The Three Magical Letters: C.I.H.

By Kerry Schmid

A Certified Industrial Hygienist; that is what many students and young professionals strive to achieve. Spring Exam season is quickly approaching and you might be similar to me; I am sitting for my CIH Exam. The communications team has put together an issue with a CIH Exam focus. Last year at the AIHce, I was inspired by Paula Steven’s CIH Boot Camp – 30 days to a Better Score which was a part of the Perspectives on Preparation for the CIH Exam Roundtable. To all the test takers this spring, the past and the future enjoy the article on Paula’s boot camp and the information packed article on the Perspectives on Preparation for the CIH Exam!


AIHA and SECP Updates

SECP at AIHce 2015!

The SECP will have multiple roundtable sessions accepted for presentation at AIHce 2015 in Salt Lake City!v2i2- 3

Golden Seed Award

Recognizes an individual each year who goes above and beyond in promoting and encouraging students and early career professionals. The deadline is March 28, 2015 so get your application in! For more information check out:

AIHF Scholarships!

The American Industrial Hygiene Foundation is accepting applicants for the 2015-2016 academic year! Applications are due February 27, 2015. For eligibility requirements and application visit:

Communication Team

If you have any questions about this newsletter or would like to be a part of the communication team, contact Kerry Schmid at

Tech Corner: The Industrious Hygienist Blog

By Michelle Coutu

While blogging about her adventures and observations in the consulting world, Morgan Bliss takes the time to inject creativity and humor into her work. Frequently she uses manga, a Japanese cartoon style, to illustrate herself as “The Industrious Hygienist,” tackling current issues and obstacles. Her most recent posts include a series of holiday-themed manga that address workplace grievances in Santa’s Workshop and a “Sock Puppet Safety” feature on proper PPE donning and doffing procedures for Ebola Virus Disease infection prevention. Check out her work at: We got a chance to catch up with Morgan, and ask her some questions:

Why did you start your blog?Industrious hygienist_never too busy for safety

“I started my blog as a way to share my experiences, useful resources, funny (redacted) stories, and manga with a wider audience. Most of my early drawings were a “client appreciation” activity, where we would have a particularly trying or frustrating experience on a project, and I would make a manga about it to help bring the humor back into the relationship.”

How has the online community responded to your creative depiction of the profession?

The online community seems…bemused. Some of them feel that safety and industrial hygiene should be a very serious thing, while others beg to use my posts and drawings in their EHS training to lighten things up and keep the workers’ interest. Fans of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, where my character stylings are borrowed from, find the adventures entertaining.”

What advice do you have for folks just starting out in the field of environmental, health, and safety?

Network, network, network. Go to society (ASSE, AIHA, EIA, etc.) meetings in your area whenever possible. Attend every free or cheap educational event you can – there’s always a chance you’ll meet a potential client or company to partner with. Don’t assume your employer (future or current) will help you with your career growth. You’ll have to do that yourself. Seek out training and certifications in areas that challenge you. Learn to be a generalist before you become a specialist, otherwise you might find yourself pigeon-holed into a specialty you don’t particularly enjoy. Don’t be afraid to be your complete self – it takes a special kind of crazy to be successful in safety and industrial hygiene.” industrious hygienist_panel 1

SECP Liaison Sessions

By Jennifer Sheffer and Carter Ficklen

With so many opportunities to volunteer, deciding which group to join can be overwhelming for new AIHA members. During 2014 and carrying into 2015, the SECP integrated overviews from various committee members, which has been very well received by the SECP members. More specifically, the high impact overviews have provided SECP members with various committee’s objective, duties, and chance to ask questions. SECP members are better informed to make a decision to volunteer, and they have an overall improved understanding of the many committees.

SECP members have had the opportunity to hear from the following committees:

Respiratory Protection Committee  Steve Graham

Management Committee – Scott Larson

Real Time Detection Committee – Terri Pearce

Career and Employment Services – Richard Prodans

International Affairs Committee – Richard Hirsh

Noise Committee – Carl Johnson

Consulting Committee – Alden Strealy

Publications Committee – Corey Wooland

Nanotechnology Working Group (NTWG) – Jennifer Dimitri and Chuck Geraci

If you have any questions or wondering how you can get involved, contact Christina Elish at

Perspectives on Preparation for the CIH Exam

By Jennifer Sheffer and Carter Ficklen

“Perspectives on Preparation for the CIH Exam” roundtable was based on a vision for sharing CIH preparation information and support developed by a group of hygienists, including Mike Watson, Carter Ficklen, Steve Lacey, Shannon Gaffney, Mike Weeks, Andrew Burgie, and many others, along with the support of Lynn O’Donnell and Allan Fleeger, first came to fruition during the Chicago 2006 AIHce. Through the years, the roundtable provided attendees with speaker perspectives on their trials and tribulations of studying for the exam and finally passing the exam. Stories ranged from passing the exam on the first attempt to the journey of attempting the exam multiple times and finally passing. Also, the roundtable has continued to focus on study materials, ways to find time to study, study methods, etc. Lastly, Lynn O’Donnell’s presentation titled “Just the Facts” on the application requirements and exam process continues to be a popular item during the roundtable.

Lastly, staying in tune with the theme of perspectives and preparation for the CIH exam, the following are a few helpful ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ for passing the CIH exam from Carter Ficklen, CIH:

If you cannot join the roundtable during an AIHce as you begin your journey or continue on your journey to achieving the CIH designation or you would like to pay it forward contact Roger Smith with the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) at (517) 853-5765.

Also, participating in the AIHA mentoring program is another great way to utilize resources to help you stay on track or to help others to pass the exam.

 *A big Thank You goes to Carter Ficklen for providing the information contained in this article.


Paula’s CIH Boot Camp – 30 Days to a Better Score

“The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, U.S. Army Medical Department or the U.S.”

By: Paula Steven

My name is Paula Steven and I am going to be briefly telling you how I studied for my CIH exam. I was told by peers that it was unconventional and by mentors that it was a bit extreme. I am not promising this method will work for everyone, but it worked for me. I have never been one to find standardized tests easy. As a matter of fact, I haven’t ever found any kind of test easy. I have always had to work very hard and struggle for any good grade I ever made. I was not one of those students that can just study and be attentive to pass. I failed the spring exam by a ridiculous fraction of a point. I could have taken the approach that all I really needed to do was learn one more thing and retest, but I not only wanted to pass the exam; I wanted to knock it out of the park! I wanted to totally dominate this exam. This was the beginning of my CIH boot camp journey. The name, “Paula’s CIH Boot Camp”, came about when I overheard my study partner telling someone in the office that studying with me was like being with a drill sergeant. We laugh about it now, but my husband actually pulled me aside once and said “Paula, you should let her go home for the day… you are being mean!”

Want to know how the boot camp worked? This is how I did it. I started by finding someone to take over my chores (I have draft horses) while I studied non-stop for 30 days. I took a popular 3.5 day CIH Prep Course and identified my weakest areas. I chose to have my 30 day boot camp in November. I took 30 days of leave starting NOV 1 and scheduled my exam for NOV 30. November is a month where there were several paid holidays and I could minimize annual leave use, so it was a logical choice. I enrolled, was paired with a mentor through the AIHA Mentoring Committee, and my mentor and I discussed the progress I had made on short term and long term goals. Keeping in touch with my mentor was very important because it provided a level of accountability that I needed; and he recommended reading material or helped explain technical concepts that I was unfamiliar with. The next step was to find someone I could torture (I mean study with). My coworker was also studying for the exam so she was the obvious choice.

I then went to the local big-box hardware store with a pick-up truck and purchased a few plain white smooth shower wall boards. They run about $11 each. I trimmed these shower wall panels with a black duct tape frame and mounted them in a few key places throughout my house to use as white erase boards. OK, I really mounted them on every viable vertical surface and in every room that I could make one fit. I also used paper, note cards, poster paper, and anything at all that I could find and pin or tape to my walls.

I made a data based study plan. I calculated an estimated number of questions from each rubric that I could expect on the exam by using the information in the candidate handbook and other literature available at the ABIH website that delineates percentages of IH Core Competency skills for professional and para-professional. The candidate hand book provides an estimated percentage of exam questions as they relate to the IH rubrics. Using these percentages along with the percentage scores from the IH job analysis data, it is easy to make a data based plan for how many questions one would expected for each topic.

I then gained possession of some study material. Some I borrowed and some I purchased. On one of my shower walls, I made a list of things that I had available to study and a schedule for when I would study each. I focused on key literature like the ACGIH TLV book. I took the TLV book with me everywhere. I took it to restaurants, work, the barn, the restroom, the doctor’s office… I mean absolutely everywhere. Any time I could find a few moments to study it I did. The other text I focused on was the “Big White Book”. I read this book cover-to-cover 4 times the previous summer at night after work. Each time I selected items as if I was the person developing the CIH exam questions, and I highlighted material I chose to be on the exam. Each time I read the book, I highlighted in a different color. Then, any text with all four colors on the page I tabbed out in the book with a post-it note. My study partner and I took turns asking each other questions about the tabbed pages of the book when we needed a break from the boot camp work plan.

Now that we had a road map and potential exam questions, we numbered one of the shower walls 1-350. We then filled in the numbered areas with material that we felt like we might see on the exam. As we studied the material on the list, we erased the items that we were confident that we knew.

We used other shower walls throughout my house to work problematic material. Once we successfully conquered an example, we photographed it so that we could erase the boards and go on to something else.v2i2- 1I was so proud of some of the work that I refused to erase the boards. That meant I had to go back to the home improvement store and buy more shower wall. I photographed the most important bits of our work very well so that if it ever was accidently erased I could recreate it from the photos. Each day of the boot camp we took practice tests. We used software, vendor supplied material, textbook questions, and made our own exams from items on the wall and in our reference books. Once we were consistently making 90% or better, we moved to the next rubric. One of my mentors suggested that I “reward” myself if I studied. So I implemented new Boot Camp rules and required study time to begin at 0600 each day with no off target activities until we achieved what I considered an acceptable score on that rubric. Yes, that meant no Christmas shopping, no dental visits, and no phone calls or visitors. Sometimes it meant no eating or breaks. I recall once saying to my study partner “you can’t get up off of that couch until we score at least an 80% today, and if you have to stay all night on the couch doing this over and over we will”.

I not only kept true to our study plan, but I also kept a journal of what we studied and our scores each day. We focused on studying only the material that we did not know and stopped ourselves once work became reviewing material that we did know. I know, I know, it is fun and feels good to take a practice exam and get a good score, but once we were technically competent, we moved on to another area.

The results of all of this hard work and dedication- we both passed. I am not sure about my friend’s score, but I did not “barely” pass. I passed like a super hero would have (but without the unitard).

Mentoring Corner: Find the Leader in You by Setting Meaningful Business Goals & Objectives

Dreaming is not only permissible for leaders, it is obligatory.

A leader charts the course and sets high expectations for themselves and for the other members of the team.  The sooner the mentee thinks of them self as a leader, the more impact they will have on their organization.  In fact, delivering results and keeping stakeholders happy is the main purpose the typical organization exists in the first place.  Most importantly, you don’t have to have a manager or supervisor title to be a leader.  You just have to take the initiative to find a gap, or a new business requirement that needs a solution.  Then, roll up your sleeves and start outlining your project plan.  Depending on the mentee’s role and responsibilities, they can set all of their goals and objectives for the year, or just focus on one or two major initiatives that will have the greatest positive impact on the organization.  Of course, they’ll need to work with their direct supervisor if they choose to actually go through in executing the plan.  One suggestion is to categorize work activities into areas of focus.  Then, identify one or two meaningful business objectives for each area of focus.  The mentee might consider adding specific deadlines to each goal so that the work is spread evenly throughout the year.  One additional tip, the mentee should have a weekly one hour meeting with them self (either Thu or Fri) where they ask what is needed to do to move these projects forward.  Finally, we recommend that you jot down 3-5 major accomplishments that you complete each and every day.  If the mentee doesn’t get to it at the end of the day, they should make it a habit to capture the accomplishments from the previous day first thing each morning.  This running list will be invaluable when it comes to capturing accomplishments in a report such as during performance evaluation time.  One place to consider for documenting  a running list of daily accomplishments is in an Outlook Task if the employer uses MS Outlook.  Here is an example of how your list of goals might be structured:

Area of Focus 1:  Support the Organizational Mission

Meaningful Objective 1:  Keep Alignment with Organizational Goals and Stay Abreast of Organizational Performance.

Accomplish this goal by reading company newsletters, attending town hall meetings, regularly reading performance reports, reviewing corporate website news briefs, etc.

Area of Focus 2:  IH Field Support

Meaningful Objective 2:  Formalize Air Sampling Plan for 2015

Accomplish this goal by:

Inventory Air Sampling Equipment Already Present

Existing Air Sampling Equipment – Provide Plan for Maintenance, Calibration & Repair

Identify and Acquire Additional Air Sampling Equipment Needed

Develop Schedule for Keeping All Equipment Calibrated and Maintained

Develop Schedule for Sampling all Major Air Contaminants at This Facility

Develop Electronic Recordkeeping System for Air Sampling Results

Provide Written Notification of All Sampling Results

Area of Focus 3:  IH Program & Policy Management

Area of Focus 4:  Support My Direct Supervisor

Area of Focus 5:  Professional Development

Area of Focus 6:  Networking and Professional Activities

Final thoughts,  a leader….

  • Charts the course.
  • Sets high expectations.
  • Inspires others.
  • Finds a way to counteract variances.
  • Lives by a set of ethics/core values.
  • Delivers results