Reader’s Review: Brain Rules

brain rulesBy Michelle Coutu

John Median, a developmental molecular biologist, was the closing keynote speaker at the American Industrial Hygiene conference and exposition (AIHce) 2017. He spoke of how we can build better teams using our current knowledge of brain science. Even with his energetic presentation style and fast talking, it is impossible to fit a comprehensive summary of the current body knowledge on brain science into 60 minutes. Good thing he wrote a book to expand upon this topic!

Originally published in 2008 John Median has continued to update and revise his bestselling book Brain Rules. The book is broken down into twelve sections that take deep dives into how and why our brains developed to their current state, as well as practicable applications. ­The twelve sections include: Survival, Exercise, Sleep, Stress, Wiring, Attention, Memory, Sensory Integration, Vision, Music, Gender, and Exploration. If you have read similar type books, like the Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, some of the examples and research may be familiar to you, however the author frames the material in a fun and light way that it reinforce previous learning without feeling redundant. (See brain rule #5 Memory, repeat to remember).
As we grow and mature in our careers, it is helpful to pause for a moment and check in and evaluate ourselves. Self-reflection allows us to learn from experiences and build emotional intelligent. Skills that are critical for managers and leaders. This book provides an opportunity to practice and strengthen these abilities in a manner that doesn’t feel like chore. It is an informative light read that provides significant insight in to who we are and why we do what we do.

call for books


“OH the Places You Will Go!” with Shawn Heuth, MS.


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.




Reader’s Review

By Michelle Coutu

Radium girlsBefore OSHA, NIOSH, MSHA, before the Walsh Healy Act, and the Commission of Industrial Relations. There was the Radium Girls.

At the turn of the century radium was all the rage, this new material was praised for its luminous qualities and supposed ‘medicinal purposes.’ The United States Radium Corporation (USRC) employed hundreds of girls to paint watch and instrument dials using this newly discovered material starting in 1917 in Orange, New Jersey. The girls were instructed to point their brushes with their lips before applying paint to the dials, this was to ensure their productivity and quality was high. “Lip, Dip, Paint.” Life was good, friendships were forged in studios where girls spent the days painting dials and getting paid by the piece.

However, the good times slowly started to fade. What the girls did not know was that radium was a poison. Ingesting radium from lip pointing was exposing the girls to unprecedented levels of radium, which we now know to produce alpha and gamma radiation as it decays. Local dentists were baffled at the girls who were arriving at their offices with pain, abscesses, missing teeth, and necrotic jaws. The girls’ health continued to rapidly decline and their lives began to fall apart. Many lost their entire jaw, were unable to eat, had limbs amputated, lost their physical mobility, were unable to heal from cuts and abscesses, and to top it all off they fell in to crippling debt due to their escalating medical expenses.  When USRC was confronted with these cases of industrial poisoning by radium and asked to be accountable for them, they did everything in their power to hide, deny, and deflect responsibility. Even going as far as to blatantly lying about the safety of radium.
It wasn’t until 1928, almost 10 years later, that the radium girls in New Jersey were able to take USRC to court, spear headed by the tenacious Grace Fryer. Their litigation was followed in 1937 by another cohort of radium girls in Ottawa, Illinois. The impact of their suffering was not in vain yet, like most minorities in history their sacrifice and misery was eroded to a footnote over time. Their unprecedented legal actions lead to accelerated reforms in US Labor laws (however, at the time many of the girls were unable to take advantage of the expanded laws due to the strict statute of limitations in place at the time of their diagnosis). Their dire situation pushed scientists to develop the first instrument to measure radioactive body burdens, and in time their exposure and epidemiological data was used to establish the Center of Human Radiobiology at Argonne National Laboratory in 1968, which was critical in establishing the first exposure limits for radioactive compounds.

Kate Moore does a fantastic job of weaving history and narrative to deliver the often untold story of the Radium Girls. She does not shy away from the tragedy the girls’ experiences or the unscrupulous actions of the organizations involved. This is a must read for all industrial/occupational hygienists with a curiosity for the history of our profession and for those looking to reaffirm their commitment to worker health.

“OH the Places You Will Go!”


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 Geoffrey Braybrooke, CIH and Christine Baker, CIH, CSP, PMP.

What type of business is your employer and what types of industrial processes do you survey as their IH?

Geoffrey:  I work for the Army Public Health Center. My Division assesses chemical, thermal, and noise hazards for the Army heavy industrial base and for military unique exposures such as those of armored vehicle crews.

Christine: I am involved with consulting for military, local governments, private industry, and international health care organizations. I typically evaluate how OEH professionals execute their occupational health programs. Additionally, I assist organizations in improving their emergency preparedness capabilities through plans, gaps analyses, equipment selection, training, etc.

What do you think is unique/interesting about where you work and the type of IH work you do there?

Geoffrey: Aside from the full range of industrial processes, the wide variety of Army weapon and soldier support systems provides an ongoing learning experience; we have the chance to specialize somewhat in expertise in specific types of hazards such as toxic metals.

 Christine: As a consultant, I will rarely work on the same process or project for more than a year. Sometimes I only get to work on a process for one week. One unique aspect of the consulting work that I do is that I am able to collect best practices from a wide range of customers and share these with others.

How and why did you get involved with this type of IH work?

Geoffrey: This discipline was my first job as an industrial hygienist and proved to be an interesting and challenging work environment.

Christine: After completing my bachelor’s degree in environmental chemistry, but before starting the Peace Corps, I convinced the Portland (OR) Fire Department HAZMAT Coordinator to let me intern there. During this internship time, I asked a dozen people what master’s degree I should pursue and which one would give me the most opportunities down the road. A few individuals that I asked suggested industrial hygiene. My reply to them was, “Great, I’ll do it. What is it?”

What types of hazards do you typically see doing IH where you work?

 Geoffrey: The most common hazards that I assess are toxic gases and metals produced by firing weapons; toxic gases and particulate from metalworking and coating processes.

Christine: I see all types of hazards in my line of work, but I wanted to point out something else that I have noticed. I caution those IH staff members and technicians to continue to self-develop.  During my day to day operations, I have noticed IH staff members that have become conditioned to fill out boxes and forms. We don’t want to be the Occupational Health and Safety professionals that turn their brains off with respect to evaluating the quality of data or how appropriate it is for the situation. An example I want to share would be: Let’s say you’re are evaluating a noise exposure on a mechanic and you notice a 140 dBA exposure within the first ten seconds of that noise dosimetry sample. A seasoned IH would recognize that this probably is not generated from work in that mechanic’s shop and is most likely from the cover being pulled off the dosimeter’s microphone.  This is an example of the specialized knowledge, skills, and ability’s that we develop from field experience, being mentored, continuing education, and years of experience practicing.

What types of controls do you typically see/evaluate doing IH where you work?

 Geoffrey: Most of the controls that I see during day to day operations are Industrial ventilation, respiratory protection, and hygienic and housekeeping procedures.

Christine: In my normal day to day work, I will typically see PPE… PPE… PPE… and training.

What do you consider are the biggest challenges for an IH where you work?

Geoffrey: My Division serves the entire Army and it is sometimes difficult to exchange information with industrial hygienists at the installation level who are doing most of the routine IH work for that location.

Christine: A big challenge in my field of industrial hygiene practice is the ebb and flow of contracts. Sometimes your company has way too much work. Sometimes you have to lay people off.

What are some examples of common recommendations you make doing IH where you work?

 Geoffrey: I frequently provide recommendations for engineering controls and use of respiratory protection. I also make recommendations to develop and maintain written compliance programs that cover the full range of control measures for specific hazards.

Christine: The recommendations I make typically are in the context of evaluating the work of organizations’ OEH professionals.

– Just because reports and other communications might be technically correct, if the customer cannot understand what is being said and do something with the information, then it was all for naught.

– There is no “done” when it comes to improving written communications.



AIHF Scholarships Recipients

This year the American Industrial Hygiene Foundation (AIHF) awarded scholarships to 38 deserving students across the United States! Thanks to the generous support of the AIHA community a total of $73,700 dollars was awarded to students in all stages of their academic career.

Please join us in congratulating our 2016 winners!


Teniope Adewumi, University of California, Los Angeles

Noma Agbonifo, University of Cincinnati

Rupkatha Bardhan, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Kali Basman, New York University

Corey Boles, University of Iowa

Chih-Hsiang Chien, University of Florida

Eric Dangoy, University of Illinois at Chicago

Taryn Dausman, University of Iowa

James Fay, Montana Tech of the University of Montana

Jason Garcia, University of South Florida

Mary Catherine Goodard,University of Michigan

Laura Hallett, University of Iowa

Tai Hoang, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Shannon Johnson, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Samantha Knowlton, University of Iowa

Lauren Kokx, University of Michigan

Adam Lucas, Montana Tech of the University of Montana

Lindsay Mahoney, Montana Tech of the University of Montana

Theresa McCollom, University of Iowa

James McIntyre, Murray State University

Danielle McKenzie-Smith, University of Utah

Benjamin Moore, University of North Alabama

Oluwatoniloba Okuwobi, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Peggy Paduraru, University of British Columbia

Marysel Pagan Santana, University of Puerto Rico

Linh Phan, University of Illinois at Chicago

Andrew Phillips, West Chester University

Dana Piper, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Colton Porter, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Menekse Salar, Auburn University

Joshua Sarran, Montana Tech of the University of Montana

Hayley Seaman, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Yuan Shao, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Christopher Shultz, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Kelsey Smith, University of Central Missouri

Abigail Tompkins, University of Iowa

Mohamed Jiffry Ruzmyn Vilcassim, New York University

Benjamin Weiler, Montana Tech of the University of Montana

Tech Corner: Using Outlook More Effectively

By Michelle Coutu

Most of us outlook as an email client however it was designed as a digital personal organizer. Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Notes, and Journal Features allow you to manage and track you 2016 goals. Here are three underutilized features of Microsoft Outlook that will help you with tracking meetings, training, sampling, and compliance needs.

Using Inbox Folders and Rules

In order to avoid distraction while working on tasks, create rules that filter your email in to separate folders so that you can check on them later.

Create folders in outlook by navigating to the “Folder” tab in the ribbon bar and clicking the “New Folder” button. You will be asked to name the folder and selected a location. Click “Ok” when complete.

Then navigate back to the home tab on the ribbon bar and select the email you would like to create a rule for. Click the “Rules” button in the move section and select “Create Rule” from the drop down menu. You will then be presented with a form to set the conditions to file your email. In the example below all e-mails from Selwin Gray will be automatically moved to the RCB folder.

To change or delete a rule simple click the Rules Button and select “Manage Rules and Alerts.” You will be presented with a list of rules to edit or delete.




Categorize (Color Code) Your Calendar

Categorizing or color coding allows you to organize events and quickly scan your calendar for upcoming events.  It also gives you feedback on how much time you are spending on a particular project or focus area, which allows you to re target your priorities.  Outlook allows you to categorize appointments and meetings when creating your event. The “Categorize” button is located in the meeting tab of the ribbon bar of the new event.


Once you click “Categorize” Outlook will open a preset list of color coded choices. Click the last option “All Categorize…” at the bottom to make edits to the categories and colors. Outlook will open a menu that will allow you to change the names of categories and colors.



Emails to Action

Plain emails can be turned in to meetings or tasks in just the click of the mouse. To create a task from an email simply click the little flag outline. This will make the flag turn red and place that task on your to do list for the day, which you can see via the Calendar or the Tasks section of Outlook. Once you complete that task click the red flag again, this will turn in to a check mark and strike that ask from your list.

You can also create meetings or appointments from emails by dragging and dropping  the email from you email list to the date on the right hand calendar. This will automatically open a new appointment window  where you can enter the date and time of the event. The body of the email will be transferred to the body of the event.

Don’t have outlook, no problem, Gmail offers many of the same tools and features (for free!) that will also sync with your Android device.




Taking Control of Your Career

By Justin Klavan

“I am not responsible for your career”.  That phrase came from my manager at my first job fresh out of Graduate School.  Looking back on those days I remember feeling overwhelmed and lost, lacking a clear direction and unsure what to do.  I wanted so badly to be given some type of guidance.  Try as I might though, it never came.  I spoke with my coworkers and learned as much as I could from them but I still had a hard time finding my path.



Finally, I decided I needed to take one step at a time and hope the picture would become clearer as time went on.  In graduate school, we were taught that becoming a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) should be something we strive for.  So, I made my first career decision; become a CIH. It had some elements of a good five year plan:

  • Learn and grow technically,
  • Gain the necessary real world experience,
  • Increase my value to the company.

So that’s what I did.  I focused on my goal of becoming a CIH and tried to make sure every aspect of my work contribute in some way to meeting that objective.  My hope was once I obtained my CIH, I would be able to figure out my next step and it would open a wider aperture of opportunities.


I took the exam in the fall, around the time for end of the year assessments, and was fortunate enough to pass.  After four years of focusing on the exam I was looking forward to having a meaningful discussion of “what comes next” with my manager.   When we met I still had not thought much beyond becoming a CIH.   I was expecting my manager to give me the next step but again was disappointed.  I had no aspirations and he had no advice to give.  Again, he reminded me that “he was not respon
sible for my career”.  Once again I was no longer on a path and I felt lost professionally. I tell this story because I have seen it played out over and over again as an AIHA Mentor and as I moved through organizations.  Young EHS professionals tend to have trouble figuring out what direction to go and are unable to pull out the desired guidance from their leaders.

So what is the solution?  How do you find your path?  Unfortunately there is not a single solution for every situation, but there is a wealth of experience from other Professionals to help you make decisions.  For this article, I will simply give my perspective.

Try as I may to forget the phrase “I am not responsible for your career,” I cannot.  It haunts me and is a constant reminder of an undeniable truth.  In the end no one is responsible for your career but you.  But there is hope.  Just because you are responsible does not mean you are alone.  If you have a boss, you have a resource.


As a leader with direct reports, I can most certainly say that leaders are responsible for their team’s professional successes and failures.  In other words, if you make a mistake, your leader is accountable for allowing it happen and responsible for righting the ship.  On the other hand, if you succeed, so does your leader.   What does this have to do with your career?  Your manager is invested in your career whether they realize it or not.  By helping you be successful, they help their team be successful.  I am by no means condoning taking a back seat to your career and letting your manager drive, but I am saying they are a wealth of information that can benefit you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Another resource I will shamelessly plug is a mentor from the AIHA Mentoring and Professional Development Committee (MPDC).  The committee and subsequent mentoring program is an amazing resource with dedicated EHS professionals available to give help.  I am lucky enough to have been associated with that group for the last 4 years and I can honestly say it helps.  Having and external resource to help work through problems and offer a different perspective can help you find your path. If you are unfamiliar with this Committee or the Mentoring program, then check out the “Mentoring Corner” of this newsletter has more information.

Having resources is one thing, but using them effectively is entirely different.  Remember that quote that haunts me?   I would submit my slightly altered version of it:

“I am not responsible for your career, but I am available to help you.”

The key word there is “available”.  Available does not mean it automatically comes to yo
u, it means it is there to use.  You must be proactive and use your resources as you would a tool!  You have to get their undivided attention and to do that requires effort on your part.  Find a time and set up a meeting when you are both available.  Be sure to find a place you both can go where distractions are minimal.  Think of specific questions prior to your meeting and have something with you to take notes.  When you speak with them about your thoughts, try and avoid lamenting or complaining. Ask probing questions such as “I want to lead a team in the future.  What types of skills do I need to develop?”  Ask them about their experiences and what decisions they made a difference in their careers.

One topic I believe to be a “must” is a discussion around identifying your weaknesses.  Knowing your weaknesses is powerful.  You cannot get better if you do not know what to improve.  Use that conversation to establish goals to help improve.  Having the ability to confront those weak points is an essential skill for any professional.

leadering ppl

In the end taking control of your career is all about being proactive and finding those leaders, peers, friends, and family that can help you. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not sitting back and letting things happen.  If you want to excel, if you want to grow, and if you want to one day look back and admire where you are, you have to take the steps yourself.   Use your resources wisely and take advantage of their knowledge.  I would not be where I am today if I did not finally realize that I am the one responsible for my career.

Justin Klavan is Senior Manager of EHS and Facilities at Textron Systems located in Hunt Valley Maryland.   He is currently a member of both the Mentoring and Professional Development Committee and the Student and Early Career Professional Committee.