This featured piece is a collaboration between the AIHA SECP and the AIHA Hazard Prevention and Engineering Controls Committee (HPECC) and is a chance for SECP members to hear from practicing IHs about their experiences in the field.
This quarter’s newsletter features Shawn Heuth, MS.
What type of business is your employer and what types of industrial processes do you survey as their IH?
Shawn: I have served as an industrial hygienist in a diverse range of specialized trades. I have been an industrial hygienist for industries such as gold mining, Artic slope gas and oil, welding, and veterinary and healthcare environments, to forward deployed military settings. I am currently employed with the US Army where I have had the privilege of working as an IH at two different Federal installations, worked for the Army Public Health Center as a subject matter expert, and deployed with service members to conduct research in in the Middle East.
What do you think is unique/interesting about where you work and the type of IH work you do there?
Shawn: In this job, I am able to promote the career field of Industrial Hygiene. I have almost 10,000 individual transcripts that I track. I have the opportunity daily to help careerists with a multitude of self-development challenges. On any given day at work I could be showing a careerist how to do a complicated math equation, using the hierarchy of controls to resolve complex exposures, or provide over the shoulder assistance with data capture and assessment.
How and why did you get involved with this type of IH work?
Shawn: I started out in safety and then I switched to work IH. I got involved with this type of work because I truly enjoy IH work. I am fascinated with how the human body works. IH is a wonderful field that keeps me pushing myself to master the basics of many fields of science. I stay hungry for more knowledge working to be a better IH. It’s a field that allows you to become an individual because you might like and could specialize in something specific like welding or be a broad spectrum professional of all science fields in industrial hygiene.
What types of hazards do you typically see doing IH where you work?
Shawn: My mining industry experience included an incredible amount of noise sampling and research. While working at the Army installation level IH, my sampling focus was mostly waste anesthetic gases, and formaldehyde. I have done extensive metal fume sampling in the Arctic oilfields on the North Slope of Alaska. I also have conducted particle size selective sampling in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan in a civilian capacity. I presently am enjoying my position as an Army Proving Ground IH working in cutting edge chemical and biological research facilities.
What types of controls do you typically see/evaluate doing IH where you work?
Shawn: In my normal day to day work, I will evaluate engineering controls for laboratory settings to include dilution ventilation air exchanges per hour, laboratory fume hood ventilation, and specialized downdraft tables for necropsy.
What do you consider are the biggest challenges for an IH where you work?
Shawn: The biggest challenge that I have with my current position is populating data into our occupational health database. It is a very laborious data entry process which means less time available for me to conduct sampling and surveys for my client.
What are some examples of common recommendations you make doing IH where you work?
Shawn: The most common recommendations that I currently make include: having employees visit our Occupational Health providers if they are having indoor air quality symptoms, to continue to wear hearing protection for noise hazardous process to protect hearing, and to follow unit Standing Operating Procedures for choosing respiratory protection.