Author Archives: deohsjob

Meet Our Interns: Jamie E.

How I Found My Out-of-State Internship

By Jamie E.

Jame E calibrating the pH meter and taking the pH of media being used for analyses.

When I began to look at internships for over the summer, I made sure to look for opportunities that not only explored my area of interest within environmental health, but also were close to my home in Hawaii.  Since leaving home to go to school on the mainland, I wanted to take the opportunity to become more familiar with the public health issues that are concerning communities in Hawaii, while also exploring my interest in environmental microbiology.  After thinking of where to begin my search for Hawaii internships, I decided to try searching through the State of Hawaii Department of Health website.

As I was exploring through the website I was so excited to see that there was a State Laboratories Division (SLD) on the island of Oahu, and that there was an Environmental Microbiology section.  Though I did not find internships listed, I emailed the supervisor of the Environmental Microbiology section inquiring if there were any undergraduate summer internships available.  I followed my internship advisor’s advice and had also looked at other internships in Washington, but in the back of my mind I knew that if there was an internship at the SLD that it would be my first choice.  I also knew that there was a slim chance of me having the opportunity to work specifically in my area of interest with communities back at home in Hawaii, but I still anxiously waited and hoped that there was a chance.  When I received a reply email, I was thrilled and incredibly grateful to find out that the SLD was willing to take me on as an intern for the summer.

My advice to future environmental health interns is to not be afraid to reach out to organizations conducting work in your area of interest, even if it may seem that there are no internship opportunities available.

State of Hawaii Department of Health State Laboratories Division

If I had not taken the initiative to ask about available internships, I would not have gained the abundance of knowledge and variety of experiences that I have had here at the SLD.  I also would not have been able to work with such a kind and supportive group of people that I did work with at the lab.  For these reasons and many more, I encourage future environmental health studies to take this risk, because it may lead to a truly unforgettable and enriching experience.

 

What I Learned as a Pool Inspector

What I Learned as a Pool Inspector

By: Kathleen Y.

Kathleen Y. inspecting a pool

This summer I have had the pleasure of working at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department as a Water Recreational Facilities Inspector. I visit pools, spas, and spray parks in Pierce county to look for health and safety hazards such as poor water chemistry, inadequate barriers, and damaged equipment. I write a report for each facility at the end of their inspection, and I give them notice of a re-inspection if they do not meet minimum requirements. I also have the power of issuing a fine if the facility fails to fix their violations.

I have had a really good time working as a pool inspector, and I learned a thing or two about what it takes to be a decent inspector along the way. For one, I learned how important it is to talk with the pool operator or facilities manager during -and after- the inspection. They are the ones taking care of the facilities, so they are usually the ones that will be fixing any issues that I find during the inspection. In many cases, the pool operators also have some insight into why the pool may be having certain issues and can often provide an estimate of how long it would take to fix said issues. Talking with someone directly and taking the time to explain concerns usually gets issues fixed and up to code much more quickly.

In addition to communicating with pool operators, I found that is was also really important to talk with my supervisors if I had any questions or concerns. I was trained for about three weeks before I began inspections on my own. There were times where I would jot down questions that I had while out doing inspections so I wouldn’t forget them by the time I was back at the office. My supervisors are nice and helpful folks, and they were always happy to answer my questions. I also had plenty of cases where I had to call a supervisor while I was out in the field, usually in a situation where there was a possible closure violation. In the beginning, I was hesitant to call them when I had a question, but I soon realized that it was the best way to get things done and to get them done right. As obvious as it may seem, the major thing that I learned from working in this position is the importance of good communication, and I know it is a skill that will be important in any future career that I decide to pursue.

 

Meet Our Interns: Natalia

The Skills I Use In My Environmental Health Internship

By Natalia K.

This summer I will be working as an Environmental Health Technician at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health department. My internship is in the Department of Environmental Health, and within the subdivision of Food, Community, and Safety program. For this internship, I will be inspecting pools, spas, and spray parks in the Tacoma-Pierce County area. I will inspect each facility in my assigned area a total of two times during the duration of my internship.

Natalia conducting a pool inspection at her summer internship.

Inspecting pools may sound like an easy job, but it’s no walk in the park. Some skills that are required for this internship are as follows:

  1. Staying organized

This job requires a person who has great organization skills. At each pool inspection, a pool inspector uses an online database provided by the health department to produce a paper inspection report, which states the time and date of inspection, water quality data, and any necessary violations. During the inspection, you have to be able to keep track of certain violations that were found during the inspection. Inspection may be very long, so keeping notes on complicated violations help me complete detailed inspection reports for each pool facility.

  1. Background in chemistry

A strong background in chemistry is a required skill for this internship, especially experience with lab chemistry and good lab technique. At each pool inspection, a set of water quality tests is conducted, which involved many different reagents and chemicals. These tests must be done with precision and accuracy, since the data is important and has the potential to shut down or close a pool.

  1. Being able to learn from your mentors

During inspections there are always new situations that can bring up questions. Having the ability to learn from mistakes and take criticism well is required for this internship, as it helps an inspector to become the best health inspector they can be by learning from their mistakes!

  1. Great communication skills

I would say that good communication skills are the most important skill to this internship. When walking into a pool facility, you need the ability to locate the right person, and introduce yourself and present yourself in a professional manner. You must be confident in your knowledge about pools and be able to ask questions to maintenance staff or pool operators.

  1. Driving skills

My assigned area is a very large portion of Pierce County, which requires me to drive around between each facility to do inspections! Good driving skills and habits are required for this internship.

  1. Passion for public health and loving the outdoors!
  2. Support!

No one is a perfect inspector without practice and help from mentors! This internship required support from my supervisors who taught me what I needed to know about pool maintenance and water chemistry. They also took me out in the field with them to learn the proper way to conduct pool inspections, as well as how to operate the inspection report database which creates the inspection reports to be given to pool operators. My supervisors were also always on call and were available to answer questions if I ever needed help when I was out on my own in the field.

Jueun O: About my Safety Internship

About my Safety Internship

By Jueun O.

In front of my desk at WA L&I

This summer, I have been working as an intern at the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). The Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act is administered by its Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). The purpose of this law is to ensure that Washington’s employers provide their workers with safe and healthy workplaces. L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) has Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs), who conduct inspections to help ensure that employers comply with workplace safety and health rules.  My job as an intern is to assist inspectors with opening and closing conferences, conducting employee interviews, sampling, identifying, and evaluating hazards.  Here in the Region 3 Tacoma office, we have 5 industrial hygienists and 7 safety inspectors. The safety inspectors are those who have specialized in physical hazards or procedural problems such as inadequate machine guards, stair railings, or equipment lockout procedures. Industrial hygienists are those who specialize in occupational health hazards, such as chemical vapors, asbestos, respirator issues, and noise. During these past ten weeks, I have accompanied Region 3 DOSH staff, including industrial hygienists and safety specialists, on field visits to discover any potential hazards within the work-place. I think that this internship is a good opportunity for students who major in environmental health because this position is closely related to the area of studies that we learned in our classes. Through this internship, I was able to learn about numerous sampling techniques, hazardous chemicals used in specific work places, and the skills, knowledge, and abilities necessary to ensure workplace safety.

What I enjoyed most about my internship is being able to complete each assignment in a unique way and having the opportunity to help people keep safe and satisfied with their work environments. I have participated in 8 compliance inspections and 2 samplings so far. It has been a great learning experience to actually put what I learned in class into practical and realistic applications! Working with a variety of different people has given me an opportunity to reflect about how I want to work in the future, which made this internship very helpful for me.

Nathan: My Role as an IH Intern

My Role as an IH Intern

By Nathan P.

Nathan at his work station at CertainTeed Gypsum

For my internship, I went to CertainTeed Gypsum, a drywall manufacturing facility located in South Seattle. I got this internship opportunity through a personal connect: my dad mentioned to his supervisor that I had to do an internship for the Environmental Health program, and at the time the Safety Engineer was completely overloaded with safety projects. CertainTeed Gypsum invited me to come on as a safety intern to help ease the load and improve the safety conditions in the plant.

My mentors are the plant’s safety engineer and safety lead.  Although his title is “Safety Engineer,” my mentor’s role is really more of a “Safety Manager. ” In essence, the Safety Manager oversees all the safety operations occurring in the plant and is in charge of handling accidents in the workplace, creating new safety protocols, and organizing meetings with workers to address safety concerns. The role of the Safety Lead”is to ensure that the plant is in compliance with all of OSHA’s regulations.  The Safety Lead does safety trainings with new workers and tries to find the most efficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that fits with not only OSHA’s regulations, but corporate’s safety decisions as well.

My role as a safety intern is risk identification and management regarding the chemical products used in the plant.  There are over 200 different chemicals used in the maintenance of all the machines and mobile equipment.  I will be going around areas of the plant and recording the name of each chemical product, its manufacturer, and the amount on site.  Afterwards, I will go onto their Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) database and determine if the SDS for the product is up to date. If it is not, then I would have to submit a chemical request form as well as the most recent SDS for the product to the safety and environmental departments in order for the most recent SDS to be uploaded onto the database.  For each product, I then make a one-page simplified version of the SDS that contains information most relevant to the workers: name of the product, health hazards, first-aid measures, appropriate storage, accidental spill protocol, and PPE required for handling the product.  I will also create PPE visual aids for the chemical products in each area so that workers don’t have to refer to simplified SDSs but instead look at a poster that gives hazard pictograms of each product and the appropriate PPE to wear.

What most excites me about this internship is the opportunity to observe environmental health and safety practices outside the classroom.  Usually in classes, people generally have the same attitudes when it comes to safety but in the real-world not everyone has a safety mindset.  Most people I think are more concerned with doing their job and doing it well, and don’t take kindly to all the safety “obstacles” that hinder their day.  I think it will be interesting to be part of the interplay between the management officials who are concerned with safety and enforce safety measures, and the workers who want to get the job done as efficiently as possible.  Of course I’m nervous, too.  This is my first time working a full-time job (or any job for that matter) and I will be working with people I haven’t met before. Personally, I hope to integrate into this work culture as smoothly as possible.

 

Meet Our Interns: Nick M.

About My Internship at Washington State Department of Health

By Nick M.

My internship for the summer is at the Food and Shellfish Bacteriology Laboratory at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Public Health Laboratories. I was brought on to help with the Vibrio Project that goes on during the summer months. The researchers are monitoring the levels of the bacterium Vibrio Parahaemolyticus in commercial oysters during this time because pathogenic organisms grow well in the warm summer months and have the potential to cause illness when consumed raw.

Nick collecting oysters out on a commercial growing site

I was worried about finding an internship for summer, and after a couple months of delayed applications I grew more and more concerned. Luckily, with some help and advice, I was able to land my position for the summer at DOH and was quite excited -if not a little bit nervous- for when I started there. The main lesson I learned from my application process was to apply to everything that you would reasonably be able to do and to get started on your application materials like your resume and cover letters early so as to expedite the application processes.

From what I have experienced so far at the lab, I can already tell that this will be an extremely beneficial and impactful experience for me. This is especially true because I do not know exactly what I would like to pursue after graduation, and being in an environment in my field with people from all different backgrounds is a great learning opportunity for me. Most everyone I have talked to is very willing and eager to answer my questions, tell me about their own careers and interests, as well as listen to my own input and stories. All of my coworkers and leads have been tremendously helpful as I learn how to work in the lab. I have found that I am learning a lot about new techniques and processes that I did not know about before, but I am also relying on information I have learned in classes, which has proven to be extremely helpful.

Katie S: Skills Gained and Values Learned – An Intern’s Introspection

Skills Gained and Values Learned – An Intern’s Introspection

By Katie S.

This summer I completed an internship with Public Health – Seattle & King County within their Communication’s division. I know. It’s a mouthful. But, as I leave this organization and these wonderful group of people, everyone keeps asking: What’s next? The short answer: I don’t know and that’s okay. This internship may not have given me an epiphany as to what I want my future career to be, but it helped me better understand how I function in a workplace and some values that are important to me at this stage in my career.

Katie S. at her summer internship.

 

Skills Gained

Throughout school, I have pushed myself and developed skills that helped me be successful in my internship, like time-management, organization, prioritization of tasks, written communication, etc. These are skills I have developed over years and am still continuing to work on them. I always thought they were a necessity to have in school and didn’t think anything more of them; I used these skills to succeed. What I found out through my internship is that I thoroughly enjoy having multiple projects on my desk. I love having variety in my work and being responsible for multiple things. This is one way in which I try to push myself and be able to get involved in a variety of projects.

Values Learned

Though the exposure to my coworkers and their dynamics, I identified some workplace dynamics I would like to find in future workplaces. Everyone in Communications is committed to the relationships built within their group, which then strengthens their work as a team. All of them are very open to improvements, and they trust each other to develop and grow. I think this is the type of work environment that I would want to be a part of one day. I would love to work with some of my closest friends and develop positive relationship with my coworkers.

An example of one of Katie’s internship projects, a heat safety comic book.

Career Epiphany or Ongoing Process?

Figuring out my potential career is an ongoing process. It will change as i grow and learn more about myself. In my internship, I definitely gained respect for the Public Information Officers in Public Health, and now I think I want my future work to be more community-focused and interactive. At this point, I’m not exactly sure what my future will look like, but if I stay true to myself and continue to grow, I’m confident that I will figure it out.

I am very glad I took this internship with Public Health – Seattle & King County. I developed many skills and created relationships with many people who are supportive and see a bright future for me. I am grateful to have a supervisor who was so focused on my professional development and who wanted to make my summer memorable, which she did. Now, I leave my internship with more insight into my future career and I gained skills and experiences that will help me launch forwards.

Meet Our Intern: Nathan P.

All About My Safety Internship

By Nathan P.

My internship is at a company called CertainTeed Gypsum, which is a drywall manufacturing facility on the Duwamish River in Georgetown, Seattle.  I work with the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) section.  My supervisor has many safety projects to manage, and he gave me one of them to complete.  The project I am in charge of is to identify the hazardous chemicals used around the facility, update their safety data sheet (SDS) database, and create simplified visuals to inform the employees of the health risks of using these chemicals as well as the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear when handling them.  In addition, my goal is to search for appropriate alternative chemicals to replace the ones that are known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, or reprotoxic, or CMR for short.  Besides my own project, I also assist other branches of the facility for tasks such as data entry or constructing a presentation board.  In addition, I created a presentation board to demonstrate my project and its findings to the vice president of the North American branch of CertainTeed Gypsum.

Nathan in front of the warehouse.

For the most part I work independently on my project.  On the one hand, working alone gives me free reign as to how I want to approach this project and how I want everything to look.  On the other hand, I need a certain level of creativity since I am starting this project from scratch with essentially no template or guideline to work from.  I also need to have enough self-discipline to keep me focused on my project and complete it on time, a skill that I have struggled to hone for my whole life.  Of course, it is never too late to learn, and I think that I am improving compared to when I first started.

Even though I work by myself, I’m never afraid to ask questions when they arise.  This is my first time working at a manufacturing facility, so on top of understanding all the safety precautions that are implemented here, I need to learn what kind of work an EHS manager does.  Fortunately, my supervisor is very generous and never hesitates to answer all my questions to the best of his ability, from how drywall is made to how he entered the field.  He is also very supportive of the decisions I make for this project and offers helpful advice when I am lost.  Since this is my first time working full-time, I have learned to adapt to this new schedule, but both my supervisor and my friends have been very supportive as I’ve joined the working world.  If I am to be completely honest, I would not have made it this far without them.

Meet Our Interns: Ikwon J.

My Industrial Hygiene Internship

By Ikwon J.

When Spring Quarter 2017 started, I was very worried about finding an internship. Because the Environmental and Occupational Health Science program requires a 400-hr internship to graduate, I had to find a position for Summer Quarter. Moreover, I did not have any experience with job applications or work in the past, so the process of getting an internship felt very hard. However, Career Services in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences helped me a lot with finishing every step to obtain an internship. Although I was frustrated and struggled at times with the process, I soon received an offer for an internship position with the City of Seattle. As an Industrial Hygiene Intern, I assist a Certified Industrial Hygienist in the Seattle Department of Human Resources to oversee city-wide safety, and ensure the health and safety of workers of the City of Seattle.

Ikwon at the City of Seattle

Tasks that I perform as an Industrial Hygienist Intern include sampling to protect worker’s health and wellness. The most common kinds of sampling are indoor air quality, dust or silica sampling, and noise monitoring. Many different departments of the City of Seattle request sampling based on their concerns about wellness and health. For example, the Seattle Department of Transportation requests dust sampling for their field workers. The Seattle Fire Department requests noise sampling for their employees in the Fire Alarm Center. Sometimes, the intern performs ergonomic evaluations for office workers in City of Seattle. These are the tasks that I have been doing for the first three weeks of the internship. I am truly interested in these projects, and I am enjoying the internship.

Also, I feel very lucky because I was able to get this internship with the City of Seattle. Actually, when I received information about the internship, the deadline was very close. I had only one day to prepare for the internship application. Moreover, the internship required two references from applicants. I hesitated to apply due to lack of time to prepare documents for the application and ask my references. However, I decided to apply the internship, and now I’m glad I did.

My lesson from this experience is that every chance is worthwhile and valuable. Even when faced with an obstacle like a short application time, it is worthwhile to try anyway. No one knows where the opportunity I have now will lead. We cannot know the future and our predictions do not always come true.

Annika J: About My Sustainability Internship

About My Internship

By: Annika J.

Helping out one of my supervisors at UW Earth Day

There are multiple projects that I am involved with the at my internship at the UW Sustainability office. One of my main projects is helping to create the updated dash board on the UW Sustainability website. This project requires networking and data analysis which was difficult in the beginning of the internship. However, I have now developed enough skills to work on it by myself and even create instructions for the next person who will work on this project.

I’ve discovered that in order to make this project possible you really need patience. For example, not everyone you contact will reply with an immediate answer about your data and sometimes it can take several weeks before you get an answer. The data that you will need to analyze can be a confusing puzzle but with time and patience you will be able to understand the assignment that is given to you. With this ongoing project my supervisors and my advisers provided more than enough support for me to work hard and keep streamlining my project and improving my work ethics and goals. If I ever had troubles contacting people for the project my supervisor would step in and email/call my contact to streamline my project. I consider the dashboard project my main project since I have been working on it relentlessly for the past months. I have learned the environmental impact we have as a campus on the earth and how it can lead to different health conflicts.

One of my favorite ongoing projects is the preparation for the Sustainability Festival. During Dawg Daze, the UW Sustainability branch begins advertising for the Sustainability Festival that will occur in mid-October. My supervisor and I are currently contacting different exhibitors to see what they can bring to the table for our festival. Planning these events require me to be detail-oriented and they can sometimes be stressful, but I love reaching out to new exhibitors to see what they are doing that is both environmentally conscious and helpful to our health.