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A day in the life of Chris Beach

18 April 2017

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 Chris Beach.

How early do you rise?
Getting up early has never been a problem for me, I am definitely a lark rather than an owl. I am usually up and about by 6:00am. This has stood me in good stead for work at Ford Motor Company, London Transport and latterly as The Director of Occupational Hygiene Services for the Institute of Occupational Medicine, IOM. If you are supposed to be monitoring the exposure of the workforce you need to be there before they start work so that you can set up equipment and be ready to start.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Knowing what I have planned for the day ahead. Preparation is most important, I am not clever enough to ‘wing-it’, it always shows and it is very unprofessional.

What do you do?
I am a chartered occupational hygienist and I now run my own limited company.

Where do you work?
I recently finished a year long maternity cover contract at Transport for London. I am now trying to re-establish by personal client list. Being out of circulation for 12 months things change rapidly. Employers cannot afford to be without occupational hygiene advice especially when the Health and Safety Executive will charge for their advice via Fee for Intervention.

What does a typical entail for you?
Currently the bulk of my work is noise surveys and dust measurements. An employer has a visit from the HSE or their Insurance provider and they are advised that they need assistance from an Occupational Hygienist. The client looks at the BOHS Directory of Occupational Hygiene Services (which is free to view on www.bohs.org) and via an email or telephone call my help is requested. I prefer to visit a site before I give a written proposal, it means work if better focused and sometimes it is possible to ‘cure a problem’ without monitoring. So a typical cycle of work is visit a site, write a proposal, another visit to do the monitoring, then write the report and perhaps visit the site again to explain the findings.

What is your favourite piece of work equipment?
We had some very fancy kit at IOM but it is not cost effective now to own expensive sampling equipment that is not used regularly. There are some very good companies that hire out equipment on a daily or a weekly basis. Alvin Woolley has also ‘saved my bacon’ loaning me equipment on more than one occasion.

What would you be lost without in work?
A good computer system with access to the internet and email connections to occupational hygiene colleagues around the world.

When did you last laugh in work? What made you laugh?
There is something to laugh about everyday, even if it is my own pomposity. Why do we make things sound so complicated and then spend ages explain them to our clients? Often an employee of a client will ask what seems a stupid question and you will have to bite your tongue. Replying “Don’t be stupid” is not an option.  It does not answer their question, calm their concern or win you any credibility.

What is the best part of your day?
Answering a concern and reassuring the workforce. Never forget they earn the profit for the client paying your invoice.

What advice would you give a person thinking of becoming an occupational hygienist?
Join the British Occupational Hygiene Society. You will be joining a group of like minded people from around the world who are very generous with their advice and time. Chatting with BOHS members (I am told this is networking) online or at conferences it is amazing the number of times you realise they have already solved the problem you are stuck on, or they can suggest a lateral thinking approach.