Occupational Hygiene

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!



AIOH2014 – The Wrap Up

Posted on Updated on


Well the AIOH conference is over for another year. We have had a week for the dust to settle and heads to recover. Melbourne put on a great event, but I don’t think my body could have handled another night of social events. I need at least a year to recover – bring on #AIOH2015!

The CES sessions kicked off on Saturday. I attended the session “Strategies to get attention on your safety message.” The session covered a range of ways to communicate your safety message including taking the technical information and message and comparing it to activities people do every day, which I am sure some of us as hygienists find hard to do since we tend to focus on the technical aspects. It was a good session to reinforce the importance of getting your message across in a way that appeals to your audience.

On Sunday I attended a CES on “Minimising and Managing Fatigue in the Workplace”. Fatigue is such an area of interest at the moment, in particular on sites working long hours and 24-hr shifts. The presenter, Paula, was really insightful with her knowledge and passion for fatigue management and the importance of monitoring and managing fatigue and fatigue related risks in the workplace. The thought provoking aspect of this session was that we “the hygienists and safety professionals” are often the ones working the long hours (getting to work early and leaving late) and we may be more at risk of fatigue than the workers we are trying to protect.

The official conference proceedings were just as exciting. We were treated to sessions by John Henshaw and Dr Mike Brandt among others. The lessons learnt and knowledge passed on in these sessions is always a treat and I look forward to what next year will bring. The concurrent sessions were just as exciting, and I found it hard to choose who I wanted to see more with competing sessions running alongside each other. The presentations by students based on their major projects were great and I would encourage anyone currently completing a university Project to present your findings next year. The international guests were amazing and it was great to hear of challenges they are facing overseas are not too dissimilar to ours.

The social events were the star of the show as usual. AES kicked things off with the welcome drinks with the flashing shot glasses which somehow always find themselves in my cupboard at home. This was followed by a great welcome dinner where it was nice to catch up with people I hadn’t seen since the last conference. The 3M night followed with the usual frivolity and outrageous costumes. A great night was had by all in attendance and although my table wasn’t great with the trivia, we made for it with the dance moves later on. The social calendar wouldn’t be complete without the awards night, and what a night it was. Great food and company with highly deserving award winners. Congratulations to all the winners!

So that’s a wrap for this year. I’m looking forward to the Conference next year which will be in Perth, where hopefully (if it is even possible), things will be even bigger and better and we can all catch up on the past year and our adventures over a few (quiet) drinks.



Congrats to Guest Bloggers Alex & Kristy!

Posted on Updated on


Two of our Guest Bloggers Alex Wilson and Kristy Thornton were winners of the inaugural Canary at the recent AIOH Conference last week!

The AIOH Canary is all about Communicating Awareness – a New Approach Representing us on YouTube. It involved entrants creating a short video (less than 5-minutes) that helped any or all of a series of questions, basically all revolving around raising awareness of our profession.  A special thank you goes to Scott Safety for sponsoring such a terrific competition!

You can view the winning entry here from Alex Wilson:


…and the runner up here by Kristy Thornton:

You can view all the other entrants here. Congratulations to all the fantastic entries!


Welcome to #AIOH2014

Posted on

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

Posted on Updated on

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?

Posted on Updated on

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!)

AIHA FLI Reflections….Pinky Bhatt

Posted on Updated on

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!

IMG_6793 copy

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