Your health and safety — our only concern

Lt. Cmdr Matt Dooris conducts lead sampling to determine if lead dust is being tracked into other areas of the ship. Photo by Auxiliarist Eric Eltinge

Lt. Cmdr Matt Dooris conducts lead sampling to determine if lead dust is being tracked into other areas of the ship. Photo by Auxiliarist Eric Eltinge

By Eric Eltinge, AUX, HSWL San Pedro

Have you ever been concerned about hazards in your workplace?  Do your lower back, wrists, or eyes hurt at the end of a long work day?  Do you work in a noisy environment or around potentially toxic chemicals?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, the Coast Guard’s Health, Safety, and Work-life Service Center (HSWLSC) Detachment San Pedro, located on Terminal Island in San Pedro, Calif., wants to know.

As fast-response auditors of occupational safety and environmental health, this team works to protect all members of Team Coast Guard in District 11 (South) between San Diego and Morro Bay, Calif.  Led by Lt. Cmdr. Matt Dooris, one of the Coast Guard’s 11 Safety and Environmental Health Officers (SEHOs), the unit is composed of Chief Petty Officer Tristan Krein, Chief Petty Officer Deborah West, and Auxiliarists Eric Eltinge and Dr. Stuart Salot.

As experts in safety and industrial hygiene, they advise and consult on topics from food sanitation and indoor air quality to motorcycle safety, office ergonomics, and emergency preparedness.

Cooperation between the ship's crew and SEHO auditors is essential.  Photo by Auxiliarist Eric Eltinge

Cooperation between the ship’s crew and SEHO auditors is essential. Photo by Auxiliarist Eric Eltinge

A recent environmental health risk assessment of the Coast Guard Cutter Sherman is a case in point.  Built in 1968, the Sherman is the sixth of twelve 378-foot high endurance cutters.  At the request of the cutter’s commanding officer, a thorough investigation for lead and asbestos contamination was performed.  Using the latest industrial hygiene techniques, a comprehensive inspection of the ship was completed with the assistance of Sherman’s port engineer, Lt. Igor Landyshev.  A fluorescent x-ray “lead gun” (Niton XRF) captured lead concentrations from the sonar room to the engine room.  They collected bulk samples to detect lead and asbestos which were sent to the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, Comprehensive Industrial Hygiene Laboratory for analysis.  No time or effort was spared assisting the Sherman to achieve a clean bill of health.

Lt. Cmdr. Matt Dooris collects a bulk sample to test for lead paint.  Photo by Auxiliarist Eric Eltinge

Lt. Cmdr. Matt Dooris testd for lead paint. Photo by Auxiliarist Eric Eltinge

SEHOs and other HSWLSC safety professionals work to ensure all shore, aviation, and cutter assets comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency regulations, in addition to other federal, state, and local requirements.  Engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment controls help Coast Guard members understand and meet safety requirements, and minimize exposure to chemical, physical, or biological hazards.  All members of the Coast Guard community should contact their local SEHO office or visit here for additional information on the Coast Guard’s Safety and Environmental Health Program.

SEHOs advocate and practice the philosophy that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Preemptive safety saves lives, limbs, and money, and ensures operational readiness.

In an era of sequestration, it is critical to mission success that we don’t lose time on the job.

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