Michael W. Watson
Introductions features profiles of OEHS
professionals working in diverse sectors
of the health and safety industry. As an
industrial hygienist with the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), an international labor union representing 1.4
million members primarily in the transportation sector, Michael W. Watson, CIH,
CSP, CHMM, REHS, has responsibility for
a broad range of safety and health issues,
including training, collective bargaining,
technical assistance and regulatory issues.
Prior to joining the Teamsters, Watson
worked as a senior environmental health
specialist at the Virginia Department of
Health, where he performed residential
indoor air quality investigations and epidemiological surveillance of rabies and
West Nile Encephalitis. Previously, he
worked at the Tidewater Coal Inspection
Bureau, where his duties included exposure monitoring for occupational noise,
asbestos, lead, and other hazards.
Watson received a BS in biological
sciences and an MS in industrial hygiene
and environmental and occupational
health from Old Dominion University.
He can be reached at (202) 624-6960 or
What health and safety issues involving union members do you deal with the
most? I’m assigned to the Teamsters’ Building Material and Construction Trades, Beverage
and Brewery, and Parcel and Small Package Divisions. Typically, I serve as a technical
adviser on issues regarding workers’ rights under OSHA and DOT, transportation safety,
chemical hazards, hazard communication, construction safety, exposure assessment, and
the prevention of work-related injuries and illnesses. Truck drivers must meet stringent
medical qualifications and hours of service limits. It is my job to advise Teamster local
unions on compliance with the DOT medical requirements and hours of service limits.
What is your role in negotiating safety and health language for national contracts?
The IBT is party to the National Master United Parcel Service Agreement, which covers
more than 230,000 UPS workers. In 2002 and 2007, I participated in bargaining sessions
as a member of IBT’s National Safety and Health Committee. We successfully negotiated
language that addressed safety and health equipment, accidents and reports; temporary
work for injured workers; medical and return to work examinations; and drug and alcohol
testing. I also participate in grievance and arbitration proceedings related to the interpretation and implementation of the negotiated agreement.
What were your experiences at the AIHA Future Leaders Institute in 2006? It was
an honor to be selected to participate in the 2006 FLI. There were a variety of social
activities, networking opportunities and personality evaluation exercises geared toward
enhancing professional leadership skills. Attendees remained engaged throughout the entire
weekend. I met a bunch of great people, and many of them remain friends to this day.
You gave a presentation on preparing for the CIH exam at AIHce 2007 and
AIHce 2008. What advice do you give people who are preparing for the exam?
It’s no secret that the CIH examination is one of the toughest around. In my opinion, the
most important thing is to concentrate most on what you least comprehend. It is really
easy, and sometimes fun, to just focus on your strengths, especially if you are using flash
cards, self-quizzes, or computer software. It feels good to answer questions correctly! But
it’s very difficult to focus for weeks on topics that you have trouble comprehending. My
advice would be to learn it all, no matter how difficult or burdensome it might seem.
What do you think is the key to fostering young people’s interest in industrial
hygiene? This is a question we have been struggling with for some time now on the
AIHA® Students and Early Career Professionals Committee. Teams on the SECP have
reached out to students before they enter university, and some have even reached out to
kids in middle school. AIHA has done so much in this realm already—the student local
sections, social networking sites, CIH preparation material, AIHF scholarships, just to
name a few. In my opinion, we need to focus more on first- and second-year university
students, many of whom are unsure about a prospective major.