Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

Catherine Turlington Summer 2022 Update

Catherin Turlington Postcard-2

Catherine Turlington is a first-year NIOSH Trainee in Industrial Hygiene at the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH) working towards her MPH at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health. Catherine completed her bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M University with a major in Public Health and minors in Occupational Health & Safety and Bioenvironmental Sciences. Her research interests include water and air quality and exposures to biological agents. After graduation, she hopes to work as an Environmental, Health, and Safety professional in the healthcare industry.

Ms. Turlington is currently completing an internship at the Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery in Linden, New Jersey. SWCOEH.org caught up with Ms. Turlington to learn about the internship.

SWCOEH.org: What are you doing with your internship at Phillips 66?

Ms. Turlington: “I am currently the Industrial Hygiene intern at the Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery in New Jersey, serving the Health, Safety, and Environment department. As an industrial hygienist, I am tasked with identifying potential hazards in the workplace and designing solutions to these problems to keep our workers healthy and safe. This summer I have been assigned a few industrial hygiene projects.

One of my projects is to conduct a quantitative assessment on our confined space ventilation systems to ensure that they are running efficiently and are capable of effectively removing airborne contaminants from the space. This includes using a velometer to check the flow rate of each system as well as conducting interviews with workers to understand their experience working with the ventilation system. I am tasked with making recommendations for the company to improve the ventilation to make it operate as efficiently as possible.

Another project is to produce a training video for the company that teaches employees how to properly utilize ventilation systems in different refinery settings to avoid inhaling airborne contaminants.

A final project is to gather and analyze data on worker exposure to Methyl Naphthalene, an organic compound present in jet and diesel fuel at the refinery. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recently lowered the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs®) of this compound, so I have been tasked with collecting data on exposure to this compound throughout the refinery. This involves me selecting similar exposure groups (SEGs) and conducting exposure assessments on employees from each group. I am tasked with designing solutions to help bring exposure levels below the TLV.”  

SWCOEH.org: What is a typical day like?

Ms. Turlington: “A typical day for me usually consists of going out into the field to collect exposure assessment samples on various employees in different sections of the refinery. I spend a lot of time focusing on my various projects, which includes collecting data in the field for different ventilation systems and then analyzing the data collected. I have also been going out into the field to capture video footage of different workers utilizing the ventilation systems for my training video. It has been great to meet so many different people throughout the refinery coming from all different fields of work.”

SWCOEH.org: Who are you learning from, and what have you learned so far?

Ms. Turlington: “I have primarily learned from my mentor here, Ritu Pandit, who serves as the site’s industrial hygienist. I have also learned from anyone and everyone I come across, as they are each so knowledgeable on different aspects of the company and are very willing and eager to share their wisdom with me. I have learned so much about the importance of ventilation systems and how they work to protect workers from harmful contaminants. It is very interesting to come into this project after my class last semester on occupational health controls, which taught me a lot about ventilation systems and how they work in theory. It’s exciting to get to see these systems in a real-world setting and to conduct assessments using calculations that I have learned in school. I have also learned a lot about industrial hygiene as a whole and the job duties that industrial hygienists are tasked with in a refinery setting.”

The SWCOEH provides a variety of graduate-level training opportunities for occupational and environmental health professionals through our industrial hygiene, occupational and environmental medicine, occupational epidemiology, and Total Worker Health®.