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    Protecting Health is NHB Industrial Hygiene’s Mission

    Protecting Health is NHB Industrial Hygiene’s Mission

    Photo By Douglas Stutz | Extensions of Expertise...In conjunction with National Public Health week, April 3-9,...... read more read more

    In conjunction with National Public Health week, April 3-9, 2023, Defense Health Agency commands like Naval Hospital Bremerton continue to provide protective support with a variety of public health specialty services to ensure the health and wellness of all those entrusted in their care.

    Public health is defined as the science of protecting the health of people and the communities in which they live and work.

    NHB’s Public Health Directorate Industrial Hygiene department is one such unit with a distinctive focus and responsibility.

    Industrial Hygiene’s mission is to anticipate, identify, and evaluate occupational stressors to advise commands within Navy Region Northwest and Naval Hospital Bremerton's area of responsibility on methods to prevent and reduce workplace injuries and illnesses. With a staff of two officers and 19 civilians, the IH department supports more than 30,000 workers throughout Navy Region Northwest encompassing 126 unique commands with 480 different shops that require an IH survey. Industrial Hygiene is an integral part of Public Health.

    “Industrial Hygienists recognize, characterize and control exposures in the workplace that lead to illness. Our team collects and analyses samples, interviews workers, and is embedded alongside some of the most hazardous operations that support the fleet,” said Lt. Cmdr. Laura Moody, IH department head and Medical Service Corps officer.

    The IH team recommends protective equipment, new work processes, novel engineering solutions and materials all with the focus on preserving the health of those who work in surrounding military bases like Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, as well as Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor.

    “Some of the heavy hitters we help protect the workforce from include industrial noise, lead, hexavalent chromium, asbestos, cadmium or PCBs,” Moody noted. “You’ll find Industrial Hygienists right alongside workers in all these environments, collecting air samples, taking measurements, and performing statistical analysis to build comprehensive exposure profiles for our service members and civilians.”

    As an example, the IH department team workload for calendar year 2020 indicated there were 248 personal and area samples collected, 248 personal breathing zone samples collected, and another 186 personal noise dosimetry samples collected.

    “We monitor a number of things by which a shipyard worker can be exposed. Say someone is welding for eight hours. We put a personal sampling pump on that person to collect chemical samples of the air to determine toxic or non-toxic levels,” explained Moody adding that airborne contaminants are another major concern.

    “Lungs especially,” stated Moody. “Breathing is so important and industrial environments can be so porous. We carefully monitor a worker and their air intake.”

    A worker’s hearing is yet another crucial concern for IH. Noise dosimeters are used to monitor the surrounding noise and vibration someone is exposed to when on the job.

    “We’re not recording or examining someone’s conversation but measuring the sound pressure that a worker is exposed to during their shift,” Moody said.

    Moody affirms that the most challenging aspect of Industrial Hygiene is supporting the complex and sprawling industrial environment of PSNS and IMF with approximately 14,000 employees.

    “Our work is diverse, include emerging techniques and materials, and a 24-hour, seven days a week workforce. Additionally, we support units from Alaska to Wyoming, multiple afloat platforms and submarines, and of course our very own military treatment facility. Over one calendar year, we will collect and analyze up to 1,000 field samples covering the scope of operations in our area,” remarked Moody.

    Although much of what the Industrial Hygiene does is behind the scenes, there is a gratifying aspect that their efforts are helping to identify possible risks to the health and welfare of workers, to determine what is suitable, what is harmful and how to mitigate those health hazards.

    “Most industrial hygienists report that the interaction with workers and being in a position to effect real change and keep them healthy is the most rewarding part of their job,” stated Moody. “While the results may not be immediate, knowing that we’ve played a role in the prevention of occupational disease a 19-year-old service member may face when he or she is 65, is very rewarding.”

    The DHA’s Public Health supports the Joint Force and DoD across the globe with subject matter experts in Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division, Occupational and Environmental Health Division, Radiation Safety Division, Immunization Healthcare Division, Veterinary Services Division, DoD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, Health Readiness Support Division and Health Promotion and Wellness Division.


    Date Taken: 04.07.2023
    Date Posted: 04.07.2023 17:16
    Story ID: 442289

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