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Occupational Hygiene Society of Ireland:
A Brief History

Occupational or industrial hygienists were always a rarity in Ireland.  Some large firms had Occupational Medical Departments with part time physicians and some full time nurses and maybe a facilities manager to look after problems with the working environment.  With increased industrialisation and the advent of multinational firms the demand for more specialised services grew.  The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland was the first to set up a Faculty of Occupational Medicine in 1976.  The then Institute of Industrial Research and Standards (IIRS) sent some of their staff abroad to train as Occupational Hygienists and to provide proper scientific service to industry.  These had continued contact with the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS)
In University College Galway the arrival of Professor Parker Reist of the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill as a Fulbright Fellow for the year 1985-86 saw the introduction of short courses on topics of occupational hygiene.

In 1986 Ken Macken of the Atmospheric Environment Department of the IIRS sent a letter around to all those working in Occupational Hygiene in Ireland proposing the formation of an occupational hygiene society in Ireland or an Irish branch of the BOHS.  A preliminary meeting was called in the IIRS on the 27 June 1986.  It was agreed to proceed and that while an independent Irish body was desirable, affiliation with the BOHS should be investigated.  A meeting was held on the 23 October 1986 to formally establish the society and approve a preliminary constitution.  The name Occupational Hygiene Society of Ireland (OHSI) was adopted.  The following interim committee were elected President and acting Secretary – Ken Macken,(IIRS);  Treasurer Frank Shaughnessy (Dept of Labour); Committee William Fitzgerald (Squibb Ltd), Brendan Roycroft (Pfizer Ltd) and Ian Eustace (Medical Consultant)

The Society was formally launched at an Inaugural Meeting on the 5th of March 1987 in the IIRS with addresses from Mr J. Hayden, CEO of the IIRS and Mr G.L. Lee, President of BOHS.  NIFAST Ltd. and Quantum Scientific sponsored the hospitality.  Arrangements with BOHS were established so that OHSI members received the quarterly Newsletter of the BOHS and members rate at BOHS functions. The membership of the Society was 36 and an Autumn series of Technical meetings was arranged and was well attended.

The Spring 1988 programme began in March with a talk on “Occupational Hygiene in Ireland - the Early Days” by Dr Jack Eustace, the father of Ian and the ‘grandfather’ of Occupational Medicine in Ireland.  This was followed by the AGM at which Ken Macken (now of EOLAS) was elected President, Frank Shaughnessy as treasurer, Sean McCusker (EOLAS) subsequently became secretary and the committee was Ian Eustace, Paudraic O’Brien (Loctite) and Ann Kilroy (Squibb-Linson).  In April Frank Gill, President of BOHS, spoke on “The Sick Building” in the Skylon Hotel and in May P.L. Chalmers, President of the Irish Society of Toxicology, spoke on “The toxicologist looks at the workplace”.  We started having joint meetings with the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, the Irish Society of Occupational Medicine, the Irish Society of Toxicology, and the Irish Occupational Health Nurses Association. We took turns with these organisations in arranging the annual “Congress Lecture” which was funded from the surplus achieved from the International Congress of Occupational Medicine organised by Dr Jack Eustace in 1984.

The highlight of 1989 was the introduction of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act in November.  Already at our AGM in April we had a talk on “Implications of New Legislation for Occupational Health” by Brendan Neville, Chief Industrial Inspector in the Department of Labour.  The Council elected were Ian Eustace, President, Sean McCusker Secretary, Donal Mulryan (HSA) Treasurer and Paudraic O’Brien, Ann Kilroy and Vincent Delaney (EOLAS) on the Committee. During the year Parker Reist , UNC, spoke on “The Great Asbestos Rip Off” and Gerry Lee of BOHS spoke on COSHH in the UK and we had a joint meeting with the FOM, RCPI.

In 1990 the guest speaker at our AGM was Dr L. McElerney of A. Guinness & Son, on “Occupational Hygiene in a large Irish Company”. In September Ken Macken gave a talk in Cork on “Thermal Comfort Conditions in the Workplace” and the James Smiley annual lecture in the RCPI became part of our programme.  Our pre-Christmas meeting heard a “Noise Update” and the implications of the new legislation from Ian Eustace and Bernard Hayden of EOLAS.

In February 1991 we had a meeting with Tom Walsh, DG of the HSA, for clarification on the operation of this new body.  At our AGM in June Iona Pratt spoke on “Man or rat? – The integration of toxicology and occupational hygiene in risk assessment of workplace chemicals.” Our officers were Sean McCusker, president, Ken Macken, treasurer, Fiona Mitchell (HSA), secretary.  Among the meetings was one in the University of Limerick on “Environmental Pollution from the Aspect of Occupational Hygiene” by Ian Maclean, then with Cork Co. co. and later the EPA.  We also had Trevor Ogden, President of the BOHS, on the European Limits directive on dusts.

In February 1992 we had another lecture in the University of Limerick on “Environmental Air Pollution – What the Occupational Hygienist should know”. At the AGM in May Dan Murphy (HSA) spoke on the “Interaction between Occupational Hygiene and Occupational Medicine”. Much time was spent planning for an annual conference.

In March 1993 the Society staged its first Annual Conference at EOLAS in Glasnevin.  The opening address was by the Minister for Labour Mary O’Rourke and the President of the American Industrial Hygiene Association Henry J. Muranko spoke on “The development of Industrial Hygiene in developed countries”. There were three other speakers from Ireland and two from the UK. The Conference was very well attended and raised the profile of the Society nationally.

Annual Conferences:

1993 1st Conference EOLAS, Glasnevin, Dublin 9
1994 2nd Conference EOLAS now Forbairt
1995 3rd Conference University College Galway
1996 4th Conference Athlone IT
1997 5th Conference Tower Hotel Waterford
1998 6th Conference Silver Springs Hotel Cork
1999 7th Conference Burlington Hotel, Dublin
2000 8th Conference Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork
2001 9th Conference Mount Juliet Hotel, Thomastown
2002 10th Conference Silver Springs Hotel Cork
2003 11th Conference Green Isle Hotel, Clondalkin
2004 12th Conference Mount Juliet Conrad, Thomastown
2005 14th Conference Heritage Hotel Port Laois
2006 15th Conference Clarion Hotel Dublin
2007 16th Conference Radisson Hotel, Little Island, Cork
2008 17th Conference Radisson Hotel, Ennis Road, Limerick
2009 18th Conference Radisson Hotel, Little Island, Cork
2010 19th Conference Clarion Hotel Dublin

Past Presidents:

1986–89 Ken Macken
1989–91 Ian Eustace
1991–93 Sean McCusker
1993–95 Tom O’Connor
1995–97 Dan Murphy
1997–99 Nicolas de Paor
1999–01 Lucy Dodd
2001–03 Marion O’Brien
2003–05 Loretta Mathews
2005–07 Con Furey
2007–09 Loretta Mathews
2009–11 Frances Wright