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19th OMRS bio team protects Airmen from work hazards

A woman wearing ABUs gets water from a faucet.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alyssa Bolling, 19th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron bioenvironmental technician, takes a sample of the 19th Medical Group tap water at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Sept. 3, 2019. The main mission for the bioenvironmental flight is to identify health risk assessments and to assist commanders in decision making, keeping the well-being of Airmen and their families in mind while performing their surveys. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

A person puts on gray gloves.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alyssa Bolling, 19th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron bioenvironmental technician, puts on gloves at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Sept. 3, 2019. Bolling surveyed the water in the 19th Medical Group to assure it’s potable. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

A woman in ABUs tests a water sample.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alyssa Bolling, 19th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron bioenvironmental technician, tests the amount of chlorine in the 19th Medical Group’s tap water at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Sept. 3, 2019. Bolling does numerous surveys across Little Rock AFB with her bioenvironmental team to ensure a safe work environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

A hand holds a device for measuring the chlorine in water.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alyssa Bolling, 19th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron bioenvironmental technician, tests the amount of chlorine in the 19th Medical Group’s tap water at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Sept. 3, 2019. The bioenvironmental team is responsible for frequent industrial hygiene surveys to include respirator fit tests and vent and water surveys. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Veterinarians x-ray animals to diagnose their illnesses. Maintainers clean aircraft with a variety of chemicals. Firefighters rescue families from fire and smoke. Those careers and tasks require consideration of the effect on workers’ health after a long period of exposure. The 19th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Bioenvironmental Flight tests those work hazards and many others like them to identify issues and put protective controls in place for workers.

The main mission of the bioenvironmental flight is to identify health risk assessments and to assist commanders in decision making, keeping the well-being of Airmen and their families in mind while performing their surveys.

“We deal with a lot of industrial hygiene within the workplace,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alyssa Bolling, 19th OMRS bioenvironmental technician. “We go out to shops around Little Rock AFB to perform industrial hygiene surveys making sure everyone has the appropriate personal protective equipment and they’re safe within the workspace.”

A large part of the job for bioenvironmental technicians is going out on surveys. Their tests can involve anything from welding hoods and shields to gas mask fit tests and even noise and air surveys.

“I do respirator fit tests for fuel systems, fire and other Airmen who have to wear masks on a regular basis often,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Vivian Gamboa, 19th OMRS bioenvironmental technician. “It’s an annual test, so it’s my job to make sure they don’t develop injuries after being exposed to certain hazards while they work.”

In order to complete these tests, Bolling, Gamboa and the rest of their team head out to a variety of shops across base. Each shop has specific chemicals they’re testing for, which means they must be well versed in a variety of surveys.

“Air sampling is a large part of our everyday job because we have so many different chemicals and processes to keep track of on the base,” Bolling said. “Occupational Safety and Health Administration has certain expanded standards that need to be surveyed quarterly and annually, so we conduct sampling to see how much of a chemical is produced while working.”

Regardless of the career, hazards have to be mitigated for a successful mission. Bioenvironmental steps in to put the health of Airmen and the accomplishment of the mission first.

“The mission has to get done no matter what,” Gamboa said. “We’re there to implement the training, the personal protective equipment and the controls to prevent further illness, which could potentially keep Airmen from completing the mission safely and effectively.”

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