#IOHA 2015 – What London taught Guest Blogger Kristy Thornton

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On Friday 24th April, I set off to London to attend the International Occupational Hygiene Association’s 10th International Scientific Conference (IOHA2015). To say I was excited would be an understatement, but after a long flight the last thing you want is to see is #hygienegod Noel Tresider in the hotel foyer looking dapper while you look dishevelled from your flight while you are waiting to check-in, but then again I was in London so I wasn’t going to complain.

The whole IOHA2015 experience was amazing. The conference was professionally run and the delegates were friendly and inviting and to top it all off the sessions were both thought-provoking and interesting both with regards to technical content and career development.

The conference started with Dr Paul Dolan from the London School of Economics talking about ‘You have no idea: the role of automatic processes in explaining and changing human behaviour.’ Paul spoke about behavioural science and influencing change and behaviour. Paul was not a hygienist but his field of expertise related to hygiene and how we can influence the behaviour of workers.

Sir David Spiegelhalter from the University of Cambridge spoke on ‘Friendly ways of communicating acute and chronic lethal risk.” He talked about ways to convey a message that will appeal to workers and keep them engaged. He suggested using “consider the offer” rather than “recommendations” among other useful tools.

Another highlight was listening to Perry Logan from 3M. Perry spoke about communication and leadership and the importance of developing these skills in the younger generation of hygienists.

All the concurrent sessions were educational, but my personal favourite was the Career Development Panel Session where Kate Cole presented along with fellow Australians (Holly Fletcher, Mitchell Thompson and Alan Rogers). The session was really great for the younger crowd, but it also gave the mature hygienists an insight into how they could support and mentor their younger colleagues.

I felt really inspired after all the sessions, but the icing on the cake for IOHA2015 was the networking opportunities and the social events. A highlight for me was a fun run which was organised for one morning of the conference. This was a great way to meet new people in a setting where everyone was relaxed and who wouldn’t get out of bed early to have the chance to chat with Perry Logan while running through Hyde Park?

I met a variety of people from all over the world at IOHA2015 who I know will add to my ‘hygiene network’ and I will be forever grateful to 3M and the BOHS for putting up the award and giving me the opportunity to attend IOHA2015. I would highly recommend any young hygienist to apply for such opportunities when they arise in your own fields and enjoy the experience in its entirety.


Photo: A few of the many amazing Australians who attended IOHA with Alex Wilson from the BOHS (Canary winner – AIOH conference 2014).

Persistence pays off for Kristy Thornton in her quest to get to London for #IOHA2015

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Attending the International Occupational Hygiene Association’s 10th International Scientific Conference in London #IOHA2015 was always a pipe dream for me. I imagined how good it would be to attend this conference, the networking opportunities, the exhibition, the seminars and the keynote speakers.

Those of you who know me, you will be well acquainted with my “competitive side.” So once I had an idea in my head of gaining sponsorship so I could attend IOHA2015, I knew I was going to give it 110%.

My quest started with numerous attempts dropping hints that I wanted to go to my boss (Kate Cole), who was already attending to present a session. But we both knew I would need to win my way to this conference. So I entered every possible award to gain sponsorship (let’s face it, I live in Australia, London’s not just around the corner). The experience of submitting applications taught me a lot and I realised more and more that I truly love what I do and I am honestly proud to be an occupational hygienist.

Now, I did get a few knock backs and I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get to IOHA2015, that was until the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) launched a competition, sponsored by 3M, for a young occupational hygienist to attend IOHA2015. Entries involved creating a PowerPoint presentation on the topic of ‘Getting your PPE Facts right – 5 facts and 5 myths.

I knew this was my last chance to get to #IOHA2015 so I gave this presentation 120% of my effort and crossed my fingers. The competition was tough and a lot of great entries were submitted, but I was the lucky winner of the 3M award and to be honest, I cried I was that excited to be going to #IOHA2015.

So my message to all hygienists is persistence does pay off. If you want something bad enough keep trying until it’s possible, don’t get knocked down at the first hurdle, you will be stronger if you pick yourself back up and keep at it. My IOHA journey was amazing and it was even better than I expected, but you will need to tune into my next blog to hear all about it.

My IOHA journey was amazing and it was even better than I expected, but you will need to tune into my next blog to hear all about it.

The link to my Slideshare presentation is below; feel free to view all the other entries on SlideShare as well by searching “PPE facts & Myths”.


All Young Hygienists + 3M = Opportunity to attend IOHA London 2015

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2 Days ago 3M launched a fantastic competition, offering the opportunity for a young hygienist to win a place worth USD $5000 to attend IOHA London 2015.

“Following on from the recent 3M Young Hygienist of the Year competition, we are delighted to team up with BOHS to offer another terrific opportunity for a second young professional to attend IOHA 2015”.

“This new competition for a place at IOHA 2015 will offer the lucky winner a great chance to be exposed to four stimulating days of learning from the very best in the occupational hygiene profession, as well networking with colleagues, vendors and suppliers.” –  Nicole Vars McCullough, 3M Personal Safety Division’s Global Technical Services Manager.

Young Hygienists don’t miss this opportunity!

To enter, you have to be:

  • aged 40 or under as at 31 December 2015 (AKA a Young Hygienist); and
  • a member of BOHS or any of the other IOHA member societies, in good standing.

You will receive:

  • a full conference place for IOHA 2015 London  (27th to 30th April), including a ticket for the gala dinner;
  • hotel accommodation for 4 nights; and
  • travel and subsistence costs of up to $2000, which are reclaimable.

NOTE: If you have are already registered to attend IOHA2015, you can still enter (as long as you meet the criteria of course) – if you win, your registration fee will be reimbursed!

The business end of the competition.

By the 24th March 2015 applicants need to:

  • create a Powerpoint presentation on the following topic: ‘Getting your PPE Facts right – 5 facts and 5 myths’
  • upload the presentation to and promote this via Twitter, tagging @bohsworld and using the hashtags #IOHA2015 #3Mcompetition

Myth or Fact

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

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(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!



#BOHS14 – The roundup

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The 2014 BOHS Conference sadly draws to a close today. It was a fantastic and worthwhile conference and I have learnt a lot both from the technical sessions, and from meeting the many delegates who were kind enough to share their thoughts and stories with me. In the coming weeks I’ll delve more into the details on the topics covered, but for now, I thought I’d share some of the key highlights from my perspective:

Warner Lecture

The Warner Lecture was provided by Major Phil Ashby, a royal marine who has won a Green Beret and a Commando medal for bravery. He gave an incredibly moving story of his fight for survival deep in the heart of Sierra Leone and almost being killed several times. It was very comforting though when he started his talk and told us that out of all he has been through, that he was still terrified of public speaking!

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Bedford Medal

Professor John Cherrie won the 2014 Bedford Medal and presented his talk, “Get a Life”. He discussed charting people’s exposure from their birth to their death, in a term known as the “exposome”. This includes the processes internal to the body such as metabolites, gut microflora, inflammation etc; through to external infectious agents or chemical contamination; through to social, economic, and psychological influences.

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Professor Cherrie introduced us to “omics biomarkers”, which are tools that can be used to measure exposure. The use of “citizen science” is growing, largely due to convenient and affordable (or free) apps on our smart phones, or other small devices that can measure eg: CO2 exposure in our homes, or the number of steps we take in a day. The idea is that we can use these omics biomarkers to understand people’s behaviours and then get a better understanding of their exposure. He stressed the importance of calibrating these omics biomarkers to other standardised equipment to understand their limitations. Professor Cherrie’s key messages were that we need to be aware of the possibilities that these omics biomarkers provide, and although accuracy and precision aren’t everything, the tools do need calibration. The ability to track location and behaviour will provide new data that will help us understand exposures, so we need to be aware that the citizen science revolution is coming! Professor Cherrie was kind enough to share his slides on social media here. You might also like to follow his blog as he provides a fantastic (much more technically interesting) blog here also.

Crystalline Silica

As is always the challenge with large conferences, I was then faced with the dilemma of wanting to go to all three concurrent sessions at the same time. The winner was Crystalline Silica, which was one of the most interesting concurrents I had been to in a long time, so it was a win for me! One thing that I noticed that happened at the British conference that I have not seen before at the Australian conference, was the Regulatory Authority (the HSE in the UK), were present  both as delegates and as presenters, which provided great context to the information presented.

The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) had performed an intervention in the brickmaking and stonemaking industry, with the aim of reducing exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The intervention was basically like a research project to figure out what the common issues were in those industries, so that targeted interventions could be made that would result in less exposure to workers. This is in comparison to the Regulatory enforcement agency just walking in and fining everyone, as the former is more likely to be effective at controlling exposure in the long-term. The HSL discussed common issues surrounding secondary saws and improvements needed in water suppression, opportunities for better enclosures and operator segregation, incorrect use of local exhaust ventilation (LEV), and a poor understanding of the health risk involved with the status quo. To address this, the HSL provided feedback to each of the many sites visited, developed training material to increase awareness, consulted with industry groups, and aims to re-visit these sites next year to asses the effectiveness of their intervention.

The HSL had also performed a study on long latency health risks in foundries, where exposures to over 250 workers were measured. They found that common issues existed surrounding LEV design and testing, respiratory supply and fit-testing, and that some of the foundries still performed dry sweeping or used compressed air to clean out moulds. When you do either of these things, the dust containing crystalline silica will be in the air and therefore easier to inhale and consequently increases your risk of developing respiratory disease and cancer.

For a different perspective, Dr David Fishwick who works in the NHS (the health service) presented a paper on the health aspects of crystalline silica. The HSE are currently funding research into a 5-year health study to understand the prevalence of respiratory disease associated with crystalline silica. It was performed over a large geographical area spread across the UK and identified over 300 workers exposed to crystalline silica. Of those, a large proportion of workers had reported respiratory complaints such as cough, chest-tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and/or silicosis.

To round out the session, the Regulator (the HSE) provided their perspective on the current strategic research. It was refreshing to hear the regulator explain that the surveys and research performed always carried the possibility for possible enforcement, but it was essential that they keep such voluntary surveys workable and continue to rely on industry cooperation mediated through trade associations. Effective and proactive communication was essential to the success of the programs being performed. Basically as I understand it, if the HSL finds issues that are potentially in breach of the Regulations, then they explain that to the company and provide them a report stating what needs to be done. The company is then given a time-limit (around 2 weeks or so) to address the issues before enforcement can occur. The HSE reported that this approach was beneficial and has been working well with representative groups.

Keynote Lectures

Dr Noah Sexias provided a great discussion on the advances in exposure assessment and control for welding fume. In addition to the various hazards faced by welders (such as acute injuries, musculoskeletal issues, electrical burns, and UV radiation), gases and fumes from welding can result in many ill-health effects. These range from respiratory disease such as siderosis and COPD, through to lung cancer (presumably from hexavalent chromium or other metals) and neurological disorders caused from exposure to manganese (known as “manganism“).

Presumably predicting that we had been faced with slide-fatigue, Gerard Hand  (IOSH Past President) gave an engaging 45 minute talk without any PPT slides (or notes I might add!). In a very real, yet humorous way, Gerard taught us to always ask, “Is there anything dodgy about that?” when doing a risk assessment. His point was that unless you engage with the workforce and understand what they are doing and ask about their problems and ideas, then it’s highly unlikely that the risk assessment is not going to be accurate or effective.


This session was great…and no, not just because I was in it! From learning about all there is about Radon gas from Damien Boyd, to Dougie Collin igniting the independence debate in full Scottish kilt, to the tale of Green Eggs and Ham by Mary Fitzgerald, learning the wrongs of LEV discharge stacks from Bill Williams, and learning the occupational hygiene considerations when confiscating marijuana by Kelvin Williams, there was never a dull moment!


Another great item at the British conference that I have not seen before at the Australian conference was the various workshops held throughout the conference. I attended a fantastic workshop facilitated by Alex Wilson on professional skills for occupational hygienists, and a packed-out interactive workshop which aimed to bring real positive change for workers at risk of occupational lung disease such as workers in the construction industry, welders, spray painters, and bakers.


I love a good poster. Dr Latham Ball won the prize for best poster, and deservedly so. He is currently working with a team of others (including Kate Jones) to develop a low-cost rapid test kit to measure exposure to benzene through biological monitoring.  Biological monitoring is very important to assess exposure to benzene as it can be absorbed both through the skin and also inhaled. At the moment in Australia, it can take several weeks for these results to come back, which is tricky if the results are high and you have just figured out that your workers were not protected for the past two weeks. A quick low-cost test would help track just how effective your control measures are without having to cross your fingers while you wait for the results to come back.


Social Events

Some would say the highlight of the conference is the networking and various social events on offer, and BOHS14 did not disappoint. Being held in Nottingham, It was always going to be compulsory for Robin Hood to join us.  We were treated to a night with the Sherrif of Nottingham, a court jester, and of course, Mr Hood himself.

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This was my very first BOHS conference and I came here knowing only a handful of people (some I had only ever spoken to via email!), but it was a warm, encouraging, and inviting atmosphere. To be honest, I had to do a double-take sometimes as I felt as though I could have been at the AIOH Conference surrounded by old friends, it was that familiar.

Of course there were many other sessions at the conference that were amazing including Legionella control, occupational hygiene considerations in hydraulic fracking, and many others. Each one provided a great wealth of information and were engaging. If you need an excuse to go to London (who needs an excuse?), you’ll just have to attend the next conference which is held between April 25th-30th in 2015. Next year, the BOHS is extra-fortunate to hold their conference in conjunction with IOHA, which means it will be even bigger, and even better than this years…if that is at all possible!

#BOHS14 Scanning QR Codes

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One of the things I like about going to a conference that I haven’t been to before is meeting new people. The BOHS Conference this year has come up with a great new way of breaking the ice when meeting new people, with a competition. As I am very competitive, this has been a win-win for me!

The concept is simple, you introduce yourself to someone and then use the conference app to scan their QR Code on their delegate badge and you get a point. You get additional points for exhibitors, or if you tweet the conference hashtag of #BOHS14 etc, and the winner gets a prize. For most of the conference I have been coming neck to neck with this fabulous (also competitive) lady, and she currently has me beat by 10 points. There is still a day to go, so I am going to have to get creative. This may just come down to tackling random unsuspecting delegates in the elevator!



Getting ready to ‘Ignite’ at the BOHS

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Ever heard of ‘Ignite‘? In the world of public speaking, an Ignite session holds the motto, “Enlighten us, but make it quick!

Presentations are meant to “ignite” the audience on a subject, whereby awareness, thought, and action are generated on the subjects presented.

They also follow a fairly strict format…a maximum of 5 minutes, with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15-seconds…yup AUTO advance…so you have to keep up with your slides and make sure you don’t stuff up and lose your place. Even better than that, the entire thing is recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

Why would anyone want to put themselves through this? That is what I am thinking now…as my very first Ignite session at the BOHS is up tomorrow…wish me luck!!