HAZWOPER-Certified and Keeping Us Safe, Meet Jesse Zampedro

We caught up with Jesse Zampedro, an Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA) specialist in NEOMED’s Campus Operations department, just as he was about to pull one of the showers found across the NEOMED campus.

Why do we have showers in the hallways, and what are you doing with that contraption on a long stick that looks like a butterfly catcher?

In a worst–case scenario, someone working in the labs here at NEOMED might get a chemical on themselves. The showers are to wash off the chemicals. I’m checking to make sure the showers work. I reach up and put the yellow bag underneath the shower head, then turn it on to make sure a torrent of water comes out. I pour the water into the cart so I don’t create another hazard with a wet floor.

Does everyone want to pull the shower heads as they walk by, or is that just me?

You should only pull the showers in an emergency, but most people want to.

Is it just plain water? Is that enough to wash off chemicals?

Yes, it is just plain clean water.  It is enough to wash off chemicals in an emergency, because so much water comes out. Once the immediate emergency is contained, more precise decontamination may be needed.

Is it cold? Warm?

It can be warm, but it is usually cold.

How often do you check the showers?

OSHA requires that we check once a month. I just started here April 1, so this is my first time. I don’t know yet how many we have, but we have more than 80 eyewash stations, which are in every lab. If you get something in your eye while you are working in the lab, you can lean down and wash it out.

What kind of training do you have?

I have a 40-hour HAZWOPER, EPA Hazardous waste management training, and DOT Hazardous materials training.

Wait, HAZWOPER? What’s that? It sounds like malted milk balls.

It stands for OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard. I have 40 hours of OSHA training in occupational health and safety compliance. I also have certifications from the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. There are lots and lots of regulations and I’m trained to follow all of them.

What’s one of the coolest machines you work with?

We quality-check the Autoclaves, which are like big pressure cookers that sterilize infectious waste.

How do you make sure an Autoclave is working?

You put an ampule of spores in a sterilizing cycle. Then you take it out and incubate it in a warm place for several days, then read it to see if it’s still sterile.

How did you get interested in this field?

I have a degree in earth science from Youngstown State University. I wanted to work in oilfields but I graduated in 2008 and the market was terrible. I worked for a pharmaceutical company in Bedford where I took a HAZWOPER course and got interested in the field of safety, industrial hygiene, and hazardous waste.

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