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Feature Stories

NEWS | July 25, 2019

Industrial Hygiene: Keeping the Troops Safe at Work

By Sgt. Connie Jones 184th Sustainment Command

U.S. Army Soldiers are given many kinds of missions, and some of these don’t include the best sleeping or eating conditions. Some environments even come with breathing hazards. With the safety and health of warfighters being a priority, Capt. Jessica Myers, the 898th Medical Detachment industrial hygienist, U.S. Army Reserve, is essential to protecting Soldiers within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

“I address concerns brought to me about occupational hazards that may threaten Soldier's health and I go out and evaluate and assess those hazards. I address them and recommend corrections or controls so they’re no longer a threat in the workplace,” she said.

Attached to 3d Medical Command Deployment Support — Forward, Myers travels to U.S. Army work sites theater-wide to evaluate potential hazards and make recommendations for corrective actions. For instance, she evaluates cargo ships for air quality and noise concerns. Recently, she was tasked with evaluating Camp Arifjan's motorpool for occupational hazards.

“We’re tasked to evaluate all of the motor pools and evaluate Soldiers’ hazards as they complete their tasks within the motor pool. We ensure there is no chemical release that they would be exposed to, no hazardous noise levels or if there are, that they are protected from the noise with proper PPE (personal protective equipment) such as ear plugs or gloves. I determine those hazards and help them to protect themselves.”

Industrial health looks at all exposures that could cause adverse health effects, short-term and long-term: chemical, biological, physical, hazardous metals, hazardous fibers, and respirable dust levels.

Myers also visits living quarters. She evaluates the air by running a series of tests to scan the quality and to see if there is mold present or if Soldiers are breathing in any other perils.

“I received notification that there were some complaints about air quality within the living quarters here. The duct system was cleaned and evaluated earlier this year but I came just to take some samples to confirm whether or not it was resolved.”

It should go without saying: unhealthy Soldiers have difficulty completing their training or their mission. If a hazard is wearing them down over time, they run the risk of irreversible damage. With an industrial hygiene program in place, she provides a means to cut down on some of the long term injuries sustained by Soldiers in the workplace.

“It’s important because we want to make sure our Soldiers are healthy and ready at all times. If they are in any way incapacitated with their physical health, it is going to affect their job and readiness. It takes them out of the pool of ready Soldiers,” said Myers.

With her mission to keep Soldiers healthy by catching hazards before they become a problem, Myers has had a very productive time thus far in theater and with the cooperation of supervisors, she has been able to help in major way.

“So far, two months on ground, I’ve been incredibly busy. I’m hands on, out there evaluating things. There are a lot of controls in place which is great, and the controls that are not in place, I’ve been able to coordinate with those supervisors of those shops and make recommendations,” she said. “They’re very willing and accepting of the recommendations to improve their practices to protect the Soldiers’ and contractors’ health.”