The UC Department of Environmental Health’s Division of Environmental and Industrial Hygiene has begun a collaboration with the Alliance for Chemical Safety (ACS), a Cincinnati nonprofit organization that works to promote public understanding and involvement in chemical risk management.
"Under this collaboration, member companies will provide venues for UC students to develop their skills in workplace hazard and exposure assessment,” says Andrew Maier, PhD, an associate professor in the environmental health department. "The students get real-world experiences while providing assessments that support the health of workers in our community.”
ACS is a multiple stakeholder community-focused group of citizens, industries and agencies who share an interest in safe chemical handling and management. Funding is provided by member industries that manufacture or use chemicals in their operations, consultants and grants.
Maier and five industrial hygiene students recently toured Shepherd Chemical, a Norwood-based custom manufacturer of inorganic metal salts and organic metal compounds that employs about 200 at its plant on Highland Avenue. Rob Paxton, head of operational risk at Shepherd Chemical and an active participant in ACS leadership, led the tour and provided students with background on the company.
"These students will conduct a study that will assess some of the exposure potential that’s here in our plant,” Paxton said. "We’ll use that data to help evaluate engineering improvements.
"Additionally, we like to help benefit people in the community and give people exposure to what chemical manufacturing is and what it’s about. So we get to help the students, and we get a little help back.”
Dusten Dussex, one of the students touring the plant and the leader of the student assessment, said he appreciated the ACS collaboration and the opportunity to tour the company.
"It was a great chance to see how extensive the potential risks can be in some industries, and just how tall of a task it is to quantify and limit all of these risks,” he said. "That said, I was very impressed with the proactive work that Shepherd Chemical is doing to stay ahead of chemical exposure.”
Of the ACS collaboration, Dussex said, "It is an absolute win-win for all involved. "For us first-year students, it’s the first time we are taking what we have learned thus far and developing strategies for using that information. It’s a great experience for us to go out into real industries and do the sampling that is needed, as opposed to practicing techniques in labs.
"It’s also a great opportunity for different companies to get a fresh perspective on some of the conditions in their workplaces, which may be valuable. And this may be an opportunity for the Alliance for Chemical Safety to expand, which would greatly benefit worker health in the Cincinnati area.”