though I just thought to myself, “get over it“, and I practised the paper for what felt like an eternity…but what may have been around 4 weeks. I’d love to say that I didn’t feel nervous while doing it, that I made no errors, or that it was easy…it was none of those things, but honestly, it wasn’t that bad!  At the end of it, I felt a wave of relief rush over me, and I was glad I did it.

Since then, I’ve presented many more papers in different settings, so much so, that the nerves are going away and are mostly gone, largely due to my incessant need to practice over and over until I think I’ve nailed it. Flash forward to April last year, and I thought that it would be a good idea to push myself out of my comfort zone that I had created in my head and I put my hand up to present at an Ignite session at the BOHS Conference in the UK.

Ignite sessions are a little different. They are 5-minute presentations where the PPT slides auto-advance every 15 seconds i.e. you have no control over the slides….they turn themselves! Even better is that they are filmed and posted onto YouTube.  Cue instant heart-attack.

Everything was going well while I was writing it, but when I started to practice, the enormity of the whole “auto-advance” thing was a tad terrifying. I mean, if you stuff up one slide…you can’t necessarily go back and say it again…you just have to pick it up and really, “get over it“.

I was so nervous in the morning of the Ignite session, but I was quickly calmed by the session chair Alex, and the other brave souls who were also scheduled to talk. Once the session kicked off, I watched in awe at the other Ignite presenters. They seemed cool, comfortable, and like they were having a great time. Watching them helped steady me for the whopping 5-minute talk I had ahead of me….and then it was time.

Maybe it was due to the friendly atmosphere at the BOHS Conference, maybe it was due to the fact that I felt silly wearing a Go-Pro on my head, or the fact that I had practiced this 5-min talk for what seemed like an eternity, but standing up there presenting at the Ignite session was honestly a lot of fun. Even better was the feeling once it was done! I felt a great sense of achievement (I didn’t stuff up too badly) and I have seemed to have overcome my irrational fear of doing what I do every day – talk. Just in front of more people. With a microphone. Easy! WHat a way of putting yourself out of your comfort zone…here is me and my attempt at an Ignite session…constructive criticism only please!

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I honestly thought that public speaking just came naturally to everyone. I thought that no-one else practices their talks, and I thought that I would never be one of those people. But by putting myself out there, I am slowly becoming one of those people. I’m no Oprah, and by watching my Ignite video, I can safely say that I could say, “…ummm” a little less! But if I had have shown that video to myself 3 years ago, I never would have believed it.

Sometimes we just need a little “push” for us to get over our fears. Luckily, the BOHS are hosting another Ignite session this year at IOHA2015 in London, and the call for abstracts is out now. The AIHA also has a call for applications out for their Ignite session at AIHce 2015 to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah. So you can’t use geography as an excuse 🙂

Maybe you just need a little “push” outside your own comfort zone for you to consider submitting an abstract. If you need some more inspiration, then you should watch the mother of all Ignite presentations delivered by #hygienegod Kim Merritt. How can you watch this and not want to do one?

Happy viewing!



Young Hygienist Snapshot: Kristie Davies

Posted on Updated on

Kristie is one of the first graduates of the UOW’s Masters of Science Occupational Hygiene Program, and currently works as an energetic Workplace Health and Safety Coordinator at a Peabody Energy underground coal mine in NSW, Australia.

5 mins with Kristie:

Best location I have worked:  That’s a hard one. I have been lucky enough to work on various remediation projects and a number of mine sites, always learning and improving skills at each role.

An interesting asbestos remediation project that always sticks in my mind was located in Batam, Indonesia. Instructions were to fly to Singapore, then ferry across to Batam. Upon arrival in Batam, I had to pay for my visa (US dollars), and I would be collected by a site representative. Simple enough I hear you say and I thought so too.

All was going smoothly until Indonesian border security starts questioning me. Unfortunately not being able to speak the native tongue; and watching your Australian passport being waved about and start walking away, can make you feel very nervous. Luckily for me the site representative had arrived and was able to sort everything out. (Heart back in chest, breathe!).

The best thing about my job is:  There is never a dull moment. Locations and type of work can vary which always keeps my hygiene mind in overdrive, and makes work very interesting. Also meeting other hygienists and health professionals at different locations is a bonus.

Career Highlight: Being able to travel and work and see some amazing locations. And always surviving, after constantly being thrown in the deep end!  I have met some wonderful hygienist along the way (You know who you are!) who are always there for support and assistance.  It’s a privilege to know some of the #hygienegods, in particular studying under the fabulous guidance of Brian Davies, Jane Whitelaw and John Henderson.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Being flexible and adaptable. Things don’t always go to plan!

People normally think my job involves: Ensuring everything is hygienically clean; from lunch rooms to bathrooms; including personal hygiene (ensuring you can wash your hands correctly).

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Join the UOW Occupational Hygiene program by Brian Davies at a career fair day.  Originally I was studying to be a dietitian. I am passionate about maintaining good health, and I enjoy sharing this knowledge to help others achieve this, whether it is at work or socially.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Nothing really comes to mind; I try to view everything as a learning experience. One such experience was my first trip in an underground coal mine, busting for the toilet, where I was taken and to this day I describe as a box trailer with a toilet seat attached to one end, and no brattice anywhere. My guide was my look out at one cut through – and those of you who have been underground can imagine being female and trying to use a toilet!

Kristie Davies

Well hello, who are you?

Posted on Updated on

Custodian of the #younghygienist blog! Well I cannot guarantee I will be as funny, however I will exhaust all effort to be as enlightening as our #hygienegodintraining Kate Cole!

I would like to congratulate Kate on all that she has achieved with the blog during 2014, in particular promoting the Occupational Hygiene profession. Big shoes to fill you think? Yes, I think so!

So who am I then? I am Holly Fletcher and yes, you guessed it I am also a #younghygienist in my mid thirties. Those who know me would say I get slightly excited about all things Occupational Hygiene!

It’s hard to believe that I grew up on a sheep and cattle farm in a small farming town by the name of walcha in Northern NSW, Australia. As a child I am pretty sure I wanted to be a pop singer and by the time I reached secondary school, I was sure I wanted to be the physiotherapist for the Australian Rugby team thewallabies

I don’t know much, but one thing I do know, sometimes things don’t always work out as you expect it!

Now people will ask “how did you get “into” hygiene”? As much as I would love to say that my dad had a consulting hygienist to assist him to control workers exposure to agricultural chemicals, dusts, noise and in particular biological health hazards, and that occupational hygienist inspired me to pursue the same career path, unfortunately that is not my reality.

My story is similar to the majority of other hygienists I meet i.e. I was introduced to this career by introduction to another hygienist. Lucky for me I was inspired by a fantastic #younghygienist with a huge amount of energy and passion for her job. One day I ask her what “all the numbers meant”?  In more or less words she explained how her team performed sampling activities to collect “the numbers” which she would then use to make decisions regarding risk for purposes of protectingworkerhealth.

Like most others I really didn’t understand the whole numbers bit, however I did accompany her in the field to perform sampling and that’s when I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up!

That’s when I enrolled and completed a Masters of Occupational Hygiene Practice OHP at the UoW and now I do understand the whole numbers bit!

These days, although relatively early in my career as a #younghygienist I have had some amazing experiences working with inspirational #hygienegods in some incredible locations in Australia, the United Arab Emirates and now in Laos, where I am currently working.

My intention of becoming the custodian of the #younghygienist blog for 2015 is for one reason only. That is to promote the occupational hygiene profession, not only in Australia, but globally. I don’t doubt my story about how I came to be an occupational hygienist is unique in any way; it just presents the question “how many other occupational hygienists are out there that don’t know it yet”?

In 2015 the #younghygienist blog will showcase occupationalhygiene as a career to promote the profession so we can be successful in protecting worker health.


Holly Fletcher and Kate Cole – AIOH2013

Mmwhaaa Goodbye!

Posted on Updated on

It’s been a while between posts. It’s been a nice break, but I have missed you my blog!

2014 was a great year. Over 730 people started following this blog from over 20 different countries (and counting). I learnt a lot from the Draeger Award trip, from the AIHA’s Future Leaders Institute, and from pulling together the numerous Young Hygienist Snapshots that were published each week. I also learnt that participating in the Color Run was hazardous to my health. But probably the biggest thing I learnt though in writing this blog over the course of a year, was how supportive the community of occupational hygienists are, both in Australia, and internationally. I received many emails, tweets, messages, and comments of encouragement and thanks from numerous hygienists to thank me for taking the time to write it all down.

It’s all sounding very warm and fuzzy at the moment, as though writing this blog was akin to moonbeams and lollipops, but in reality, writing a blog takes planning, time, dedication, and more dedication….and did I mention time? Time is one of those things that is pretty elusive for me normally, but given all the things I’d like to focus on this year, such time is really not there in 2015. But despair not, because this blog was really never about me anyway. I started it to be about the awesome career that I, and thousands of others, have…and about promoting it. So in reality, the blog can live on without me, but it needs a new Young Hygienist to run it.

Luckily, there are many awesomely talented Young Hygienists out there, so I have no doubt that the blog will only rise to bigger and better things than I was able to take it too.

So who is the new Young Hygienist who will run this blog? Well I’ll have to let her introduce herself to you in the next post.

Bye for now!





Young Hygienist Snapshot: Luke Di Corleto

Posted on Updated on

Lucky for us Luke Di Corleto chose to follow in his dads footsteps and became an #occupationalhygienist

Luke is a fellow MSc OHP graduate of the UOW and freely admits to really enjoying the university lifestyle.  I hope so given that he has just clocked up his 8th year of tertiary education participating in a Masters of Occupational Health and Safety Science at the University of Queensland #UQ (his 2nd postgraduate degree………and counting). Luke reports he was lucky enough to score his first real OHS related job recently during the university holidays and was able to put his occupational hygiene knowledge and skills to good use at Rio Tinto’s Exploration division, as part of their vacation employment programme.  Luke reports he is more keen now than ever to put his many years of education to good use……… along with starting the long road of paying off his sizeable HECS debt!

So here is 5-mins with Luke:

Best location I have worked: The Rio Tinto main office in Brisbane. Thrilling, I know but it is a nice building with a nice view. That and I am about 30 seconds away from the cafe. He is Italian after all!

The best thing about my job is: Rubbing shoulders with people who have an enormous amount of experience in the field of hygiene, I feel really fortunate to be working with such people. Also the view of the river from the 17th floor is quite nice.

Career Highlight: I need to have a career before I can reminisce about its highlights.

If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Time consuming, soul crushing data entry. Someone has to do it and you can be sure it’s the kind of job that gets passed down to newbies.

People normally think my job involves: Either food inspection or cleaning toilets if they are trying to be funny. I try to avoid saying hygienist to people who don’t have much experience with the mining industry, generally opting for just health and safety.

The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Sit around in a haul truck for a few hours to get vibration results I ultimately didn’t use. It strikes me as a job that would be tiresome if you had to do it for 12 hours a day but it’s still pretty cool the first time you go up.

The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Do whole body vibration #WBV monitoring for stemming and capping trucks. A 2 hour job turned into an 8 hour job because I wasn’t permitted to drive on-site and my ride back from the pit went home and left me out there. Fortunately the guys doing the stemming were kind enough to give me a ride back to my car.


2013 UoW MSc OHP Graduate