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Argonne National Lab Tour: May 3-4, 2018

May 4, 2018, 14:03 PM by Paul Eichert
UC-ERC students visit the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, IL.

By Gordon Lee Gillespie

The University of Cincinnati (UC) Education and Research Center (ERC) sponsored an interdisciplinary field trip to Argonne National Laboratory (http://www.anl.gov/) on May 4, 2018. In addition to UC’s four occupational safety and health engineering students, three industrial hygiene students, and occupational health nursing faculty member, four students from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s ERC (one occupational medicine resident and three industrial hygienists) also joined the tour. 

The visit to Argonne began with an overview of the US national laboratory system with specific history about the origin of Argonne and its partnership with the University of Chicago. Due to the large area of the Argonne campus (campus map: http://www.anl.gov/sites/anl.gov/files/Argonne_site_map_0.pdf), our group traveled throughout the campus via large passenger van. After security badging and overview, our group of 12 students and faculty visited the occupational health clinic where the occupational health nurse practitioner provided a tour and answered questions. Next, we traveled to another part of campus to meet with the industrial hygienists and safety officer leadership team where we received information about health promotion, prevention, and hygiene. Then we went to the Advanced Photon Source (APS); the guide for our trip was a retired engineer with extensive knowledge on the APS. The APS is in very simple terms a camera with the ability to take pictures at the submolecular level; for example, a single virus particle can be imaged for further study. Our trip concluded with a visit to the Center for Nanoscale Materials.

Health Clinic

By Bingbing Wu

Our tour with the Argonne National Laboratory, which is a multidisciplinary science and engineering research center, started with the occupational clinic on May 4, 2018. Argonne’s integrated Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) management program is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace to 3,200 full-time employees, 1,320 scientists and engineers, and 270 postdocs. The health clinic team consists of the Health Director, an occupational physician, three nurse practitioners, and a physical therapist. They offer customized services to each employee including first aid services, treatment for work-related injuries and illnesses, work-related preventive medicine, and injury and illness prevention services, as well as the OSHA and DOE required medical surveillance programs. The first notable impression of the visit was how well equipped the clinic was (see Figure 1); it was equipped for not only general physical check-ups, but also for pulmonary function and hearing tests (see Figure 2), physical therapy, and so forth.

Figure 1

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Figure 2

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The clinic works very closely with the Industrial Hygienist (IH) team to develop a proactive and comprehensive medical surveillance program. Prior to the initial work of each employee, customized surveillance is designed according to the potential workplace exposures and hazards which are carefully reviewed by the IHs, and the surveillance is updated to the changes of job responsibilities. The practice of this clinic sets a good example for all healthcare professionals. Often, physicians treated symptoms and failed to discover the cause of illness even after the patient filled out a long questionnaire. The problem was that patients were not asked what they do at their workplace, and very few health professionals understood toxicology well enough to connect injuries and illness to workplace exposures. At this clinic, the missing dots were connected, the symptoms were more accurately diagnosed, and more importantly, the cause was tracked so that the exposures could be removed. An example given by the clinic NP was of an employee identified to have an elevated blood lead level who was immediately reassigned to different tasks to avoid the possible lead exposure at work and placed on the continuous monitoring program. They also tracked his personal hobbies and found that his non-work environment contributed a lot to the exposure and were able to make recommendations accordingly. Typically workers pay close attention to the hazards at their workplace due to the well-designed training, nevertheless, they may not notice the harmful hazards at home or in other environments. At Argonne National Lab, the professionals help them connect the dots to improve their overall health.

Industrial Hygiene

By Yao Addor and Mamadou Niang

Seven ERC students and a faculty member from the University of Cincinnati and four ERC students from University of Illinois at Chicago visited the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), a renowned research center of the Department of Energy (DOE). This blog focuses on the Industrial Hygiene (IH) division (see Figure 3).

Figure 3

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The IH division consists of two groups: the workplace exposure monitoring group with duties such as sample collection, HEPA filter testing, noise evaluation, survey data collection and more; the other group’s duty is mostly administrative focused on planning, implementing, and documenting occupational health programs and strategies. While the safety specialists form a separate entity, they do work closely with IH specialists, especially during project design stages. Many OSHA programs are in place including hearing conservation, respiratory protection, surveillance of Silica, Asbestos, Lead, Beryllium, etc. In determining the limits of exposure, the IH specialists usually go beyond the OSHA PELs compliance to adopt more conservative and more protective risks values such as DOE ALs, NIOSH RELs, and ACGIH TLVs standards whenever possible. They also essentially implement engineering controls such as hazard containment rather than use of PPE.

The IH division has a great management philosophy as it has entry level career opportunities with bachelor’s degrees and provides opportunities for career enhancement. There are about 3,500 people working at Argonne including researchers, scientists, maintenance, construction activity workers, waste water treatment plant workers, etc. The IH division works with all of them to keep the place running so that research can be done.

There also are some challenges related to IH work. Many research projects change at a fast pace making it difficult for IHs to keep up. For example, some researchers only conduct their research at Argonne for a single week and then return to their home institutions/countries. Moreover, it is not always easy to convince the management and researchers of IH requirements aimed at better protecting them. Some researchers perceive that the safety programs are restrictive and slow their research.

As a takeaway, future IH professionals should be prepared to find strategies to appropriately balance the progression and completion requirements of the work/project being conducted, the productivity, and the compliance with best practices or regulatory standards. 

Advanced Photon Source

By Vianessa Ng, Siddharth Mishra, Sathya Narayan Kanakaj, and Paa Kwasi Adusei

An electron beam, heated to ~1,100°C (under a pressure of 10-12torr) sends 7 billion electron volts of energy, whizzing and whirling at nearly the speed of light zooming along a 1.1 km concrete storage ring at 186,000 miles per second. As the electrons are traveling, it encounters an array of permanent alternating magnetic fields (1-3 m), where electrons begin to lose energy, x-ray photons are generated; which lays the foundation into the ground breaking science which has emerged from the synchrotron in the Advanced Photon Source (APS) center at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) located in Lemont, IL (just 25 miles outside downtown Chicago) since 1995 (see Figure 4).

Figure 4
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The APS is made up of 5 main components (see Figure 5): the linear accelerator, the booster synchrotron, the electron storage ring, insertion devices, and the experimental hall. In the last year, the synchrotron x-ray imaging technology allowed 8,300 scientists and engineers to conduct ground-breaking research to study basic science at the atomistical level, execute computational analysis at 8.5 quadrillion operations per second, and engineer new and advanced systems.

Figure 5

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Annually, about 1,600 scientific publications are generated through collaborative, multidisciplinary research while maximizing safety with minimal disruption to research. The APS has helped answer present-day scientific questions, while stimulating new questions that may lead to innovative discoveries. The current synchrotron has reached its limits to further advancing science. In the upcoming year, the Lab plans to shut down to make modifications and improvements on the storage ring which will “increase the beam intensity and time resolution by a factor of a 100” above its current operational state. It was an incredible experience for aspiring scientists and engineers.

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