A Publication for the faculty, staff, administrators and friends of California State University, Chico
November 11, 2004 Volume 35/Number 3

Page One Stories

Katy Thelen uses an air velocity meter to test a fume hood in the Environmental Science Water Quality Research Lab in the Physical Science building. The test measures the sufficiency of the inward flow of air into the fume hood under normal operating conditions.

Industrial Hygienist Keeps You Safe

Katy Thelen is looking out for you.

" I make sure that when people go home, they aren’t going to have any long-term effects from being at the workplace,” says Thelen, industrial hygienist and environ-mental program coordinator in the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

“An industrial hygienist’s job is to recognize and evaluate situations that could cause physical or environmental stress on workers,” she explains. Thelen gives the example of monitoring employees who work around hazardous chemicals: “I make sure they are wearing respirators, gloves, glasses—all the proper personal protective equipment.”

A part of her job that Thelen particularly enjoys is conducting ergonomic evaluations. “People see the benefit in the education that I’m giving them. I help them understand that you need the workstation to fit you; you don’t want to fit the workstation, because that’s when problems occur,” she says. She finds it rewarding when she returns to a workstation and finds that an employee has successfully applied her recommendations.

Employees using computers can improve the ergonomics of their workstations, Thelen says, by doing three simple things:
• adjust the height of your chair’s seat so your thighs are horizontal while your feet are flat on the floor;
• adjust the height of your monitor so that the top of the screen is at eye level; and
• reduce glare by tipping the monitor slightly downward.

Another of Thelen’s responsibilities is to conduct indoor air and noise quality investigations. “I do those when an employee thinks there might be something in the air in his or her workplace or noise that is causing them discomfort,” she says.

The department, directed by Ken Sator, is responsible for several health and safety programs on campus, including accident investigation, fire safety, and injury/illness prevention and emergency response.

Environmental Health and Safety monitors campus construction projects. “We ensure that proper engineering controls are in place to protect workers and the public during the demolition of old structures and during the construction of new buildings,” says Thelen.

Thelen, who began working on campus last fall, received degrees in chemistry and environmental protection from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Prior to coming to CSU, Chico, Thelen was a project and safety engineer for a general contractor in San Francisco. She recently completed a marathon in Portland, Oregon (even as Mount St. Helens was threatening to erupt).

—Lisa Kirk



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