BOHS Conference 2014

image

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.

image

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.

Advertisements

Communicating Science

I spent last week in Ireland. The main purpose of my visit was to attend the annual conference of the Occupational Hygiene Society of Ireland in Portlaoise.   The theme of the Conference was “How well do we communicate” and one of the highlights was the talk by Fergus McAuliffe, an Environmental Scientist from University College Cork.  Fergus won the International  “Fame Lab” competition last year and was a speaker at the TEDX Ireland conference in Dublin.

His talk was about communicating science, with particular reference to presentations. The key points were :

  • Don’t try to cover too much
  • Use appropriate language for the target audience – “word down” (i.e. use simple language)
  • Use a logical structure
  • Use Powerpoint wisely – concentrate on good quality visuals
  • Deliver with passion – people remember what they feel

There was some overlap with my own presentation on “Presentation Design” but I’m glad to say that both of us were “singing from the same hymn sheet” and delivered consistent messages

BOHS Conference 2013

image

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 Conference – Nanotechnology

I’ve allocated this week for catching up on reports, but I’ve also spent a bit of time reading through the notes I made at BOHS Conference in Harrogate a few weeks ago.

One of the sessions I attended was devoted to nanotechnology.  This is a fast developing area, although as it is generally still very much in the R & D phase, I guess most occupational hygienists haven’t had much involvement with it yet – I certainly haven’t – but as we’re likely to see more production processes coming on line in the not too distant future its important to keep abreast of developments.

The first presentation was a keynote address from John Hulme, a safety adviser at Cambridge University. A lot of research work on nanotechnology takes place at the University so he has had to work with the research scientists to ensure the risk are assessed and controlled. This isn’t easy when we’re not certain about the hazards and risks associated with nanoparticles. John gave a good overview of the state of knowledge. Some of the key points I noted were:

  • over 1000 consumer products already contain nanoparticles
  • nano-particles are not new – they’ve been around for a long time – there are natural sources (e.g. forest fires, wood stoves, volcanoes) and some “old” technology creates them (e.g. carbon black, traffic exhaust fume, welding fume, plastic fume)
  • the small size of nanoparticles means that they can interact with DNA
  • nanoparticles have a very high surface area to volume ratio and have highly reactive surfaces which can increase their toxicity
  • nano-particles can pass through biological barriers (including the blood brain barrier) much easier than larger particles
  • the chemical (and toxicological) properties of materials change when they are nano-sized
  • as the surface area of nanoparticles is the main parameter which affects their toxicological properties, measuring their mass concentration is unlikely to be the most relevant way of evaluating he degree of risk

Professor Ken Donaldson of Edinburgh University, a leading authority on the health effects of nanoparticles provided an update on research into their effects.  Up to now much of the work has focused on pulmonary effects, but there are concerns about the effects on the cardiovascular system which need to be investigated.  Other key areas of research include potential effects on the brain and the foetus, the risk of chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD) and asthma, and the effects caused by exposure to nano-fibres

Gary Burnett of HSL talked about the difficulties involved in measuring nanoparticles. His key points were

  • what metric should be used? – mass concentration, the number of particles or the surface area
  • results are confused by the background concentration of nanoparticles from natural and other sources
  • even when measuring the same parameter, different instruments can give different results

Rachel Smith and Colin Webb of the Health Protection Agency presented a practical case study on the introductions of exposure controls for nanoparticles during the design and commissioning of a new research facility. They talked about some of the difficulties involved in deciding on controls when the hazards and risks are not fully understood and described the very comprehensive measures that were introduced.

BOHS Conference 2010

The BOHS Conference is always something of a mixed bag. It attempts to appeal to the membership as a whole and as this is very diverse it is inevitable that anyone visiting will find some presentations interesting and others less so. The programme was a mixture of scientific papers and workshops on more practical issues which appeal to practising hygienists.

The Conference started well with an excellent Warner lecture by Ben Goldacre. His talk was titled “When journalists kill: How the media promoted the public misunderstanding of evidence and why it is a problem” and did exactly what it said on the tin. He showed how the media can mis-report scientific issues and promote theories and viewpoints that can’t be justified by sound evidence. He illustrated his talk with a umber of examples from the media, including the MMR vaccine scare.  His conclusion was that the very nature of the sensationalist media made it difficult to get proper scientific ideas across to the public and that the best way to achieve this was to sidestep mainstream media using new social media such as blogs. He was a good speaker, if a little disorganised, but his talk went down very well with the audience.

Most conferences these days hold a number of parallel sessions to try to provide choice and allows delegates to concentrate on topics they’re interested in. The downside is that, sometimes,  there is more than one session you want to sit in on while on other occasions none of the sessions appeal. The parallel sessions tend to include several papers which mean that you can, if you want, drift between them, but I tended to choose which session was of most interest and stick with it.

I chose to attend the sessions on “real science, real risk”, sampling methods, PPE and nanotechnology and workshops on ART (the modelling tool developed for REACH) and on the BOHS strategic review. I’ll report on some of these in subsequent posts.