A day in the life of Adrian Hirst
30 April 2015
Each issue HSM speaks to a member of the BOHS about the challenges and rewards of working as an occupational hygienist. This issue we talk to Adrian Hirst, newly appointed as the president of BOHS.
How early do you rise?
Depends on where I’m going. A normal day would be 6am, if I’m going anywhere then it may be 5am. I’m a morning person and I’m usually awake before any alarm. That said, I have an aversion to getting up any time before 5am.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
As I said, I’m a morning person and never have a problem getting out of bed. However, the thing that keeps me going at 3:30 in the afternoon is the fact that the role of occupational hygienists is such a great job. I get to play with gadgets, I get paid to visit places other people would pay to see and I get the self-satisfaction from the knowledge that I’m preventing ill health in the workforce.
What do you do?
I have two jobs. My principle role is that of a self employed occupational hygiene consultant. I provide general occupational hygiene support to a wide range of companies in different industries including, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, defence, automotive, food and drink and general manufacture. I also teach part time at the University of Manchester on an MSc in Occupational Hygiene. My wife will also tell you that my third job is working part time for the BOHS, having been a council member and treasurer. I am now president for 2015/16.
Where do you work?
All over the place. I have a home office but much of the time I am working at clients' sites. Much of my work is in the UK but I also travel overseas.
What does a typical day entail for you?
Early mornings, coffee and travel. This is usually followed by a good look round a factory and then asking questions whilst I watch other people work. The price for all this fun are the days in the office writing reports.
What is your favourite piece of work equipment?
Probably the next piece that I haven’t got yet. I have an affection for the old and the familiar equipment which has served me well; things like sampling pumps and noise meters. At the same time I’ve known them long enough to be familiar with their limitations. New equipment always comes with the potential of improvements and the pitfalls have yet to be experienced.
What would you be lost without in work?
My black and red hard back notebook. I’ve tried lots of ways of recording information from plain paper through to pro-formas and electronic gadgets. I find the discipline of a hardback notebook the best. I don’t lose any notes (apart from three pages in 1997) and the permanency of a book forces me to make an effort with my deteriorating handwriting.
When did you last laugh in work? What made you laugh?
If I don’t laugh it’s been a really bad day. Having a good sense of humour is an asset in health and safety. My humour is dry and quick, causing more wry smiles then belly laughs. I maintain a healthy scepticism about most things and I usually reflect this in humour.
What is the best part of your day?
About two hours in to the day when I’ve made progress with something but still have lots to look forward to.
What advice would you give a person thinking of becoming an occupational hygienist?
Do some networking and get a mentor would be the most important pieces of advice. The paths to becoming a qualified occupational hygienist are clearly marked, see: www.bohs.org/education/. However, it’s through talking to other people in the profession that you will learn the most. At the start you may wrestle with the dilemma of not being able to get a job without being trained and not being able to get trained without a job in the field. Later on it will be more involved technical questions. Talking to other occupational hygienists will help at all stages of your career. Join BOHS at www.bohs.org/ and turn up to some of the free regional meetings.