LANDSTUHL, Germany – Four civilian Industrial Hygienists assigned to Public Health Command Europe recently achieved milestones in their career field after completing advanced training and certification.
Completing the IH certifications were Mersades Daffer and Delphine Meeh, who are now American Board Certified Industrial Hygienists, while Christine Hawkins and Samantha Vannoorbeeck completed their 80-hour Industrial Hygiene Fundamental course with honors.
With just slightly more than 200 people, Industrial Hygiene is a relatively small career field for civilians in the U.S. Army. While it may be small in numbers, Industrial Hygiene plays a major role in preventing work hazards and improving quality of life across the Army.
Army Industrial Hygienists and Industrial Hygiene Technicians provide support to the warfighter, conserve resources, and enhance readiness by anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling health hazards where military and civilian personnel work and serve.
“We’re responsible for identifying potential health hazards in every building within the garrison foot print, but some are higher priorities than others,” said Samantha Vannoorbeeck, a PHCE industrial hygienist assigned to the Kaiserslautern area. “Administrative facilities, for example, are a lower priority because there are typically less hazardous. Facilities that are heavily industrialized and have hazards such as motor pools, hospitals, schools, and correctional facilities are what we’re most concerned about.”
Army Safety experts indicate that some work within the U.S. Army has significant health and safety risks associated with it. As a result, it is vital that employees and contractors are conducting operations according to established safety parameters and that industrial hygienists frequently perform routine safety audits.
“IH investigates any situation they suspect to be dangerous or any potential safety hazard employees are concerned about in the workplace,” said Christine Hawkins, an industrial hygienist with Public Health Command Europe in the Kaiserslautern military community. ”To properly assess the risks, IH teams physically audit worksites to determine which jobs and tasks can result in potential health detriments.”
Industrial hygienists work at U.S. Army Public Health Command, Regional Medical Commands, MEDCOM Preventive Medicine Programs and at Army Corps of Engineers offices worldwide.
“For me, the fun part of the job is going out and taking samples,” added Vannoorbeeck. “Industrial hygiene allows us to get out of the office and I like that.”
The reasons why these individuals chose IH as their career field are similar. The thing they share in common is about the change and impact they have on the health and readiness of service members and beneficiaries.
“My background is in environmental science and I worked as an environmental consultant which means I handled lead, asbestos, soil and water sampling,” said Mersades Duffer, and industrial hygienist assigned to the Stuttgart military community. “Coming from the environmental side, you weren’t really able to see the direct effects you have on people. Whereas in this job, you know that you’re helping people, especially Soldiers. We are ensuring that they are not overexposed or harmed. Even though there are long-term changes that can’t immediately be seen, we add value to their life.”
“In IH I can make a change and protect people’s health,” added Vannoorbeeck “In environmental, it’s your environment. I can’t take you out of it and I can’t change it.”
Hawkins stated that IH can be challenging but is also rewarding.
“For me, it’s the challenge of solving mystery puzzles to figure out the best way to control a hazard and how to fix it,” said Delphine Meeh, a Public Health Command Europe Industrial hygienists in Ansbach. “Medical personnel are all about treating patients after they are sick, but we’re here to make sure people don’t become sick and improve their quality of life.”
According to Tony Intrepido, PHCE Chief of the Industrial Hygiene Division, becoming an expert in the area of occupational safety and health requires extensive training and experience in the field.
“I am incredibly proud of them,” said Intrepido. “These four women display the tenacity, ingenuity, innovation, work ethic, and stamina that form the attributes of professional success.”
Mersades Daffer and Delphine Meeh received their board certification this spring. The American Board of Industrial Hygiene establishes and administers a valid, reliable, and rigorous credentialing process for CIHs to protect you at work, at home, and in your community against chemical, physical, biological, and ergonomic health and safety hazards.
Christine Hawkins and Samantha Vannoorbeeck graduated with honors from the 80 hour U.S. Army Industrial Hygienist Fundamental course at Joint Base San Antonio, TX., in March.
“They are quickly becoming the role models that will inspire and embolden more young women to join this scientific field,” said Intrepido.