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

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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.