Breathe Freely

On the evening of 28 April, Workers’ Memorial Day, the Breathe Freely initiative, which aims to raise awareness of respiratory disease in the construction industry, was launched at a reception at the Merchant Taylor’s Hall in London. The room was packed with 140 people, mainly representatives from the Construction industry.

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Breathe Freely is a collaborative initiative led by BOHS in partnership with key organisations within the construction industry. It will provide guidance, tools and resources that facilitate the recognition, evaluation and control of workplace exposures leading to the implementation of a recognised management standard. The aim is not just to raise awareness of the problem but also to effect action by providing practical solutions through sharing of best practice and encouraging implementation of effective exposure control.

Exposure to hazardous substances that can cause respiratory disease is a serious, but often unappreciated, risk for construction workers. However, the number of workers affected can be reduced dramatically if employers adopt good practice and introduce appropriate, cost effective, control measures.  The BOHS led Breathe Freely campaign will be a major step forward in highlighting both the risks and, very importantly, the measures that can be used to minimise them. Diamond Environmental is proud to be a supporter of the initiative

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IOHA 2015

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A couple of weeks ago I was in London attending the 10th International Scientific Conference of the International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA) organised by the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS). The conference was held in lieu of he usual annual BOHS Conference that normally takes place that time of the year. It was a step upwards with double the number of delegates who came to London from all parts of the world. It was a packed programme with sessions starting most days at 8 a.m. and not finishing until well after 6 p.m. The organisers also managed to schedule in three technical tours – behind the scenes at the National History Museum, the London Tube and Tower Bridge -which proved to be very popular.

With parallel sessions taking place for most of the conference it was impossible to see everything. But sessions I attended and enjoyed included the workshop on noise control, the sessions on risk communication, construction, career development, the presentation by the IOHA award winner, Noel Tressidor (he only occupational hygienists to tour with the Beatles!), and the highly entertaining (as usual!) Ignite session.

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Highlights for me included the Keynote presentations by Professor Paul Dolan and Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, who were both, in different ways, very entertaining and brought us different, non-occupational hygiene, perspectives. They made me think about how some of the concepts and ideas they told us about could be applied to the practice of preventing ill-health at work. That isn’t to say that the other keynote speakers from fields more closely linked to occupational hygiene weren’t good! They were all of a high standard and brought us up to date on some key issues in toxicology, risk communication and risk management in practice. Similarly the scientific sessions and workshops allowed delegates to hear about some important developments in the field and discuss ideas on how to take the science and practice of occupational hygiene forward in the 21st Century. But I think it is also important to look beyond the boundaries of our own domain. We can learn from psychologists, economists, experts in communication and others to give us new ideas and help us to develop fresh approaches.

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On the Tuesday night the BOHS also launched their initiative aimed at increasing awareness and reducing respiratory disease in the construction industry and to tie in with that there was an excellent Keynote by Steve Hails, the Director of heath and safety for the Crossrail project.

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Although learning from the formal sessions is important, so are the informal discussions that take place outside during the breaks, mealtimes and socials and other “free time”. Conferences are a great opportunity for networking – to meet old friends and make new connections.

The social side of the conference was excellent too. With receptions hosted by sponsors on both the Monday and Tuesday evenings. Plus the Monopoly themed Conference Dinner on the Wednesday – with a fun casino, photo booth and karaoke band to prove that occupational hygienists can relax and enjoy themselves too!

It was an educational, enjoyable but exhausting four days. It took me several days to recover!

All photographs are by Teresa O’Neill Photography

BOHS Conference 2014

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I’ve just about recovered from attending this year’s BOHS (British Occupational Hygiene Society) Conference that took place in the Hilton Nottingham on Tuesday to Thursday last week. In fact, the conference effectively started on Monday for me as like the last few years, I was running a Diploma exam “taster” day as one of the Professional Development Courses that take place the day before the Conference officially starts.

As usual, there was lots of good interesting Keynotes, workshops and technical sessions. And it was difficult to choose which of the parallel sessions to attend. A record attendance too.

The Conference started with the Warner Lecture which this year was given by Major Phil Ashby. It was quite different from previous years as it wasn’t specifically about occupational hygiene/ Instead he recounted his experiences as a United Nations peacekeeper in Sierra Leone where, together with a small group of comrades, he had to evade capture by rebels by trekking through hostile country. A truly inspirational story.

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One of the key points he made was

“There’s no high to be had greater than the thought that you’ve been able to make a difference”

And making a difference is one of the most important challenges facing occupational hygienists today. Over the next 12 months BOHS will be trying to do more to make people more aware of the risks to health faced by workers due to their exposure to dusts, chemicals and other hazardous agents associated with their work, and, most importantly, to persuade them to do more to control them.

Major Ashby was followed by Professor John Cherrie, the recipient of the Society’s prestigious Bedford Medal. His talk, entitled  “Get a Life” discussed the concept of the “exposome” – the exposure profile experienced by an individual over their lifetime. He looked at how new technology including relatively inexpensive sensors and “the Internet of things” can be used to help evaluate exposure in different contexts. The slides from his presentation are available on Slideshare

He raised some interesting points – some of them quite controversial – and certainly provided some food for thought.

I also enjoyed the keynotes by former IOSH President Gerard Hand and Professor Tom Cox of Birkbeck University. Gerard had a very entertaining style relying on humour and personality to make some important points about how to conduct risk assessments in the real world. He particularly stressed the point about getting out into the workplace and talking to the people who do the job. Professor Cox made a very persuasive case for the importance of human factors and psychosocial risks in the workplace.

There was a very comprehensive programme of presentations on current research, case studies and workshops run in parallel sessions. The overall standard was very high and the only problem was that I often wanted to be in more than one place at one time.

And as usual the conference presented a great opportunity for network with delegates from all over the UK and from overseas.

Occupational Hygiene in a Changing World

A few weeks ago I had my first experience of delivering a webinar. Although I spend a lot of my time teaching face to face, and have regularly run telephone/web tutorials with small groups of students, I’ve never given a presentation over the Internet to a larger group.

I’d decided I’d like to give it a try as a way of engaging with BOHS members based overseas as part of the “tour of the Regions” that’s one of the responsibilities of the BOHS President Elect. Meeting members all over the country has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of being President Elect. But I was conscious that we have a significant number of members who live outside the UK and I wanted to find a way to engage with them too. So we thought we’d give the webinar a try.

I took as my theme “Occupational Hygiene in a Changing World” examining some of the major economic and cultural developments and giving a personal view of how they are affecting the occupational hygiene profession and how we might need to respond. These included

  • the impacts of globalisation
  • the changing world of work and the impacts on occupational health
  • emerging issues in occupational health and hygiene
  • new causes of traditional problems

I felt that the webinars went well and we’re intending to run it again in April after the BOHS Conference. And I hope that this will be the beginning of a series webinars on topics that will appeal to members in the UK and overseas.

BOHS Conference 2013

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I’ve just about recovered from attending this year’s BOHS (British Occupational Hygiene Society) Conference that took place in the Hilton Hotel Manchester on Tuesday to Thursday last week. In fact, the conference effectively started on Monday for me as like the last few years, I was running a Diploma exam “taster” day as one of the Professional Development Courses that take place the day before the Conference officially starts.

As usual, there was lots of good interesting Keynotes, workshops and technical sessions. And it was difficult to choose which of the parallel sessions to attend.

The highlights for me were the opening Warner Lecture given by Dr Tim Marsh- ‘The person in health and safety: unpredictable but usually in a reasonably predictable way’, the keynote lecture by Dr Lesley Rushton of Imperial College School of Medicine on ‘Estimating the burden of occupational cancer: first steps to prevention’, the Ignite session of short lectures and the debate on Austerity, Recession & Regulatory Reform
Negotiating the Minefield in Pursuit of the Mission
on the final morning.

I was busy too, helping to facilitate the workshop on increasing the profile of BOHS in the media – Raising our exposure levels: putting occupational hygiene on the map –  and also running a workshop on Presentation Design on the final afternoon. And Diamond Environmental had a stand in the exhibition.

I’m going to be reporting on some of these highlights in future posts.

Like me, everyone I spoke to commented on how much they’d enjoyed the conference. I’m looking forward to next years conference that takes place in Nottingham.

BOHS granted Royal Charter

I’m reproducing below a press release from the BOHS.

Being granted a Royal Charter is a tremendous step forward for the Society.  It should, lead to more recognition and credibility for the profession of occupational hygiene.

HM Queen approves Grant of Royal Charter for BOHS

Published: 18/10/2012 12:04:15

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) is delighted to announce that Her Majesty the Queen has approved the grant of the Royal Charter to the Society, in recognition of its unique and preeminent role as the body representing the scientific discipline and profession of occupational hygiene in the United Kingdom.

The Royal Charter also grants the right to BOHS, through its Faculty of Occupational Hygiene, to award the status of ‘Chartered Occupational Hygienist’ to those practising members of the Faculty, qualified at the highest level of Diploma of Professional Competence in Occupational Hygiene.

Steve Perkins, Chief Executive of BOHS says “We are immensely proud to have been awarded the Royal Charter, which gives resounding affirmation to the expertise, qualifications and competence of BOHS and its members, and the significant public benefit they provide.”

Founded in 1953, BOHS is both a professional organisation, representing occupational hygienists, and a learned body, promoting professional and public awareness of occupational hygiene and the underpinning medical, scientific and engineering issues.

Bob Rajan OBE, BOHS President states “The aim of BOHS is to reduce work-related ill-health and the social and financial burden it causes. We are confident that a Royal Charter will be an asset to us in our continued efforts to raise the profile of occupational health risk management and of the crucial preventative role of occupational hygiene.”
For further press information, please contact:

Sharon Brunt, Communications and Marketing Manager

Email: sharon.brunt@bohs.org

Tel: 01332 250703

Science and advocacy – Should BOHS become a campaigning organisation?

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Two of the key strategic objectives of BOHS are to

  • Raise awareness of occupational hygiene
  • Increase the visibility and influence of the Society

Traditionally we have concentrated on promoting research and discussion, publicising the science and good practice and encouraging education. As an organisation we aim to be impartial and trustworthy and it is important to members that our position is evidence-based, rational and objective. We have never been involved in political campaigning and lobbying but have concentrated on promoting the science and principles of occupational hygiene.

However, in recent years occupational hygiene, and health and safety generally, have become increasingly threatened by a number of developments that have taken place recently in the UK, including:

  • A general atmosphere, cultivated by the media, that is antagonistic towards “elf and safety”;
  • A Coalition Government that continues to press forward with its austerity and deregulatory agenda across business and employment;
  • An attitude in Government circles, despite the findings of the Lofstedt report, that health and safety places unnecessary burdens on industry;
  • The Prime Minister’s recent comments about the need to ‘kill off the health & safety culture for good’; and
  • Cutbacks at HSE which are likely to have implications on regulation and enforcement.

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Picture source; HSE

If we are to achieve our strategic objectives against this backdrop, we need to consider the most effective ways to influence policymakers and other key stakeholders. To canvas  members’ views on this, I’ll be running a workshop at the BOHS Conference in Cardiff with Tracey Boyle, BOHS Honorary Secretary, on behalf of Council.

The aims of the workshop will be to explore;

1. The types of issues on which BOHS should consider becoming a more active, campaigning organisation.

2. The key stakeholders we need to influence.

3. The approaches we could adopt.

We have invited two external speakers,

who will be relating their experiences of campaigning and lobbying. But the majority of the time will be devoted to syndicate group discussions to canvas the opinions of members and generate some ideas. The findings and conclusions will be presented to BOHS Council.

The workshop will be taking place on the Wednesday morning, starting bright and early at 8:30