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!
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!
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”?
Sara Jackson is an occupational hygienist (that I met while studying at UOW). She is also a avid horse rider and recently completed a study that investigated the health hazards of horse arena dust, specifically in regards to a cancer causing substance known as respirable crystalline silica.
Sara recruited volunteers via social media earlier in the year, and now her results are up for all to see (thank you Sara!).
Basically her study demonstrated that horse riding instructors teaching students in a non-irrigated, sand based horse riding arena are very likely to be exposed to respirable crystalline silica levels above the occupational exposure standard. On a scale of low to critical, the relative health risk associated with teaching full time in a non-irrigated sand arena was determined to be critical.
Sara also went to the trouble of listing out things that you can do to reduce your exposure to this carcinogen, and answering some common questions. Want to know more? Click Here.
Back in 2010, I met a very special occupational hygienist. She was (and still is!) really up-beat and energetic – but the thing that stuck out for me, was how she was able to pretty much solve any technical scenario on foot, without having to go back to the office and spend days or weeks looking it up. This got me intrigued and when I asked her how she did this, she just said that she had just finished studying at Uni – and spent the past year listening to #hygienegods and now all that magical information was permanently implanted in her brain.
I asked her what course/ where etc and then quickly concluded that there was probably no way that I could ever do a Master’s degree living 4 hours away with a young family in tow. She saw this as no obstacle and encouraged me (repeatedly!) to apply.
So one night, glass of wine in hand, I got on the University of Wollongong website and I applied. I nearly fell over when I got accepted, and I remember that feeling of “OMG what have I done!”
I reminisce driving down for my first ever subject. It was so refreshing to use a part of my brain that I think lay dormant for a while there, and I was instantly hooked. Going back to Uni after 10 years was a bit different to how I remember it when I was younger. I revelled spending time in the library (no screaming children!) and I never actually went into the Uni bar, which was quite the change from how I remember being an undergrad science student!!
Two years flew by, and I ended up graduating last year, largely in part to having the world’s most patient husband, a very supportive employer, and a baby that didn’t mind being fed whilst I typed my thesis on my computer late at night.
Last night, I drove down to Wollongong one more time, although this time with hubby in tow, as I was honoured to receive a very special award. Somehow, amongst all the juggling of family life, I managed to top the entire Occupational Health and Safety and Occupational Hygiene programme. Whilst my brother may argue that it was a “slow year”, I’m still chuffed!
A great deal of thanks goes to the UOW for putting on a fantastic and rewarding programme, with a very special thank you to Jane Whitelaw (Head of the OHP Academic Programme) and to 3M for their support for the award. Being on the other side of the degree reinforces how lucky I was to have met an enthusiastic occupational hygienist who persuaded me to do it in the first place. Luckily for me, Holly Fletcher is also now a great friend! In return I have been doing my best at encouraging others to go back to Uni and study it also…so far I am 2 from 2.
So what about you? Have you always had an interest in science? Why don’t you apply for the next intake for the course at the University of Wollongong? The course may have changed in name, but the content is what’s important – why don’t you consider applying for the Master of Work Health & Safety over a glass of wine tonight?
Just before we left the UOW, I couldn’t resist taking the hubby to the Uni bar for the very first time. We indulged in a Corona and fish and chips…so I now feel like my University experience is truly complete.