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MPH-EHS Graduate Student Interns in Washington D.C. with Prestigious NIOSH OHIP program!

MPH-EHS Student, Esther Epps
This past summer, I completed an internship in the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP).  Here is a brief description of the program from their website: “OHIP is a full time, paid summer internship designed to link the skills and interests of students with the needs of workers employed in an under-served or high hazard job. Teams of two interns are assigned to a union or worker organization where they receive supervision from a designated staff member and an academic mentor.”
OHIP interns and mentors (including me, in the bright red shirt) from across the country at our Orientation in Los Angeles, CA
Esther at orientation in Los Angeles, CA
My placement was with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), a labor union that represents over a million workers from several industries. I worked at their headquarters in Washington, DC in the Safety & Health department with another OHIP Intern, supervised by one of their Industrial Hygienists and the Safety & Health department Director.
OHIP Interns at IBT headquarters, with the Capitol building in the background!
OHIP interns at IBT Headquarters
Our main task this summer was to create and administer a survey about workplace hazards. The IBT wanted it to cover what the workers perceive about hazards in their workplace, as well as cover the controls their employers have in place, and what other controls they think should be in place to make their workplace safer. We wanted to make sure we got information on a variety of hazards, so we created a 90-question survey covering job tasks, safety training, general hazards, equipment safety, workplace exposures, protective equipment, and more. We traveled to Sacramento, CA and Salt Lake City, UT to attend two IBT hazardous materials training courses, where we interviewed workers using the survey. 
In addition to interviewing workers, we got to learn about hazardous material handling as well. Here I am gearing up in the blue Level A PPE suit!
Esther gearing up in the blue Level A PPE suit
We heard from people in the rail industry, electronic waste recycling industry, firefighting, landscaping, catering, cold storage warehousing, and other industries too! It was an amazing learning experience to hear from workers about the safety and health hazards and controls at their diverse workplaces. We compiled the data and wrote a report for the IBT so they can use this information to strengthen their training curricula and strengthen the contracts they negotiate with employers. We also presented the information to NIOSH at the end of the summer. It was a fantastic opportunity! I was also blessed to receive a scholarship to present at this year’s American Public Health Association (APHA) conference as part of a panel of OHIP interns discussing our summer work.  
OHIP interns after presenting our project at NIOSH headquarters in DC
Thank you to the EHS department’s Dr. Brown and the staff at the Center for Career & Coop for their help landing this internship, and thank you to the IBT and OHIP Program Staff for a worthwhile summer full of learning.

Published on August 23, 2017

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