NMCSD Industrial Hygiene Department Keeping Occupational Workspaces Safe
SAN DIEGO – Naval Medical Center San Diego’s (NMCSD) Industrial Hygiene department are keeping Sailors and Marines safe from the exposures of occupational health hazards.
NMCSD’s Industrial Hygiene (IH) department services more than 60,000 Marines and Sailors in 296 commands within San Diego county and outlying areas such as San Clemente, New Mexico and Arizona. The IH department is comprised of military and civilian industrial officers, hygienists and technicians that are committed to providing safe and healthy workplaces for the Navy and Marine Corps.
“Part of our job is making recommendations for control. We do recognition and evaluation while we are monitoring a workspace and make recommendations to commands on how they should control those hazards,” said Cmdr. Mark A. Swearingen, Industrial Hygiene Department Head.
IH is the applied science that recognizes, evaluates and controls occupational health hazards such as: sound levels, heat, light, hazardous materials/chemical compounds, ionizing and non-ionizing radiation and mold. IH also detects, assesses and monitors chemical and biological agents in wartime and natural disaster contingencies.
NMCSD’s IH staff ensures that proper safety procedures set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are adhered to throughout the 296 commands under their jurisdiction. NMCSD’s IH officers, hygienists and technicians protect service members and government employed civilians by preventing long term exposure and physical harm by determining what personal protection equipment (PPE) is recommended when hazards are encountered.
“Wearing PPE is crucial to ensuring operational readiness and maintaining the health of the fleet. We evaluate work places to determine whether issues that are brought to our attention are administrative or if they are an engineering issue. We want to protect those in the vicinity through evaluation of the immediate hazard in their area. If necessary, personnel may be removed from the area if the danger is too great,” said Lt. Cmdr. John W. Zumwalt, Industrial Hygiene Officer assigned to Navy Environment Preventive Medicine Unit Five (NEMPU-5).
Service members can protect themselves by wearing PPE while performing tasks that could place their safety at risk. Determining the amount of exposure and wearing the proper PPE prevents or reduces the long-term medical damage done by exposure.
“Our goal is to encourage and enforce force health protection. Force health protection uses preventive medicine techniques to protect service members on the job, whether deployed or not,” said Swearingen.
According to Zumwalt, one of the biggest workmen’s compensation claims have been attributed to noise and loss of hearing. The IH department evaluates what kind of threshold people are exposed to in terms of decibels and duration. Noise can be harmful to a developing fetus past the second trimester as well. The IH department recommends pregnant women be taken out of work centers with high noise hazards to protect the developing baby.
NMCSD’s IH officers, hygienists and technicians are constantly traveling to various types of work centers evaluating the hazards, then conducting inspections and training in industrial or operational settings aboard ships, shore-based facilities and in the field.
“We get called out to a myriad of hazards. One day we may be evaluating the temperature, humidity and carbon monoxide levels of an office space and the next we are out on a firing range to determine the noise exposure there,” said Zumwalt.
In accordance with the Navy Occupational Safety and Health Program the IH department conducts periodic surveys of all commands and provides technical reviews and consults that average 7,000 customer contacts each year.
“The goal is to reduce long term and acute illness in military work centers,” said Swearingen.
Navy and Marine Corps commands in the San Diego area can call NMCSD’s Industrial Health department at (619) 524-6524 to request an evaluation or survey.
To learn more, visit: NMCSD’s Industrial Hygiene Department.
Or to review OSHA and EPA information visit: www.epa.gov