Case study

Chemical safety consultant/occupational hygienist — Sharon

Sharon enjoys making a positive contribution in helping to prevent ill health at work and in communicating this message to her clients

How did you get your job?

I applied for my current position with a company providing training and consultancy to help organisations comply with health and safety, transport and chemical regulations online through a recruitment website. I was asked to attend an interview and was fortunate enough to get the call. I was extremely lucky to commence employment two weeks after completing my degree.

Complete a work placement or shadow an occupational hygienist for a couple of days to get an idea of what we do

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My undergraduate degree in occupational safety and health was very relevant to my current position. I was lucky enough to start my career straight into an occupational hygiene role, which also linked general chemical health and safety. Modules such as occupational hygiene, occupational health and ergonomics undertaken in my course proved vital in securing my position and still so relevant now.

What are your main work activities?

As a consultant, you are going where the work is so no two days are the same. I work in a variety of industries completing a range of services. A typical week in my role can include: a day sampling for anaesthetic gases in a hospital operating theatre; on-site noise survey in plastics manufacturing; sampling for active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in a pharmaceutical plant; a human vibration survey in switch manufacturing; and ergonomic assessments in a medical device company. Another day, I could be sitting in the office writing reports and updating procedures.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My role has developed quite significantly since I started. I am the sole occupational hygiene consultant in my current company, which involves great responsibility and hard work but is so rewarding. An ambition of mine is to become a senior occupational hygienist/environmental health and safety (EHS) manager in a manufacturing, medical devices or pharmaceutical company.

What do you enjoy about your job?

At the end of the day I feel I'm making a positive contribution in helping to prevent ill health at work and in communicating this message across to clients. I am a people person so meeting people every day from all walks of life is always interesting. I often enjoy working out on site, having a chat with the lads about the football.

I love the variety of working in a number of different companies with a number of processes. I find it rewarding when you come across an employee who is resistant to sampling but who throughout the day realises the importance of these results and provides you with useful and relevant information about the task. My communication skills are developing every day.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Traffic. When you are travelling nationwide you are never off the road.

Any advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Studying science-related subjects such as chemistry, biology and mathematics will make it easier when working in the field.

Complete a work placement or, if not feasible, shadow an occupational hygienist for a couple of days to get an idea of what we do. It's highly enjoyable, very interesting and you will gain a little experience to put on your CV.

Join the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), which is a great resource and so many members are willing to help with your personal development. The new BOHS mentoring system is highly beneficial. As a junior consultant it's useful to ask your mentor/peers for advice and guidance in relation to sampling methods, control measures and communication in occupational hygiene-related topics.

Find out more

See what opportunities are available with the Bristish Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS).