#IAmIH: Alexander Maldonado, American Airlines
Editor’s note: The “I Am IH” series of blog posts stems from AIHA’s #IAmIH project, which seeks to highlight the people behind the industrial hygiene profession. These posts feature Q&As with IHs from across the U.S. More information about #IAmIH is available on AIHA’s website.
What inspired you to enter the profession?
Out of all of the professions, IH is the one that allows me to apply science, improve health, teach and train others in multiple areas, and reap the greatest rewards. My greatest daily inspiration is to help as many people stay as healthy and safe as possible in the shortest amount of time. Another reason the IH profession is attractive to me is how many different disciplines of science can be applied simultaneously on so many different types of trades via IH. I am constantly pleased to see how much a good IH program can improve the quality of life and work for employees in all industries and walks of life. A third reason IH is inspirational to me is that the goal is to have employees in your company go home as healthy as or better than they come in to work every day. This is an objective that is not met in a specific timeframe, but can be observed, measured, and appreciated daily.
What’s one interesting aspect of your job?
The most interesting aspect of my job at American Airlines is the diversity of tasks in which I can apply my knowledge and expertise toward improving so many different parts of our company. I also find interesting the versatility inherent in industrial hygiene that allows me to cross over and help out the safety or auditing departments as well. Every time a department seeks out industrial hygiene consultation or services, I reap great satisfaction in pulling from previous work experiences.
For example, I turn to my experience in Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical chemical manufacturing plants to evaluate the application and use of chemicals in the painting, cleaning, and repair of an aircraft. I can pull from my previous work at the Veteran Affairs healthcare facility to better understand and manage occupational health programs such as bloodborne pathogens, hearing conservation, and respiratory protection. I can pull from previous work at a Dow chemical agricultural research station and apply ergonomics or heat stress prevention practices to the baggage handling agents on the airport ramp area. Of course, in every stage, air quality evaluations are always valued and requested.
I am often surprised at how much people at work depend on the IH for crucial information and expertise. Many times what may seem like common sense to IHs is not initially considered by others. Therefore, I find daily inspiration in the importance of imparting crucial information readily and quickly during day-to-day operations. Every IH I have encountered has held this responsibility ethically and with great diligence.
Why are you proud to be an IH?
From within my organization, I am proud of how much knowledge and experience is requested of the IH. The fact that we have a professional in charge of protecting the health and safety of the work force over finances or operational success instills a feeling of being protected throughout the company. I feel like I am an important part of helping employees go home as healthy as they come in to work every day.
I am also proud to be an IH when seen from outside of my company as well. Not a lot of people know that industrial hygiene is applied to many parts of commercial transportation and the airline industry. I am always willing to explain how I keep passengers and employees safe during their travels.