#IAmIH: Jeremy Slagley, Air Force Institute of Technology
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?
I was an environmental engineer and misinterpreted the Air Force's "bioenvironmental engineering" (BEE) career field as the same thing. I arrived at BEE school and was informed that I would spend my adult life doing industrial hygiene. I thought to myself, "Cleaning workers' teeth?" Over time, I came to see IH as a truly noble calling and recognize the great good that we do keeping airmen safe and enabling their mission.
I also spent three years after retiring from active duty teaching safety and IH at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), where I got to see the incredible demand for safety, health, and environmental (SHE) professionals. We had 400 students in the SHE program at IUP, and about 90 percent of our BS grads had a job in SHE within a few months of graduation every year.
What’s one interesting aspect of your job?
Over the years, I have had opportunities to work on teams to develop engineered solutions to health risks. Some situations were relatively mundane, and some were unique. I have had the opportunity to perform risk assessments with both the 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (Hurricane Hunters) WC-130's, and the Special Operations AC-130 Gunships.
Please share an inspirational story from your career.
November in Alaska is cold. The local IH at the F-15 base called me with a problem. He had just added an entire squadron of administrative folks to the hearing conservation program because of excessive noise exposure. Wow. Why? Their building was within 200 meters of the centerline of the runway and it was 1940s cinder-block construction with wood-frame, single-pane windows. But the primary problem was that the heating system was old and broken and the workers left the windows open in winter for comfort.
I traveled from Texas in May to perform an extensive assessment of noise attenuation of several buildings to agree with the local IH and demonstrate that the funds to replace the windows should be diverted to first fix the heating system so that they could shut their windows in the winter. The local IH was right, but I was the expert, so the boss was ready to listen.
But I shouldn't get too big for my britches; as a wise old master sergeant told me, "An expert is an idiot 20 miles from home."
Why are you proud to be an IH?
We make a difference. We help organizations meet production goals, go beyond compliance with SHE, and keep the workers safe. IHs are unique in that we identify hidden risks that may not even be regulated yet and communicate that risk in the audience's dialect to persuade them to action and prevent disease.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about IH?
I wish the general public knew that there was a cadre of hard-working professionals throughout industry and government ensuring the health of workers, the productivity of organizations, and the well-being of the general public in emergencies.