Proud to Be an IH: The Joys and Challenges of Being a Consultant
In college, I didn’t plan on becoming an industrial hygienist. As a chemical engineering major, my dream was to work in huge manufacturing units producing complicated chemicals. But then I took a post-diploma course in industrial safety, which had a transcript on industrial hygiene. I’ve been fascinated by IH ever since.
I topped the state in the industrial safety course, and I was offered a job by a consulting company where I started my career as an EHS professional. My role mainly included conducting exposure assessments at various industries, including paint manufacturing, pesticide manufacturing, aircraft engine overhaul, pharmaceutics, construction, and aircraft parts manufacturing. I continued working with the consulting company for the next 12 years, getting my certifications from the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (now the Board for Global EHS Credentialing) and the British Occupational Hygiene Society. The certifications required a lot of hard work, and I was proud to achieve them. Once I had the certifications, there was no looking back: I loved the profession, and the feeling of making a difference in people's lives gave me immense satisfaction.
Industrial hygienists can add hours, days, weeks, months, or years to workers' lives by helping workplaces become healthier. Various experiences as a consultant made me believe this. For example, think of a small pharmaceutical manufacturing company that doesn't have the resources to understand the toxicology of the molecule it is manufacturing for its client. The client requires the company to call an IH onsite for support. In that situation, there are so many ways that an IH can help make the workplace healthier.
I have been practicing IH for more than 12 years, and there have been many instances where I realized that my work has affected many people's lives. A recent experience that is very close to my heart occurred at a construction site in a desert. I worked with management to implement a respiratory protection program for a large group of welders who worked continuously for more than 10 hours a day. It was identified that respiratory protection would be essential considering the amount of welding and the variety of tasks. The welders resisted initially because they thought the respirators would slow them down, but management was supportive enough of my recommendations to mandate the use of respiratory protection and arrange for engineering controls. I visited the site multiple times over 18 months to oversee and evaluate the progress of the exposure control measures that were being implemented. During my third or fourth visit, the welders seemed very happy, and they thanked me for the respirators. Management ensured that the welders’ respirators were fit tested, that their cartridges and filters were regularly changed, and that engineering controls were also implemented. I hope my efforts made a little difference in the lives of the welders.
But it isn’t always easy to convince clients to believe in you and accept that your recommendations are ultimately for their benefit. It is challenging to ensure the correct message is being communicated and that the client agrees with what an IH is trying to accomplish. These challenges inspire me to do more research so I can present my recommendations in a manner that a non-IH can understand. My experience working with various types of employers and employees at all levels has helped me communicate effectively.
As a consultant, I have worked with many diverse groups of people in different environments and cultures in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. The ultimate output expected, however, remains the same: a healthier workplace for the workers. Every day presents new learning opportunities—a new process, a new exposure control measure, new products in the market. Consultants use these opportunities to advise employers on how to improve the workplace.
Learning from different cultures and different types of people I meet in everyday work has helped me improve personally and professionally. It is always a pleasure when my clients trust what I say, but it is also a tremendous responsibility.
It was beautiful experience to feel your journey through this blog Very inspiring writting proud of you All the best for future BhabhiBy Ajay Mehta on December 29, 2020 7:35am
Great going Pinky, the adventures continue.
I can feel all that you wrote, big thank you for everything you did to help us. I have seen your strong will and I am sure will be reading more from you in many many ways.By Priyanka Katoch on December 25, 2020 3:21am
Sandip directed me to the article/writeup. Congrats. It is a significant achievement to not only learn and make career progress but to have dual satisfactions - one self and two to receive from recipients. And thus be valued. Many of us achieve career growth but feel hollow at the end of the day. And you are different. You are certainly making a difference to this world. Sandip is of a like ilk. Best wishes to both of you. Keep on "creating value". Warm regards. Umesh raj. 9323504063.By Umesh raj on December 15, 2020 1:03am
It's really difficult to make people follow IH. We appreciate the efforts put up by the experts like you. Great contribution..!!By KK Bhatt on December 15, 2020 12:40am
Your journey is awesome because you have made it yourself with your diligence and perseverance. Very glad to see you at this eminent position. All the best for your future endeavours!By Binita Negi on December 14, 2020 11:37am
Ex Joint President - Corporate HR
I was eagerly looking for your mark on international plateform as IH practitioner. Your contribution to the society will boost the IH practitioners globally. Kudos and best wishes.By Harendra Patel on December 14, 2020 10:04am