Young Hygienist Snapshot: Mabely Wise [International Edition]

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I meet Mabely Wise back in 2013 at AIHA’s CIH preparation course in Ann Arbour, Michigan where we quickly bonded, grumbling over calculations.  Lucky for me we have stayed in touch and even got the chance to catch up at AIHce in San Antonio last year.

Mabely was born and raised in Cali, Colombia, and for over five years has provided Occupational Health and Safety consulting services to employers in North and South America. Since 2013 Mabely has been working in the role of Product Stewardship Specialist with Materion Brush Inc, a role that she very much enjoys, captivating her interest to continue learning and growing in this discipline complementary to industrial hygiene.

So some of the things that Mabely loves: Travelling, meeting people, dancing (she is Columbian after all!), playing play spy games (and winning!), being connected with awesomeness (God) and watching and cheering Colombian soccer games (Yes, the team of James Rodriguez, the World Cups Golden Boot! amongst many other Columbian Soccer Stars 🙂 …. “Proud Smile”

So here’s 5 mins with Mabely:

1. Best location I have worked: This is difficult to respond without being biased and unfair…of course that I would say due to my ties to my native city that Cali, Colombia is the best location that I have ever worked in! (just think about it…awesome weather, people, food, lots of fun that without mentioning the endless opportunities to make a difference right there in the spot on workers’ health protection), but I’d most say that being in the USA and having the opportunities to work in St Louis, Missouri and currently in Cleveland, Ohio have given me the opportunity to expand and grow my professional experience exponentially in IH while fulfilling with my mission of protecting workers health, for which I am very grateful.

2. The best thing about my job is: Helping Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) to protect the health of their workers. I work as a Product Stewardship Specialist, and thanks to the all-encompassing Product Stewardship Program at Materion Brush Inc., I have had the opportunity to support the EHS Programs of SME in the USA and that fulfils my heart! We do so by visiting our customers, vendors and fabricators (who at several occasions are SME’s) to educate them on how to safely use and handle our materials and to provide them as needed with related EHS services, including; air monitoring and exposure control reports at no cost…and for me, that rocks!

3.Career Highlight: Again, supporting SME’s to develop their EHS programs and protect their workers’ health. In my opinion, SME’s are in great need of our services but unfortunately due to either a lack of resources or resourcefulness, employers at these enterprises struggle to keep up with health and safety standards, consequently the health and well-being of their employees are jeopardized.

4. If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Being flexible and to temporarily giving up access to some commodities (bathroom, water, tea or whatever you drink). Also, you better get used to being surrounded by a circle of passionate and “science nuts” professionals, thus you must be willing to keep up with the professions scientific developments and be eager to continue learning and updating yourself in matter related to your career.

5. People normally think my job involves: Cleaning teeth or cleaning facilities.

6. The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: To participate in the American Industrial Hygiene Association 2014 Future Leaders Institute Program, that was an honor!

7. The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Hasn’t happened quite yet…still waiting for that “crazy” challenge.


AIHce Movie Matinee: Blackfish – Safety when swimming with Killer Whales

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Fletcher Best

One of the many interesting sessions at AIHce was the Movie Matinee – Blackfish: Safety when Swimming with Killer Whales. As we arrived to the session, there was even popcorn and American “candy” on offer, just like the movies! The session enabled us to watch the documentary Blackfish, which was followed by a discussion about the findings presented in the movie and the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administrations (OHSA) citation to SeaWorld.


For those who haven’t seen the movie, Blackfish is a documentary about the 2010 death of a SeaWorld killer whale trainer. The trainer, Dawn Brancheau, was involved in a fatal incident involving a killer whale named Tilikum, at SeaWorld’s Orlando, Florida theme park.

The documentary outlined that Tilikum had been involved in three human fatalities, the first in 1991, where a part time trainer fell into the pool that housed Tilikum and two other female killer whales. The part time trainer, Keltie Byrne, fell into the pool housing the three mammals, when they submerged her, and held her underwater, then surfaced several times with her, before she drowned. The second occurrence was in 1999, when a member of the public stayed in SeaWorld, after it closed for the night, and entered the killer whale tank. Daniel Dukes body was found draped over Tilikums body in the morning. His genitals had been bitten off, he was also covered in lacerations and contusions. The third fatality involved Brancheau, on February 24, 2010. Brancheau was Tilikums trainer, during a performance at SeaWorld, Brancheau was pulled into the pool by Tilikum. Reports of her injuries included severing of her arm, scalping, broken bones, spinal injuries and drowning.


Following this incident, OSHA conducted an investigation, where they found SeaWorld to be in violation of the Workplace Health and Safety Act. OSHA claimed that SeaWorld exposed workers to a known hazard in the workplace, i.e. Tilikum, an animal who had been involved in two prior human fatalities. SeaWorld was subsequently fined and enforced to implement the control where trainers were no longer allowed to physically interact with the killer whales, so a physical barrier was to be in place between trainers and animals at all times.  This citation was appealed by SeaWorld, however, in November 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals denied the appeal.


This finding by OSHA raises questions as to the responsibility of businesses to protect workers in the entertainment industry. Many of these people work with animals as part of their daily job such as in wildlife parks, theme parks, and even circus performers. Are risks adequately assessed and controlled to meet the requirements of OSHA, or in Australia, the requirements of our legislation and associated documents as published by Safe Work Australia?

Working with animals will always present an unpredictable behaviour hazard, but it does not mean that the risk should not be assessed or control measures cannot be put in place to safeguard workers. It will be interesting to see how the outcome of this investigation may impact on workplaces in Australia that have human-animal interaction.

Young Professional Development at the #AIHce

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Fletcher Best

Having recently returned from our first American Industrial Hygiene Conference (AIHce), held in San Antonio, Texas, we have been forced to look back and reflect upon our experience and learning’s with many people asking “how was it?, “what did you enjoy the most?” Well, the answer to the first question is easy. It was awesome… the power of RAD!!!

The second question is a little more difficult to answer, as first timers to the #AIHce we don’t know what was more daunting, the size of the conference and exhibition centre (120,773 m2 in total), the number of conference delegates (5000!) or choice of scientific programme (a small novel, 88 pages in total).

Lucky for us the AIHA recognise that the AIHce can be a little daunting and have purposefully implemented an AIHce Students and Young Professionals Programme, that includes targeted sessions and activities designed especially for young professionals at AIHce.

Firstly, when we registered we signed up as first time attendees and opted to be assigned our very own #PAL (Personal AIHce Liaison). The PAL programme has been purposefully implemented by the AIHA in effort to welcome first-time attendees and students to AIHce allowing new professional attendees and students (“First Timers”) to be matched with seasoned AIHce attendees (“PALs”).

The goal of the PAL programme is to help the first timers network with fellow professionals and provide a better overall conference experience. Our PAL’s were able to share their knowledge and expertise about AIHce and assist us to get more involved in the activities (including supporting us to deliver our #IGNITE presentations) and capitalise on the opportunities on offer.


Rob Paulson (left), a Colorado State University graduate student with PAL Stephen Chiusano (right), AIHA Fellow at the First Timer’s Orientation Session, sponsored by DuPont.

We met our PAL’S at the First Timers Orientation Session (Sponsored by DuPont), a 6:45 am breakfast prior to the official conference opening session on Monday morning.

During “orientation” we were provided with an overview of the conference and a summary of the programme designed to target young professionals and students – this assistance was more than welcome and helped us to select the activities, events and technical sessions contained within the 88 page conference programme! Including technical sessions such as:

  • The real world: Industrial Hygiene: Roundtable presentation and interactive discussion incorporating topics relevant to navigating the exciting and unique challenges that face up-and-coming young professionals where presenters provided practical advice including communication skills, knowledge application, building workplace networks, and professional support systems; and
  • Preparing for the CIH – An Insider’s Experience: Roundtable covering requirements to sit the CIH exam including information on preparation strategies and personal perspectives and lessons learned from those who were not successful initially.

That evening we attended the Future Leaders and Young Member Reception (Sponsored by 3M). When attending the reception it was obvious how passionate the AIHA members are about encouraging and developing future young hygienists. Within minutes of arrival, we had been approached by and introduced to many #hygienegods who were sincere in ‘giving back’ to the occupational hygiene profession through mentoring. We left feeling inspired and encouraged to develop ourselves into great hygienists, knowing we have the support of many #hygienegods.


(L to R) Alex Wilson, Brooke Best and Holly Fletcher at the 3M sponsored Future Leaders and Young Member Reception

The best part about participating in the events associated with the Students and Young Professionals Programme was the fact that we were introduced to so many other young hygienists, along with their PAL’s (who then became surrogate PAL’s). We were able to make real connections with so many other likeminded #younghygienists, and more importantly we felt like we had been embraced by the greater hygiene community!

So now thinking back to our experience, yes there were technical sessions, social events, #hygienegods and even a movie matinée that stood out as key highlights, however what the most enjoyable aspect of AIHce? As a young hygienist that’s easy to answer!

Without a doubt, as young hygienists and first time attendees at AIHce the most memorable aspect was the concerted effort and interaction we experienced with established and younger members of the AIHA which no doubt has, and will continue to contribute to our professional network along with strengthening our opportunities for development.


Guest bloggers #Ignite the crowd at #AIHce

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WilsonFletcher Best

Well what can we say, we lit the international fuse on the Ignite session at AIHce 2014. As three of five internationals we made the stage sizzle with our slides. As Danny and Sandy said in Grease, summer lovin’ happened so fast that as soon as we were up there it was all over again. After an adult lemonade to keep our heads focused we thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Ignite session. Following on from Kate Cole who lit the fuse in Nottingham UK at OH2014 with the long distance experience we knew we had to step it up!

We were all gob smacked at the talent on stage, first off we had Mr Roskelley who definitely needed his San Antonio ski pole to conquer Everest and what a experience he shared. Next up was Paul who gave us a great insight into aircraft maintenance with some great images, copy that Paul! Taking it old skool was the legend of Billy Bullock giving it some on OELs, FAB work Billy. The treat to come was Prof Scott with his great analogy of GHS amazing and the crowd certainly got a big San Antonio slap in the face as we were all stirred by his excellent energy and enthusiasm. Don Weekes brought us back down to the ground with a fantastic fantastic (F2) story of hygiene in pictures, definitely something to think about. No wiffleball for Dustin Rusch as he made it to stage with his injured foot, however he took the “UN” out of it using brilliant graphics.

Then our very own Brooke Best took to the stage as the first Australian rep, but she didn’t let it go to her head while she proclaimed she was H.O.T.T.!  The crowd loved her croc wrestling and multiple tattoos saying I love IH (thanks AIHA for the Tats). Holly Fletcher did not disappoint and really hit home what we do as a profession and how one person can really make a difference in your life. Theo Scheffers made good use of the stage to bring his call for hamonisation between OELs and DNELs, this discussion I am sure carried on right into the night most likely in Durty Nelly’s a key conference break out area. Alex Wilson emphasised the importance of Yorkshire but also his passion for science and grass roots education. Kids are an excitable sponge for learning and so are we, so lets soak this up and go and teach the next generation of hygienists. Mr and Mrs Klane brought the double act to the show and shared a personal story of hard work and working hard for their family and their marriage. Last but not least was the 3-peater himself the maestro Kim Merritt, no beer bongs were present on stage however Kim gave us a rush of blood to the head in igniting the passion for doing this style of presentation.

But for now, here is us on stage with our 5-minutes of fame:


Quit bugging me! What’s in that water mist?

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As soon as I arrived in San Antonio it was clear to me that the weather here is pretty awesome. I’ve been soaking it up and enjoying the sun while eating out at the many bars and restaurants on the lovely Riverwalk.

The other day while I was chowing down to breakfast, I was asked by the manager of the cafe if our group would like to have the “coolers” turned on. These “coolers” were fans with water mist tips that created a fine mist that was blown over us to keep us cool during our meal. Great idea and it worked. Since then I’ve also seen a string of restaurants that just had mist sprays across the whole of the front of their premises.

While being an occupational hygienist is great when you are at work, it can be a drag when you’re on a break, as you find your brain not being able to switch off “hazard” mode. I quickly thought, “what about bug control in these waters?

You see, you can contract an illness from breathing in mist from water that contains certain bacteria. That illness causes high fever, chills, cough, and sometimes muscle aches and headaches, and can be life-threatening. That illness is known as Legionnaire’s disease, and it is caused by legionella bacteria.

Legionella is common in natural water sources but usually in low numbers, however given the right conditions, the bacteria can multiply and start to cause issues. The HSE UK explain that those conditions include

  1. If you have a water temperature somewhere between 20–45 °C
  2. If it’s possible for water droplets to be produced and dispersed
  3. If water is stored and/or re-circulated
  4. If there are deposits that can support bacterial growth, such as rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms.

So I started to ponder if all of these conditions existed while I was eating my breakfast fajitas. In this case, I was sitting under a water mist that was around the right temperature for bacterial growth, which came from little black pipes (some of which had dead legs in them), and some sections of the system looked pretty old…so most of the ingredients existed for a potential problem. However, these coolers did seem to be running most of the time, and I’m assuming (hoping) that the water was sourced from mains water supply, and not from tanks out the back somewhere being a breeding ground for more potential problems.

I admit that I didn’t take any water samples, and I didn’t conduct a thorough risk assessment of their water systems (I’m the social guy remember…I was busy being “social”!), but it is a hazard that if not controlled properly, has the ability to result in a major public health issue. It also shows another way that occupational hygiene has found a way into something in our daily lives.

If you need some information on controlling legionella bacteria in water systems, then the HSE UK has a great guidance document here.




Instagram of the Week

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OK, so I’ve been a little slack with the whole “weekly” instagrams…but I promise to try to do better!

This week’s top picks are brought to you by your guest bloggers at the #AIHce…



Having a network is your second encyclopedia

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So as this is my first ever blog it will give this plea…Please read it and be gentle?

Going to conferences, especially a major industrial hygiene conference like the AIHce, is a fantastic way to learn about the technical aspects of what we do,  but also it’s a great place to meet people and to network. We are fortunate that our profession is a close community of scientists, academics, leaders, regulators, and down right awesome hygienists. But no matter what your profession is, you may like to think about building a network of peers who you can call on for help, or just throw around ideas to see if someone else is thinking the same thing as you.

Building a network of professionals around you is also a great way (but not the only way) to further yourself in your career and to help others develop their career also. Being a loud mouthed Yorkshireman from the UK I find it easy, but it is one of the most important skills for professional development.

At AIHce 2014 I am very much looking forward to building on my network of hygienists and professionals from the OEHS community. So here are some top tips from the perspective of this “young hygienist“on networking:

1. Build a network of peers who are wiser than you…at the AIHce this generally isn’t too difficult!

I know Kate Cole talks about #hygienegods a lot and yes seek out those who have been there and done that and got the t-shirt…but it’s important to ask them about their experiences the obstacles they faced on their way. So in preparation for the AIHce I have set my mind to sponge mode and am ready to soak it all up.

2. Find professionals who work in the same sector as you

Depending on your sector, this usually isn’t too difficult, especially at a large conference like the AIHce.

3. Find people who are at a similar place in your career who have similar goals.

One great example of this at the AIHce is the Future Leaders Institute (FLI), which I had the honour of being part of in November 2011. The FLI is consists of a group of people from different backgrounds and countries but the common thread is that they all have a passion for industrial (occupational) hygiene. Although three years have passed since I was a part of FLI, we still maintain contact and we now have a great community where we can ask questions, bounce ideas off of each other and also enjoy hanging out at conferences.

So wherever you find yourself, get yourself into groups such as regional meetings, special interest groups, online groups, conferences and go and build your network. Don’t be shy – just remember that there are probably a whole heap of people just like you trying to do the same thing.