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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 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.