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#40: A whole long conversation about mold

September 25, 2019 | 59 minutes 14 seconds

Podcast series host Jill James talks with American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) Fellow Cindy, whose career in industrial hygiene spans an amazing 38 years. With a fresh biology degree, Cindy was unable to find laboratory work after graduation. So she found a clerical job at Colorado State University, continued taking classes, and ended up with a Masters in Industrial Hygiene. How do you serve public health without getting into healthcare? Cindy started with OSHA as a safety consultant. From one of the most knowledgeable IHs around, you’ll learn what it was like to build a hazard communication plan from scratch for a Fortune 500 company and deliver training to it—before OSHA developed the standard! Also, what’s in the Industrial Hygienist’s toolkit?

Transcript

Jill:

This is the Accidental Safety Pro, brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems and the Health and Safety Institute. Episode number 40. My name is Jill James, Vivid's chief safety officer. And today I'm joined by Cindy Baldwin, who is a certified industrial hygienist with Terracon Consultants. Cindy is joining us from Iowa today. Welcome to the show, Cindy.

Cindy:

Thanks Jill.

Jill:

So we haven't had many industrial hygienists on the podcast yet, so thank you so much for agreeing to share your wisdom today.

Cindy:

You're very welcome.

Jill:

So, Cindy, you've been an IH for a little while now, how long has it been?

Cindy:

38 years actually.

Jill:

Wow. That is awesome.

Cindy:

That doesn't count the time I spent in graduate school.

Jill:

So you have some wisdom to share today for anyone who may be is a budding industrial hygienist, or maybe someone who's thinking of maybe expanding their safety practice.

Cindy:

Well I have a lot of experience at any rate.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). So Cindy, if you've been listening to the podcast you know that we try to start things out with asking people to tell their story of how did health and safety find you? Assuming it might've been accidental.

Cindy:

It was totally accidental. I have an undergraduate degree in biology and planned to work in a laboratory, and couldn't find a job working in a laboratory. What I did find a job as was as a secretary in the microbiology department at Colorado State University. And they hired me because part of my job was to type technical papers, and they thought that my biology degree would be useful there.

Jill:

You'd know the vernacular.

Cindy:

Uh-huh. And maybe could read their handwriting.

Jill:

And could spell all of those words, yes. Interesting.

Cindy:

So, that was part of my job. The other part of my job was to clear students for graduation, and also manage the graduate student applications. So the microbiology department had four different degree tracks, one of which was industrial hygiene. And so in helping students to complete their graduation requirements, over time I took some classes just because I was interested and wanted to learn more about it. And industrial hygiene was really what kind of grabbed me. and in the end I went ahead and got my master's degree in industrial degree from Colorado State University.

Jill:

So how was it that IH out of those degree tracks, how is it that that one grabbed you?

Cindy:

So I was really kind of interested in doing something that helped people, but I didn't want to be a nurse or a doctor. So the industrial hygiene was something that was working with people and helping to protect them from hazards. And it really just kind of snagged me. There were other areas of public health that I could've gone interesting, because actually the degree was environmental health. I could've gone into public health administration, but administration is kind of boring.

Jill:

You wanted to help people.

Cindy:

Yeah. I wanted to get out and see things and do things and help people. So the industrial hygiene, it was just a total out of the blue kind of a thing that I had no idea even existed. And that was in 1970-ish, sometime, that I started working there.

Jill:

Yeah. I'm guessing you may have been a minority as a female at that time in that part of science?

Cindy:

Yes. Absolutely. I was. I think we might've had ... there was at least one other woman in graduate school at the same time I was, because we worked on the same project together. Maybe there was one other one, but all the other students were men at that time. And in most of my career it was always great to go to a conference because there were hardly ever any women in the restroom, there wasn't much of a wait in line.

Jill:

Oh my gosh, that's still the case. It's getting better.

Cindy:

I know, it still is. But yeah, you're right it's getting better.

Jill:

Oh man. So you finished your master's degree, what did you envision while you were doing that, what the job might be? What would you pursue or how was that going in your head?

Cindy:

I don't know that I had any real particular type of job in mind. I just knew that I wanted to do something different from being a secretary. So I graduated in 1981, which was not a good time to graduate. The economy was not in good shape, and that's how I ended up in Iowa. I got an offer to work for OSHA Consultation. And it was pretty much the only job offer I got, so I took it. And spent three years driving around Iowa thinking, "I can't believe I get paid to do this."

Jill:

And so for our listeners, to remind them, Iowa is a state plan OSHA state, correct?

Cindy:

That's correct. Yes.

Jill:

And so maybe explain what OSHA consultation means by way of OSHA, and what that means in a state setting?

Cindy:

So it's for industry in the state, primarily aimed at small industries that don't have their own health and safety resources and don't have the money usually to spend on hiring a consultant. So the idea is that the service is free. The company has to request the services and agree to fix whatever health hazards or safety hazards are identified that would be OSHA violations. So then the consultant visits the client and we do the survey. If its industrial hygiene it was noise or air monitoring. And when I started in 1981 is right when the Hearing Conservation Amendment went into effect. So I did, I can't even begin to guess how many noise surveys I did to see if hearing conservation was required.

It was just traveling around the state. I was amazed at the different kinds of industries in the state, and still am to this day. In the little tiny towns, probably all over the country, people would be amazed at what kind of industry is in those towns. Some of it's fairly normal. Some of it's really, really out there. You would never imagine that somebody could be doing this in the middle of Midwestern Iowa.

Jill:

Do you remember any that still stand out in your mind?

Cindy:

One of the companies that I went into was a chain and sling company. And what was memorable about that was the man that started that company invented the overhead crane.

Jill:

Whoa.

Cindy:

Yeah.

Jill:

Interesting. In Iowa? Home of the overhead crane.

Cindy:

Home of the overhead ... And he invented it to get hay into his hay mow up on the top level of his barn.

Jill:

Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Interesting.

Cindy:

There's ... Oh gosh I can't think of anything right off the top of my head. Oh I know, button making. Muscatine, Iowa used to be the pearl button capital of the world. And at the time that I did work there, there were still three button manufacturers working in Muscatine, I think maybe they've all closed by now. But it was fascinating to see how buttons were made. And sewing is a hobby of mine, so it was interesting to see how the buttons were made, and shaped, and colored. It was fascinating.

Jill:

Fascinating. Are buttons, if they're not metal are they poured? Is it little tiny foundry that makes buttons?

Cindy:

It's a resin poured into a rotating drum. So the resin is spread out through centrifugal force and it's heated. And it cures until the sheet is still flexible, but solid. And then they stop the drum and then cut the sheet out and run it through a press that punches out button blanks in whatever size. And then they run them through machines that put bevels on the edges, and beads on them, drill the holes.

Jill:

Sure. Right. Or a logo, or whatever.

Cindy:

Right. And they are ... They can actually do colors in the drums with different layers. But the ones that I saw were just basically white or clear. And those they dye in vats of dye, or they did at that time, vats of dye that they just put the buttons in a strainer kind of thing and dip it in the dye.

Jill:

That's so interesting.

Cindy:

It was a terribly, terribly noise place, as you might imagine.

Jill:

I'm sure.

Cindy:

And then the buttons are tumbled with, I think it was little blocks of wood to polish them and make them shiny. It was really cool.

Jill:

That's really interesting. I think you said you were traveling around Iowa, the countryside, for three years. I did similar with OSHA in my home state, traveling as well. And yeah, the things that you get to see. You just don't drive by things the same way after that. You might be driving by the place again, but you just think, "Gosh I wonder what happens in there?" The first place I went into that was a wool carding facility, so carding wool. And the wool was being carded and the carding machine that was making the wool into eventually, I think it was a mattress topper or something, it was huge. It was this giant, giant room that was this huge one singular machine, and it had so many moving parts on it I thought, "Oh my gosh. Where do I even start looking for hazards on this thing?"

But it was so interesting to learn about this wool carding thing. Or you drive by some other place and it does something with ferrets and ferret farming, and making some specific equipment to care for ferrets. It's sort of bizarro, all of the things that we consume as consumers, when you get into a retail space. At least my eyes look at things and go, "Hmmm. I know how that might've been made," or, "I wonder how that was made?"

Cindy:

And I think that also kind of makes us more likely to take tours of places that do these kinds of things too. I went on a tour of a sorghum factory in Iowa where they make sorghum molasses. And it was an old, old, old plant with the pulleys that kind of ran the machines up in the rafters. And you're thinking, "Oh my god, pinch points." It was pretty amazing.

Jill:

So is sorghum explosive?

Cindy:

I don't-

Jill:

Good question, right. All those products, in the making of those products and dust that's created. It's always the question in my mind, "Can this blow up?"

Cindy:

I don't remember that it was extraordinarily dusty. But I'm sure that it's, at least in some early portions of the process that that might have been an issue, or at least something to be aware of.

Jill:

Yeah. Sounds fascinating.

Cindy:

It might've been covered under OSHA's grain standards, even then.

Jill:

Sure. Wow. So three years you're traveling around the Iowa countryside. Did the state of Iowa give you a better car than the state of Minnesota gave me?

Cindy:

No.

Jill:

How many times were you left sitting on the side of the road with a broken down state vehicle?

Cindy:

Well actually I guess that never did happen to me, so maybe I did have a better car.

Jill:

I had a few alternators go out on state vehicles. Luckily it was never in the winter so it was good.

Cindy:

Yeah. That was the only time I really didn't enjoy driving around Iowa, was in the winter time.

Jill:

Right. Trying to get to these places. So what happened after the OSHA consulting gig?

Cindy:

So then I went to work for industry, a manufacturing plant. A large Fortune 500 company, as their industrial hygienist. And they hired me to do hazard communication for them. So this was maybe ... It was a while before hazard communication went into effect. So they hired me to give me time to come up with a program. And so the first thing I had to do was inventory all the chemicals in the plant.

Jill:

Wow.

Cindy:

Yeah. So that was a lot of going around, looking in cabinets, and on shelving, and talking to people about what they were using.

Jill:

So was this with a clipboard and a pen, before there were barcodes?

Cindy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah and I had a card file for all of the chemicals. They did have some material safety data sheets for things they knew were hazardous, going to be hazardous wastes actually. But the vast majority of things in the facility, there was no information on. So writing letters to manufacturers and distributors to get material safety data sheets. And I want to say I probably had a list of somewhere between maybe 1,500 to almost 2,000 chemicals by the time I got through that facility. And it wasn't just the manufacturing operations. We had an R&D group also.

Jill:

That's even trickier.

Cindy:

Oh yeah. They were accustomed to talking to a rep and getting a sample of whatever it was the rep was wanting to sell. They might play around with it for a little bit, then they stick it in a cupboard and forget about it.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And you're finding it. Anybody whose listening to this who's using an online program now to do the inventories and to use the worldwide web to find safety data sheets. Oh my gosh, you were definitely a pioneer in this. And all before HazCom even came into play?

Cindy:

Right.

Jill:

So you've seen the evolution of hazard communication, of material safety data sheets, to safety data sheets, to GHS?

Cindy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Jill:

So what's your opinion of the globally harmonized system?

Cindy:

Well, you know, old dogs and new tricks kind of thing. I don't really like them because I have to go several pages in to find the list of chemicals and exposure limits. Because that's always the first thing that I looked at.

Jill:

Sure. That makes sense.

Cindy:

So I'm not working directly with employees these days, so I don't know how ... I don't know if the signal words and the phrases are helping people understand. But the data sheets have gotten longer. The more information you have the less, I think, people tend to look at it. Is it, "Too long, didn't read?"

Jill:

Yep. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Cindy:

I think it's great to have the information. I still don't know if it's very effective.

Jill:

Yeah. Interesting.

Cindy:

So as part of hazard communication, of course it wasn't just finding out what we had. I did develop a training program and deliver the training. And i had another manufacturing facility in another state, and also was responsible for the sales and service offices around the country. And they all had stuff too that had to be considered. So that kept me pretty busy, but people kept asking me, "What are you going to do when hazard communication is done?"

Jill:

And you're like, "I already have a list of 20 things in my head."

Cindy:

Well number one, hazard communication isn't done, ever. It's ongoing. And then there was lots of other stuff to do too, noise, and chemical usage, and all kinds of things like that. So that was-

Jill:

So how did-

Cindy:

Go ahead.

Jill:

I was just going to ask, how did the training piece go for you? Was that the first time you had done any training with people?

Cindy:

The training went well. I had gotten past my fear of standing up and people as an undergraduate, because I had a teacher who required an oral presentation in every class. And I took every class that he taught, so I did a lot of oral presentations. And then had to do an oral presentation for my master's thesis for the department, that was a requirement of the department. So not quite exactly training, but at least I was over being terrified to stand up in front of people and talk.

Jill:

Right. You were practiced by then.

Cindy:

Right. So actually it kind of got to be a how do I keep this interesting and entertaining for the people and me too. Because if you've done any kind of a presentation over and over again you kind of get to the point to where you're not really paying attention to what you're saying.

Jill:

Yep. It becomes rote.

Cindy:

It becomes rote, and sometimes you don't necessarily say what you meant to say. And sometimes people will catch you on it and sometimes they don't. Maybe they assume you meant to say what you said, or they weren't listening. I'm sure that I could've done a better job, but I was starting out and I had a lot of people to train, on three shifts.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh my gosh you were working around the clock.

Cindy:

Oh yeah.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Interesting. So what happened after that manufacturing plant job? How long were you there?

Cindy:

So I was there for 10 years. And then I transitioned back into private consulting. Well I shouldn't say back into, into private consulting. And that's what I've done ever since.

Jill:

Wow. Great. So, Cindy, as we're talking you've mentioned a number of things that you did in these jobs. And I'm wondering if you might share with people who may not know, industrial hygienists, I've always been amazed by the amount of gadgets and tools that you have. And some of them very sophisticated. And most everything you do takes a lot of patience and time. Can you maybe run through what's in an IH's tool kit or toolbox that you go around with? And how often do you use those things, and for what? For people who may not know.

Cindy:

Well obviously it depends on what you're looking at. If you're looking at chemical exposures, airborne exposures, then we're looking at how are we going to monitor for it. There's lots of different techniques, we can use screening techniques like detector tubes or direct reading instruments. There's not a whole lot of direct reading instruments for chemicals, but there are some. Or we go to laboratory based methods where we're using some kind of a sorbent tube and an air sampling pump. And the people that we're monitoring wear that for the whole day of their work shift.

And you have to understand the form of the airborne contaminant. Is it a liquid, or a vapor, or a mist, or a particulate? Actually mist is a form of particulate. You have to know what you're looking for and what form it is so you can select the right sampling method. And NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health publishes sampling methods. So that's one of the reasons why I go right to the chemical component section, because that's how I know what sampling method to use. I match up the chemical and the sampling method.

Air sampling pumps have gone from pretty basic to having all kinds of bells and whistles on them these days, elapsed time indicators, and automatic starts. But I kind of like the simple ones that don't have quite so many electronic gadgets on them, they seem to be a little more reliable.

Jill:

You know when you have to put these monitoring devices on an individual employee, is it hard to get them to agree to wear something for eight hours? Do people think you're listening to them? How does that work? Is there some trepidation?

Cindy:

So it depends. I've had very few people absolutely refuse to wear something over my career. Most people are fairly cooperative. But it is an imposition, especially if they're wearing an air sampling pump. You're going to hand that on a belt on their pants, if they're wearing a belt. And if not, then you've got to come up with another way ... I've had people wearing sweatpants or something like that, that are not going to hold up a pump that weighs a pound or something like that. So then you have to get creative, or bring belts with you. They have to be able to do their job without the air sampling equipment interfering. They have to be able to go to the restroom, and go on break, and all of that kind of thing.

So it's a matter of explaining to the employee what you're doing and what we're going to ask them to do, and then observing them throughout the day. Not only to make sure that the equipment isn't getting in their way, but also to observe what they're doing and make notes about schedule and how many times they did whatever, that they might have an exposure, that kind of thing.

Jill:

Yeah.

Cindy:

With the noise monitoring equipment, the noise dosimeters, that is something where people are really worried that we are recording them, that we're going to listen to what they say. And so I tell them that it's not a tape recorder, that it only measures sound. And they can say whatever they want to say, we're not going to listen to it, we're not going to be able to listen to it. Again, most people are fairly willing to cooperate and to tell you about what they're doing and explain the job. And it's usually only for one day.

We do work right now with a company that we do quarterly monitoring for and they don't have a really large crew, so those guys are used to seeing us once a quarter and wearing the air sampling pumps maybe once or twice, three times a year some of them. So you get to have a pretty good relationship with the people that you see a lot.

Jill:

Sure. Sure. So you've got monitoring devices for chemicals, airborne things. You've got noise monitors, noise dosimeters.

Cindy:

And sound level meters.

Jill:

Sound level meters, right. What else is in your tool kit? Maybe something that's unusual too?

Cindy:

So we don't do this very often, but every once in a while we get a request to do some non-ionizing radiation study. So, that requires a whole different kind of equipment to be able to measure the non-ionizing radiation from whatever it happens to be. It could be some kind of equipment, it could be welding equipment. I did a survey one time for a client who had a welder who'd had a pacemaker installed. And they were concerned about the electromagnetic radiation from the welder affecting his pacemaker.

Jill:

Interesting. So, Cindy, when you're doing monitoring ... I'm just thinking about your personal safety too. From your own visual observation and just knowing what you know because of your profession, what makes you nervous or leads you to do, "Yeah, I've got to protect myself here in a different way because I think this is bad," how does that work?

Cindy:

Well so that is certainly a consideration and we take that very seriously at Terracon. Safety is something that we consider with every project that we do. And for industrial hygiene it's a matter of talking to the client to get an idea of what kind of conditions we're going to find. Truthfully, I don't know that I can think of a time ... Maybe once or twice that I felt that I needed respiratory protection in order be able to observe the operation safely. Most of the time I'm not that close to the operation. I try to stay away and out of the way of the people that are doing the work because my job is not to interfere with them. But noise is probably something that is more of an issue, because in a noise operation we're out there for a while watching what's going on, doing the sound level meter readings. So hearing protection is something that we do wear on a regular basis.

The other thing that I do periodically is asbestos surveys. So if we're going to disturb anything that's friable then we are wearing respiratory protection for that.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). What about with silica? Do you do some monitoring with that as well?

Cindy:

Yes. Again, we're doing that from more of a distance, trying to stay out of the actual contaminant plume. Although with a lot of these things they're obviously not visible. So I guess I don't really know how far the crystalline silica's going to go, definitely want to stand up wind, not in the plume.

Jill:

Gosh. Cindy I should've known you so long ago, to set my mind at ease for some things. I'm just thinking about the time ... You know I'm not an IH and I think about the times that I got nervous about things because I didn't know. I'm specifically thinking of when I was newly pregnant, no one knew other than my husband and I at the time and I was called to do a fatality investigation and it was oppressively hot. And I needed to do interviews with employees, and I knew that heat wasn't good. I didn't know, how hot is bad, or being able to take some time to do some monitoring with it. But I remember talking with the employer and disclosing that to them and asking for an air conditioned place to do the interviews with the employees, which under other circumstances I wouldn't have done.

I also remember a time being in a chicken barn, an egg laying facility, where the chickens are all up on one layer and all of the manure is collected on the second layer and it piles up over the course of a year. And the ammonia smell really takes your breath away. And I remember thinking, "Okay the warning properties with ammonia are doing what it's supposed to be doing, but is it over an exposure level?"

Cindy:

You know those kinds of facilities, I guess things kind of change as we go along. Years ago I probably wouldn't have thought twice about going into some place like that, today I probably would. More knowledge, more experience. And really there's no reason to subject yourself to that kind of exposure when you don't know what it is.

I have done some ammonia monitoring, it was a hog meat packing plant. And their refrigeration was supplied by these huge ammonia engines. I walked into the area of the plant and about fell over, it just hits you in the face. But I was monitoring the operators and they didn't really even notice it anymore. And they were not overexposed, they weren't anywhere near being overexposed. So sometimes those warning properties, you don't really exactly know where you step over the line of being overexposed.

Jill:

Exactly. Yeah.

Cindy:

But the warning property should tell you that you might want to protect yourself against it. But ammonia's kind of hard, you don't just put on a dust mask for that. Again, you have to know what you need to protect yourself against and get the right kind of cartridge. Because an organic vapor cartridge wouldn't help you with that either.

Jill:

Right. Exactly. And employees don't know that unless they're trained and been taught to know that.

Cindy:

I had an employee in a power plant, it was for an industry, so a coal plant, coal fired boiler. And he was working shoveling coal right around ... I mean he wasn't shoveling the coal by hand, but in that area. And he was wearing a respirator and he came over and he said, "You know I wear this respirator all day long and it didn't do a bit of good. I have coal dust on my face when I take the respirator off." I said, "Well let's take a look at it." And it turned out that he had an organic vapor filter cartridge on there, no particulate filter at all. So I'm sure that there was some capture of particles, but a lot of them were getting through that organic vapor cartridge.

Jill:

Respirators are so complex and you can't make an assumption that people understand that they're not created equally, with purpose.

Cindy:

Right.

Jill:

So what else is in your tool kit? You were talking about studying ionizing radiation.

Cindy:

So not so much ionizing radiation, but non-ionizing radiation. We do a little bit of ionizing radiation. We do some radon surveys. We also do some lead based paint testing with X-ray florescence. We were talking about tools, so fancy X-ray florescence analyzer to test for lead in paint. And that has a radioactive source. I'm not the radiation safety officer for our office, so I don't get involved in that too much.

One of the other things that we do a fair amount of is indoor air quality assessments. And that can be just temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide. And we have instruments that to those sort of parameters, to mold. We do a lot of mold investigations.

Jill:

Would you say is indoor air quality, or specifically mold, is that one of those hot topic things that employers and employees are concerned about?

Cindy:

It is. And this is the time of the year that we get a lot of people calling us and saying, "People are complaining about mold, can you come out and do an assessment?" So the first thing I do is ask if they've had a water intrusion event. Because If you don't have water you don't have mold. And most of the time they haven't. It's just people are noticing that they're having a lot of allergy problems and they notice it when they get to work so they think there's mold in the workplace.

What's actually happening, I think, is this is the time of the year that leaves are starting to change color and drop, and the leaf molds are sporulating. We always do an outdoor mold test for comparison purposes. We find tens of thousands of spores per cubic meter of air outdoors, and maybe a few hundred indoors. These are not scientific tests, they're short term, five minute air samples. So we can't say without a good visual assessment and conversations with people in the building to make sure that there hasn't been some sort of water intrusion that isn't immediately obvious.

Sometimes we'll find that, we'll find it with the air samples. But I've seen a building that we had to tear the walls open to find the mold. We did not find it with air samples, but it was there. And we base that on history of water intrusion in the building, and complaints of people working in the building that were having really serious health effects. But we really had to get aggressive to find it. And when we did, it was everywhere.

Jill:

And not all people are allergic to mold either. I happen to be one of those highly sensitive people to mold. I don't go to antique stores. There's lots of moldy things. Or when my son was really little and we would go to Goodwill and buy kids books, I did a sniff test on everything. I didn't want those moldy books in my house because some of them were moldy. And for me it causes a really intense headache, almost immediately when I walk into a building. But not everyone is allergic either, correct?

Cindy:

Yeah. I'm not. It doesn't bother me. I can smell it if there's ... you get that kind of dirty sock, mildewy odor that we associate with basements a lot. I can smell that, but it doesn't bother me. But I do get a lot of calls from people that are worried about black mold. So we can have a whole long conversation about mold.

Jill:

We sure could. We sure could, right. So thanks for sharing some of your things in your toolbox. What's your favorite thing to use?

Cindy:

I really do like to do noise surveys.

Jill:

Kind of where you started.

Cindy:

Yeah, really. Maybe that's why, because I spent so much time doing that. But I do enjoy I guess evaluating the data, looking at the results. But truthfully, just to be able to look at operations and try to figure out what might be some an issue for people. It's really a puzzle sort of a thing, figuring out what might be a hazard to the employees, and evaluating. So sometimes the chemicals are fun things too.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). So would you say that solving the puzzle using your training and techniques is maybe the fun part of being an industrial hygienist?

Cindy:

Yeah. Definitely I would say that. The other things that I tell people that are fun about the job is, one is getting to see how things are made, that's fascinating. And the other one is getting paid to be nosy.

Jill:

That's awesome.

Cindy:

And that's maybe one of the things that we are ... I don't know, we lose as we grow up, that inhibition about asking questions. We don't seem to want to ask questions as we grow up, but that's what we do as consultants.

Jill:

Yeah, to be inquisitive.

Cindy:

Yeah. You got to ask questions, you got to look inside cupboards and see what kinds of things are around that people might be exposed to.

Jill:

Right. Kind of digging and being nosy, as you say.

Cindy:

Curious is maybe a better word.

Jill:

Right. Inquisitive, curious.

Cindy:

Yeah, there we go.

Jill:

Yeah. Also I think you've told me in a previous conversation that you are a member of the AIHA, and a fellow actually with the AIHA. Tell us a little bit about that, what it is, what it does for your career? For other people who are listening.

Cindy:

So that's the American Industrial Hygiene Association. And I joined the Iowa/Illinois local section when I came to Iowa in 1981, and have served in many capacities. I've been a board member many times, I've been president twice. Just been really deeply involved in the organization over the years. And really found it to be very rewarding. That's how we networked before social media. We had monthly meetings and we got together to share our knowledge and expertise and learn things. And it was also kind of your ... if you had a question about something there was probably somebody in the local section that had more experience than you or knew something about that particular thing that you could call to get some input on.

So I found it to be a really great resource and have really enjoyed being a part of it. And several years ago the local section did me the honor of nominating me to be a fellow of national AIHA, in recognition of service to the local section and the work I've done over the years in training and just contributing to the profession overall.

Jill:

Wow. Congratulations.

Cindy:

Thank you.

Jill:

Yeah. So does the organization still get together in person like it has been, or how does that work now?

Cindy:

Well we're struggling a little bit, I think most organizations are these days with getting people to participate and to be willing to step up to be officers. We are getting together maybe a couple of times a year. We're actually going to be holding a one day professional development conference in October jointly with Nebraska/Western Iowa AIHA local section. And we're going to bring in a welding expert to talk about health hazards in welding, for a day. So that's a networking thing. It's going to be in Coralville in Iowa.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). So for anyone who's listening in the Iowa or Nebraska area, coming up this October 2019.

Cindy:

Yes. October 11th, 2019.

Jill:

Okay.

Cindy:

And I'll post the announcement to LinkedIn. What actually got us into choosing this particular person is that ... His name is Dr. Michael Harris, and he wrote an opinion piece for the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health about iron fume, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared a carcinogen. So iron oxide, which is what we look for whenever we did welding fume monitoring, has a pretty high occupational exposure limit, PEL. And it's not innocuous, but we haven't really considered it a particular hazard. But now that it's considered a carcinogen, now it's another issue maybe. So he's going to talk about that and the fact that there isn't an occupational exposure limit for it, so what do we do? And of course there's other health hazards associated with welding fumes, so it should be a good conference.

Jill:

Yeah. It sounds fascinating.

Cindy:

We also do, back to the local section, we also do the AIHA, National AIHA has an online webinar series. And we buy that for the local section, we have an annual subscription to that. So whenever they do a webinar we generally have two locations, on in Des Moines, and one in Cedar Rapids for the live webinars. And then our members can access the recorded webinars afterwards.

Jill:

Yeah. So it's a way for people to have continuing education?

Cindy:

Correct.

Jill:

Yeah. Fascinating. So you said it's been a little hard to get people to be active in the chapter. Is that particularly younger generations or what are you seeing?

Cindy:

I think it is younger generations. We don't have a lot of younger people in our chapter. And I don't think it's because they aren't here in Iowa, I think they're here. I think some of it is maybe due to employers not wanting to support these kinds of professional activities the way they did in the past.

Jill:

Sure, time away from work and the expense with that. Sure.

Cindy:

Right. And then people are busy, they've got families and other activities that they want to do. When they're working they don't want to maybe think about work, work related topics.

Jill:

Right. So for those of you who are listening, a little while ago we started a Facebook community group just for this podcast, The Accidental Safety Pro, and so if you're listening right now and maybe you're an industrial hygienist, or maybe you aren't but you have some ideas for Cindy that she could bring back to her chapter, or anyone whose part of professional organization that are struggling with memberships and engagement. If you want to start a conversation on the community group about that and how do we reinvent that in the 21st century? What does it look like? What might intrigue you for your own professional development or for camaraderie between other professionals, weigh in and clue all of us, including Cindy. And maybe Cindy you can take that back to your group.

Cindy:

That'd be great. And the other thing that we're interested in is what's the best way to communicate. Is it through Facebook? I think we all recognize that social platforms are probably the way of the future, but which ones are people using. Is there some out there that we don't know about that might be a good option for a professional society to use as a communication tool?

The other thing I might just mention is that AIHA handles their local sections a little differently than the American Society for Safety Professionals does. You do not have to be a member of national AIHA to be a member of a local section.

Jill:

Okay.

Cindy:

So we have people who are safety professionals in our group. We have people who maybe are HR people with safety and health responsibilities. We've got vendors. It's a pretty broad group of people that can belong to the local section.

Jill:

Sure. So you don't have to be a certified industrial hygienist to belong, to be able to learn.

Cindy:

Oh no. And our membership cost for our local section is $25 a year.

Jill:

Oh my gosh. Just to be able to tap into the free webinars sounds like a pretty good value.

Cindy:

Right. So with ASSP you have to join the national to be able to belong to a chapter. So I think that's maybe a big advantage that we have for local sections for AIHA that ASSP doesn't.

Jill:

Sure. Well that's a good tip for people, especially if they are dealing with a meager or no budget. That sounds really smart. So industrial hygiene is one of those STEM fields. And maybe for someone who's listening who is maybe working in safety, or is thinking about, "What about industrial hygiene?" And maybe they already have a science degree, or something, what tips would you give them for if they want to take it to another level? What would you say they could do, or explore?

Cindy:

So a lot of us who have fallen into the industrial hygiene field got master's degrees, or maybe even doctorates. That's hard to do for a lot of people. There's maybe not a graduate program nearby. If there is a graduate program nearby maybe it's the classes are all held during the day and you have to work during the day. So there are some degree programs that are online. You can take classes online for lots of different kinds of areas of the field. You need to look around a little bit, but there are ... The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry I think it is, it's ATSDR, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control, has some online toxicology classes, and they're free.

Jill:

Whoa. Who knew?

Cindy:

The Indoor Air Quality Association has online classes for indoor air quality and mold. Those are on demand, like two hour classes, and they do charge for those, but they're not extraordinarily expensive. And if you join, then you get a discount for them. AIHA offers several kinds of distance learning programs online, where you can take classes. Those can be kind of expensive, but you don't have to travel to take the class and you can do it at your own speed. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists offers classes. They do some webinars, I don't know if they have online classes. But they do offer a lot of in depth type in person classes.

So I noticed that their ventilation class is coming up in, I think, November. And that's a week long class in ventilation systems, how they work, and how you design them-

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Fascinating stuff.

Cindy:

Yeah. You get a couple of good reference books when you take the class.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Wow those are really great resources. Who knew there were, A, so many options. And then second, that there are so many for no or low cost. Thank you for sharing those tips.

Cindy:

Yeah, sure.

Jill:

That's wonderful. Cindy, really appreciate you being a guest today. This has been really interesting. Thank you for sharing your career and thank you for continuing doing what you're doing. And especially to hold up the profession.

Cindy:

Well thank you for inviting me to be a guest, I've really enjoyed this. And thanks for doing the podcast, I've really enjoyed listening to it.

Jill:

Oh wonderful. Thanks for the compliment, I appreciate it. Well thank you all for spending your time listening to this episode. And more importantly thank you for the work that you all do to make sure your workers, including your temporary workers, make it home safe every day. If you'd like to join the conversation about this episode or any of our previous episodes, follow our page and join the Accidental Safety Pro community group on Facebook. And if you aren't subscribed, and want to hear more, make sure to subscribe in iTunes, the Apple podcast app, or any podcast player that you like. For past episodes you can also find them in your favorite podcast player or at vividlearningsystems.com/podcast.

We'd love it if you'd leave a rating and review us on iTunes, it really helps us get the show out there. And share, of course, the episode with your friends. If you have a suggestion for a guest, indulging if it's you, please contact me at social@vividlearningsystems.com. Special thanks to Will Moss, our podcast producer. Until next time, thanks for listening.