Tag Archives: Industrial Hygiene

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.

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.

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.