A ‘day in the life’ of Occupational Hygiene graduate Zara McBean

Zara joined RPS just as the world went into lockdown. We were keen to know a little more about where and how she's been spending her time, and how she's fared over the last 12 months.

Previously we shared an article about one of our long-term occupational hygienists, James Beechey [see article]. This time, we'd like to introduce you to one of our newest team members. Zara is an Occupational Hygiene Technician who started her RPS journey 12 months ago as a graduate.

What appealed to you about working at RPS?

After graduating from University in 2019 I started looking for jobs and RPS kept coming up in my job searches. Because I knew I wanted to work for a large consultancy, it felt like RPS would be a good fit as they would be able to offer many opportunities and support my career development across a variety of areas.

What interested you about working as an occupational hygienist?

I was studying environmental sciences at University, and I didn’t really know much about occupational hygiene. As I learned more, I started to understand that within the workplace employee health can often be impacted by something they have little control over. That’s where the occupational hygienist comes in – I like knowing that I help keep employees safe and healthy.

What does your average day-to-day look like?

Over the last few months I’ve mostly been working on-site undertaking face fit testing. Face fit testing is where you assess the seal of an RPE face mask to an individual to ensure it provides the required protection, and then we provide advice on the most effective protection for their role. I’ve really enjoyed this aspect of my work as I get to interact with a variety of clients in different sectors and build those relationships.  

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In what areas would you like to gain further experience?

When I was at Uni I did quite a bit of research around air quality and its impacts on the health of individuals exposed to a variety of substances. I’m keen to understand more about this and how people in the workplace are impacted, and in my capacity, how we support our clients to minimise this.

I think our next job will involve Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) Testing. I already have some experience in this area and it’s something I find very interesting as it’s such a broad topic. I have been able to visit client sites with my team and assist them with the testing - this has helped me to gain more experience, and ideally, the next step will be to attend some formal training so I can qualify to undertake the testing by myself.

How have you found the coaching and mentoring program at RPS?

It’s been good. Of course, my time so far has been disrupted by COVID, but when I started I was able to observe: noise monitoring; dust monitoring; and LEV testing. That was interesting to do early on. The team have been really helpful too. They have kept me involved in all aspects of the project, from the initial consultation with the client and reviewing the lab results with me so I could add these to the report.

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What challenges have you had to overcome since starting with RPS?

The main challenge has been dealing with COVID which has obviously affected everyone. I was very lucky, I started before the first lockdown so I was able to meet my team face to face, and do some training which was really helpful and informative.

But, when you’re new and you have a question, and you aren’t face to face, I worry that I’m interrupting someone else’s day with an email or a Teams call. So, while a lot of my work will involve being onsite by myself, not being able to talk in the office where you can ask a quick question has been a bit of a struggle. But everyone is in a similar boat, and it won’t last forever. I’m looking forward to things getting back to normal, being in the office and reconnecting with new colleagues and building relationships with our clients.

When I was at Uni I did quite a bit of research around air quality and its impacts on the health of individuals exposed to a variety of substances. I’m keen to understand more about this and how people in the workplace are impacted.

Zara McBean

Occupational Hygiene Technician

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