Melissa (otherwise known as Milo) is part of the RED OHMS Group – Occupational Hygiene consulting team, based in Perth, Australia. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Conservation Biology at Murdoch University and a Post Graduate Certificate in Industrial Hygiene Science with Deakin University. Melissa recently became a Certified Occupational Hygiene (COH)® and is a Full Member of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH).
Melissa has worked across several sectors, including manufacturing, construction, oil and gas, port, rail and mining operations across a range of commodities. Melissa is well versed with chemical, physical and biological hazards alike and has a broad-range of experience from exposure risk assessments through to management system development, auditing and implementation.
What first interested you about Occupational Hygiene?
Like most who work in the field, I happened to fall into Occupational Hygiene. This was after completing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Conservation Biology and despite having completed significant amounts of work experience and volunteer work, I could not get a job in the field. It all started with a conversation with a lady I did Muay Thai Kick boxing with (…but that is another story!). I think what most appealed was the general principles and key driver behind the practice of protecting worker health.
What was your first job in Occupational Hygiene?
I was a contract Occupational Hygiene Technician at Alcoa Wagerup refinery.
What does your job involve now?
As a senior consultant, I get to scope, quote, manage and do all manner of Occupational Hygiene projects. They may entail some or all of site walkthroughs, facilitated risk workshops and assessments, statistical analysis and data interpretation, health and hygiene risk management plans, developing monitoring programmes, conducting monitoring and on-site assessments, writing reports, coaching/mentoring junior staff and clients, delivering training, PPE fit testing and more.
Why is Occupational Hygiene important?
To ensure that people’s health is not compromised or harmed in the course of their work. All workers deserve to go home safely and in good health today, tomorrow and at the end of their career!
What do you enjoy most about Occupational Hygiene?
I enjoy the variety that comes with it such as working both in the field and in the office, getting to work with a variety of people from the shop floor through to upper management and more importantly the science behind it! As a consultant, I get to work across different industries, with different clients, on different sites and projects. I have been to many an interesting place. There is never a dull moment!
What are some of the interesting projects you have worked on?
I have worked on several projects near to Wittenoom for those familiar with asbestos and the tragedies that mining and subsequent use of it brought to thousands of workers and their families. I have done extensive asbestos/asbestiform mineral exposure risk assessments for pending and actual activities from qualitative/semi-quantitative risk assessments, through to quantitative risk assessments involving both soil sampling and airborne fibre sampling. Some of the work required I go up in a helicopter (multiple times) and I consider myself so lucky in seeing some remote and magnificent scenery!
A recent stand out and interesting job (for entirely different reasons) involved chlorine gas risk assessments in a poultry processing facility. A dead and defeathered chook on an overhead conveyor line slipped off, went flying (mind the pun) and narrowly avoided making contact with my noggin …landing just in front of me (I thank the Lord I didn’t walk through a second earlier!). These are just some examples … I have had so many memorable moments – working in tug boats, on trains, around jet aircraft….I’ve got to press the blast button in open pits, hold gold bars in gold rooms…I have been fortunate enough to have worked on many an interesting project!
What is your advice for aspiring Occupational Hygienists or anyone working towards Certified Occupational Hygienist certification?
Do not give up! Get the work experience, expand your network, find a great mentor/s, and make the most of any opportunity to learn.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Watch a great thriller! I do love to wine and dine and so also try to keep reasonably active. And absolutely love my yin yoga every Saturday and Sunday morning!
What is your favourite Movie?
I have many! Recent-ish ones that have stuck with me include the ‘Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, ‘Into the Wild’, and ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’.
What is your favourite Band/Music?
I have many! I like any genre besides metal/heavy metal. Really enjoying Ocean Alley at present.
One person you’d like to have over for dinner?
Kitty Flanagan. I think she would be an absolute hoot!
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