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A day in the life of Damien Eaves

14 September 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 chartered occupational hygienist, Damien Eaves.

How early do you rise? 

I am normally up by 6.30am and out of the house by 7am, as I am usually travelling to site for work.  If I am in the office I try to get in at about 8am.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

It’s a cliché but I love my job! – every day is different: I see aeroplanes being built, rock being mined 300ft below the surface, bread being baked and cars being painted.  I meet interesting new people every day and I am also able to protect the health of workers – that can’t be bad.

What do you do?

I am a chartered occupational hygienist. I had been working as a consultant since leaving university in 2002 and four years ago decided to set up on my own (Validate Consulting) which has been the best thing I ever did. We help H&S professionals with specific advice and monitoring to protect workers’ health. This ensures that they comply with the relevant Regulations, which could include: chemicals; fumes; dusts; legionella; vibration; noise etc. 

I also volunteer for the BOHS so I sit on the education committee. I also assess the bursary applications the BOHS receives twice a year and I am one of the regional lecturers providing lectures in occupational hygiene to universities, colleges and regional safety groups.

Where do you work?

Validate Consulting. We are based in Chesterfield in Derbyshire, on the edge of the Peak District, which is great as we are within two hours of a lot of conurbations: however I have clients all over the UK - from Aberdeen to Plymouth.

What does a typical day entail for you?

A typical day is usually on-site visiting a client to undertake some monitoring. After arriving I need to ensure everything is calibrated and then I put the personal samplers out on the workers. The day would include trying to understand the process and the sources of exposure. This would involve talking to management, but most importantly the operatives. I would then make assessments of the control measures in place such as LEV, RPE and PPE and provide solutions to reducing exposure. The day would normally end with me collecting in the samplers and getting them ready to send to the lab, while I debrief the client with the initial findings of the day.

What is your favourite piece of work equipment?

My sound level meter, as it gives instantaneous noise readings that are colour coded and also provides the information graphically. Operatives become very interested because you can show them how loud things are very quickly and easily, usually with the reaction: "I didn’t know it was that loud!”

What would you be lost without in work?

My camera. I probably visit two to three different sites per week which means that one noise survey can easily be confused with another: therefore I take photographs of everything. I also find that when writing a report, a client appreciates a photograph showing the problem or even the solution far better than pages of text can. It helps make the reports much easier to read for everyone.

When did you last laugh in work? What made you laugh?

I am lucky in that I have had a number of my clients for many years. I get to know the operatives very well which means that I get to catch up with staff and have a laugh with them every day.

What is the best part of your day?

Not necessarily the best part of the day but the best moments are when you re-visit a client and find that they have listened to your recommendations and have improved the working conditions for the operatives. Usually the operatives thank you personally for reducing or eliminating the exposure.

What advice would you give a person thinking of becoming an occupational hygienist?

Be open minded, as the subject of occupational hygiene is vast. It touches on physics, biology, chemistry and maths. Every day you will be learning. Most importantly - get involved - members of the BOHS are a friendly bunch, only too happy to share time, advice and information freely. So come along to regional meetings, follow the discussions on LinkedIn and join the society - you do not need any qualifications to join the BOHS.