After the number of displaced families on the installation peaked in December, leadership took additional measures to address resident concerns, according to Col. Michael Greenberg, garrison commander. One of the actions was to add a full-time industrial hygienist to the housing maintenance inspection team.
Debora Rivera, a certified industrial hygienist, teams up with the housing quality assurance team to quantify that home repairs were done properly and that any underlying issues were resolved.
"Industrial hygiene is basically a science and an art," said Rivera. "We anticipate, recognize and evaluate hazards and we try to mitigate them, if not remove them. That includes chemical hazards, biological hazards and physical hazards. Normally, this happens in the workplace -- thus, the title 'industrial.' With housing, it's kind of new that industrial hygienists are involved, at least in the Army environment."
Rivera said a typical IH inspection begins with a scope of work from previous maintenance in the house.
After a house has been remediated for mold, the IH will request the scope of work, as she wants to know what was done, and how it was done. The IH also inspects the exterior of the house, including drainpipes, foundations and HVAC ducts.
"We schedule a visit to the home. We normally do it without the resident in the home, so we can take our time and make sure we're thorough. When the resident is there, we do the same job, but we are there to answer questions, as well," said Rivera.
Nearly all of the family displacements have involved mold in the home, which means persistent moisture. The IH checks for moisture in the walls or floor with moisture readers and infrared cameras. The figures gathered offer a trained IH an understanding of the situation.
"We try to take a reading that works for all. We also have people who are hypersensitive to allergens or mold. If we see something, and it looks like an issue, we have to deal with it as if it was," said Rivera.
Rivera joins the team with a background in, and passion for, public health.
"I actually love industrial hygiene, because it's all about research; it's all about the health of others, so that's what made me fall in love with it. That's my passion -- the public health. My education is in public health, and I like to help others," said Rivera. "When I'm a Soldier (in the Reserve), I'm a preventive medicine specialist. It's also a way to take care of the readiness of the Army workforce, and that's my great passion."
Editor's Inbox: This story originally ran in the March 4, 2020 Belvoir Eagle.