When I met Prescillia Chua “Percy” recently in Salt Lake City at #AIHce2015 I didn’t have to spend much time with her to know she has a remarkable amount of energy and a true zest for life.
Percy received a Bachelors of Science from the University of Alberta, majoring in Laboratory Medicine. And after working as a scientist in the Provincial Laboratories through the SARS epidemic, she decided that her social skills muscle needed more flexing. This lead Percy to research occupations that better meshed science and people and, as a result, she completed her Masters in Occupational Health at the McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Percy’s work journey has been an adventure ever since and includes the oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta (apparently majority of Canadian OH’s do their time there!) to the provincial healthcare system, to her current position as an Occupational Hygiene Officer with WorkSafeBC – – – the British Columbia provincial regulator of OHS.
Volunteer-wise, Percy has served on the board of the AIHA BC-Yukon local section for several years, including a term as President. Percy is currently the Western Director on the Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienists (the equivalent of the ABIH in Canada).
So here’s 5 mins with Percy:
1. Best location I have worked: Is it cheesy to say my current location? Vancouver, British Columbia has warm summers, mild winters with endless access to the ocean and outdoors. I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to work and live!
2. The best thing about my job is: As part of my job, I have the opportunity to observe a variety of work sites. Every day is a field trip. I’ve seen OH issues like heat stress in a chocolate factory churning out sweets for the Halloween rush, biohazard issues in an abattoir during “pig day”, noise concerns in coffee roaster during packaging, carbon dioxide exposures during fermentation in a craft brewery (can you tell my passion is food?). I’m privileged to interact with front-line workers to ask poignant questions, and ensure that individuals in the workplace remain safe while they do their job.
3. Career Highlight: Pressing the “submit” button on the online CIH exam, agonizingly watch the progress bar run across the screen… and receiving my CIH on my first go!
4. If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: The variety of work, and thinking “on your toes”. No day is the same, despite any scheduling – I could be sitting in a pre-construction meeting for a development, and then get called to respond to an emergency release of a hazardous substance, or investigating an occupational disease claim in chicken coops or examining thermal stress in steel foundry workers. It’s difficult to prepare for such a variety of situations, so quick thinking and being a modern-day MacGyver is important. Lesson learned: duct tape should be in any OH’s arsenal of field resources!
Also, be ready to respond to glazed looks or scrunched faces when asked “what do you do?”… which leads to the next question
5. People normally think my job involves: Breaking down the words “Occupational Hygienist” and “Occupational Health”, people think one of three things:
- “Occupational” must have something to do with physiotherapy
- “Hygienist” must do with cleaning teeth (or armpits!)
- “Health” must mean inspecting food facilities for health violations.
6. The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Have I mentioned my passion for food? I enjoy learning about how food travels “from farm to table” and how our food is made and processed. Any time I’ve had the opportunity to work with the food industry has been a bonus for me.
7. The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Respond in the middle of the night to a death in the workplace. Luckily the fatality was from pre-existing cardiovascular issues (not from an OH exposure) – however this incident wasn’t all that bad considering it could have been much worse; I’ve yet to attend a gruesome fatality (knock on wood!)
When Kia Lidster was in her final year completing a Bachelor of Science, she had no idea what she wanted to do after she graduated…….That was until she stumbled upon an industrial hygiene job posting, and, like most other people, had no idea what IH was (she thought it was some type of intense janitor). After reading the job post, Kia knew exactly what she wanted to do!
In April 2015, Kia graduated with a MSc in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene from the University of British Columbia (Big Congrats Kia – – – So awesome!).
While completing her degree, Kia participated in a co-op work term at a large oil sands production company in Northern Alberta. With her future ahead of her Kia is excited to report that she will be relocating from British Columbia to Ontario to begin her career in OH!
So here’s 5 mins with Kia:
1. I chose to pursue a career in OH because: OH is such an exciting, diverse and dynamic field! I’ve always enjoyed science and the environment. I chose to pursue a career in OH because it is a perfect match for my interests and provides the opportunity to apply and continue to learn pretty much all forms of science (biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, toxicology…).
2. My dream hygiene job is: At the moment, I am not totally sure what my dream job is. I’m looking forward to starting my first OH position in consulting and the opportunity I will have to experience OH in a variety of industries. Eventually, I would like to write a textbook and teach at the undergraduate or graduate level.
3. The hardest subject matter I had to learn was: Having a science background, particularly with a focus in chemistry, was a huge help! There wasn’t a particular area that I would say was the hardest to learn, but just the huge breadth and amount of material that had to be covered in a two-year degree was at times a little overwhelming.
4. My hygiene god is: I don’t have one specific hygiene god in mind. I have found that anyone in the OH field is incredibly willing and happy to offer their help and/or advice. It’s a very nice circle of passionate and enthusiastic professionals!
5. My advice to anyone thinking about pursuing studying occupational hygiene is: If you like science, problem-solving, constantly learning, a mix of field and office work, and talking/working with lots of other people, OH will be a good fit for you! It is is an incredibly diverse field and you can choose to specialize in one area, or be a Jack/Jill of all trades.
Mark Houston lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and works in the Industrial Hygiene (IH) Department at Sandia National Laboratories (#SNL). Previously, Mark had IH internships with CSX Transportation, Marathon Petroleum Company, and Marathon Oil Company, Pipeline LLC. Outside his Industrial Hygiene role, Mark is a soccer fanatic and enjoys doing anything (almost) outdoors! 🙂
So here’s 5 mins with Mark:
1. Best location I have worked: Tough question… My top 3 (in no particular order): Jacksonville Florida, Birmingham Alabama, and Albuquerque New Mexico. Each place has is special to me in terms of my career and was/ is a great place to live!
2. The best thing about my job is: The best thing about my current job is the environment. Everyday working at a national laboratory is completely different from the last. I really enjoy the IH challenges that stem from an R&D environment.
3. Career Highlight: I had the opportunity to work on a confined space welding project. I was able to work with upper management and union employees to implement engineering controls to mitigate over-exposures.
4. If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Being able to explain your role in the success of the company/ organization. As an IH you have to be able to justify your worth to a company. Some people view IH as an overhead cost, that provides little benefit. Be ready to “prove your worth” every day, and help to change these people’s minds.
5. People normally think my job involves: Scrubbing very large toilets 😉
6. The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Providing IH support following a chemical spill was a good learning experience, but it’s not the best…. I got to perform noise monitoring during explosive testing....The IH portion was okay, but watching the blast was phenomenal!
7. The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Fit testing for days on end… What has two thumbs and knows the rainbow passage by heart? … This guy.. I may even sing it in my sleep (who knows) 🙂
Sammy is a little pocket rocket and a super fun hygienist. I loved hearing about Sammy’s experience, especially the places she has worked around the world, not to mention the exciting projects! There is one thing that I know for certain about Sammy, that is she tackles life head on, never missing an opportunity.
So here is 5 mins with Sammy:
1. Best location I have worked: In terms of hygiene, my favorite was a refinery in Baton Rouge. I LOVED the people. In terms of ultimate living location, Orlando, Florida, USA or Lausanne, Switzerland.
2. The best thing about my job is: Saving lives, clearly. But the fact that we have so many opportunities within our field isn’t a moot point. We can work in a number of sectors and locations worldwide, we can see processes the general public couldn’t normally see and we have access to a network of exquisite individuals. Speaking of our network, AIHA’s Future Leaders Institute and IOHA London 2015 were among two of the most amazing experiences in my life.
3. Career Highlight: In a nerdy hygienist-sense, being able to implement an engineering control and having management buy into my rationale.
In a life sense, moving across the pond for a job I truly adore. How can it get better than that? Also, working on an EU Project, conducting research at multiple defense facilities in Europe. That covers hygiene and life…
Just to make a point [about how amazing OH can be], I’ve thought of about 40 other highlights I won’t include. Did I mention meeting Holly Fletcher and the rest of my Aussie OH soul mates?
4. If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: People telling you “no” or “it’s always been done this way”. It’s also slightly unnerving to continuously reassure someone that you’re essentially doing your job for his or her benefit – you understand that wearing a respirator isn’t actually fun, for example. You just have to remember why you’re there doing your job in the first place and fight for what you think is right!
5. People normally think my job involves: Cleaning teeth at someone’s workplace or keeping industrial equipment clean.
6. The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Work an emergency and assess a shark capture – not the same event. I almost forgot about reconstructing homemade explosive devices to sample throughout that process.
7. The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: Roof inspections. We all know how hygienists feel about safety…
Check Sammy out working in a cleanroom at Oak Ridge National Lab during her first internship in 2010.
I met Martin Calnin on my very first day of participating in the UOW’s Masters of Science Occupational Hygiene Program. I don’t think I need to remind Marty however I think we were lucky to survive the first week! When I say this I am not referring to the technical content of the course, I am referring to social programme lead by the infamous #hygienegod John Henderson.
Marty has enviable occupational hygiene experience working with the Australian Air Force, Comcare, the Defence Centre for Occupational Health and Bluescope Steel and now lives in the Middle East, currently working as an Occupational Hygienist with RASGAS in Qatar.
So here is 5 mins with Marty:
1. Best location I have worked: Tough question. I have been pretty fortunate in my career so far. I’ve worked in the Solomon Islands and am currently working in the Middle East. My time with Bluescope Steel was great, especially the people I worked with, however working with the Defence Centre for Occupational Health was a great opportunity. Working with the likes of Martin Jennings, Dr. Ian Gardner, Spud Murphy, Nathan Redfern, Sharann Johnson, Phil Hibbs & Co and Jeremy Trotman provided a valuable learning curve in Occupational Hygiene.
2. The best thing about my job is: Too numerous to mention. It’s challenging, diverse, provides a great opportunity to meet new people and places and it always keeps you thinking. At the end of the day however, the best thing about my job is achieving safety outcomes.
3. Career Highlight: There’s been a few however the Masters Program at Wollongong Uni was a definite highlight. It was a hard slog however being taught by industry experts such as Brian Davies, Noel Tresider, Marion Burgess and Alan Rogers was a real privilege.
4. If you want to be an Occupational Hygienist, you’d better get used to: Thinking on your feet, regardless of how much planning you put into a job, things can go pear shaped pretty quickly. You also better get used to talking, being a good communicator is essential.
5. People normally think my job involves: Cleaning peoples teeth, cleaning toilets, bathrooms, or making sure people’s hands are clean.
6. The best thing I’ve been asked to do was: Getting involved with the OMOH Project with the Defence Centre for Occupational Health, specifically basic workplace characterisations of Defence establishments. Yet again, a great opportunity to apply core Occupational Hygiene skills across some very interesting workplaces, all with very diverse occupational hazards.
Another job that has been of real interest is respiratory fit testing. A routine job you may think, however try giving respiratory fit training to 25 Indian contract workers who speak very little english, and a trainer who’s Hindi is atrocious. Makes for an interesting afternoon, full of many hand gestures, blank looks and laughter.
7. The worst thing I’ve been asked to do was: I was called at the office one afternoon and told that someone had vomited on an aircraft. The caller stated that as there was a risk for disease transmission, therefore I should pop down and clean it up. I don’t recall ever getting around to that job.
Marty was luck enough to have some OH professionals determine his noise exposure when using a leaf blower
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.
“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 www.slideshare.net/ and promote this via Twitter, tagging @bohsworld and using the hashtags #IOHA2015 #3Mcompetition