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Ikwon J: The Role of the Industrial Hygiene Intern

The Role of the Industrial Hygiene Intern

By Ikwon J.

Ikwon in his personal protective equipment (PPE)

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), industrial hygienists use monitoring and analytical methods to measure worker exposure from environmental hazards and apply strategies including engineering, work practice controls, and other methods to control potential health hazards. This description describes the exact tasks I am performing as the Industrial Hygiene (IH) intern for the City of Seattle.

Primary tasks as the IH intern include understanding the exposure of workers to environmental hazards such as noise, air, or dust. First, a goal of noise monitoring is to prevent hearing loss of workers because extensive exposure to loud noises can negatively affect hearing and may cause hearing loss. Therefore, IH personnel try to reduce the exposure to protect hearing of workers.

Second, air monitoring is conducted, mostly for office workers because they spend eight to ten hours in offices every day. Therefore, poor indoor air quality can be very hazardous. For example, the presence of molds, high concentration of carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, and dust can be issues regarding indoor air quality. Thus, the industrial hygienist uses analytical methods to detect health hazards in air and applies methods to improve indoor air quality to promote health of office workers.

Lastly, dust sampling may be conducted for indoor air quality for office workers, but it is more focused on protecting construction workers. For instance, silica dust is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other materials and is classified as the human lung carcinogen. Because silica dust is very dangerous and commonly exists in many construction sites, IH personnel monitor silica exposure of workers, and they apply control methods to reduce health hazards.

After the sampling, the industrial hygienist writes a report about findings from the samplings and recommendations to protect health of workers from environmental hazards in work sites. The recommendations may include an engineering control to remove a source of hazard or advising safer work practices.

In conclusion, the Industrial Hygiene tasks are a mixture of field work and office work. On some days, the industrial hygienist conducts sampling and monitoring in the field, but some days they need to stay at in their offices to write reports and perform office tasks as the industrial hygienist. Because the tasks are well balanced between field and office, the career of industrial hygienist is interesting and enjoyable.

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.