Introductions presents profiles of industrial hygienists working to protect
worker health worldwide. This month
we feature Laura McMahon-Parker,
manager of Client Services for HSE
Laboratory Services at Bureau Veritas
North America, Inc. in Novi, Mich.
Parker’s responsibilities include general
laboratory management, addressing
client issues and quality assurance
questions, strategic planning, and laboratory operations. As a technical
service representative and project
manager, McMahon-Parker provides
consulting support for various chemical sampling and analytical scenarios.
McMahon-Parker has a BS in atmospheric and oceanic science from the
University of Michigan. She has
worked extensively with the AIHA®
Affiliate Laboratory Programs (
formerly LQAP), serving as chair to the
LQAP Task Force from 2007 to 2008
and the Analytical Accreditation Board
(AAB) in 2008. Before starting her career in industrial hygiene, McMahon-Parker was a staff meteorologist and
radio broadcaster for the Commercial
Weather Services, Inc. in Flint, Mich.
She can be reached at Laura.parker@
How did you get involved in industrial hygiene? Like many of my colleagues, I fell
into the industry. I was a meteorologist for three years after college and had fun doing
radio broadcasting, but decided to make a change. Wanting to remain in a science-re-lated field, I trained as an analyst in a small environmental laboratory. The science part
of the job was enjoyable, but I missed interacting with the wide variety of people from
my weather days. I found an intriguing position as a customer services representative
for Clayton (now Bureau Veritas) that did both environmental and IH testing. The IH aspect was new but fascinating, and has held my interest for over 16 years.
You’ve held a variety of leadership positions within AIHA. What has been the
most rewarding part of your leadership service? I have found many rewards in
my time with AIHA and I’m sad to have ended my term with the LQAP [now AIHA
Affiliate Laboratory Programs], as it was significant to my career development. First
and foremost, I’m rewarded by the people I’ve met, both AIHA staff and volunteers.
They’ve been hard-working and fun, and they introduced me to various perspectives.
Also, I have valuable, resourceful contacts if I have a dilemma or question outside my
area of expertise. I believe that I’ve contributed in some small way to advancing these
programs and assisting AIHA. It’s been a lot of work, but also gratifying.
How has your involvement in LQAP helped you in your work at Bureau
Veritas? Working with LQAP members and watching how other leaders conduct
meetings, including difficult or passionate discussions, has been invaluable training.
I’ve implemented some strategies and have become well versed in the ISO 17025 international standard for laboratories. Working through questions about how to interpret policies or how to resolve differences of opinions that evolve during practical
implementation has been the best training.
Besides the obvious language and cultural differences, what are some of
the challenges you face when dealing with international clients? The time
difference can be problematic, especially when clients are halfway around the world.
Language differences are sometimes magnified when the parties are having a technical discussion, but there are ways around these problems. Defining necessary time-lines, asking questions, and working with CAS numbers can overcome many of these
issues. Some countries have unusual customs requirements or tax systems, and a laboratory has to learn the paperwork requirements to ensure transfers of data and payments go smoothly.
What advice do you give clients who are feeling the effects of the economic
downturn and are trying to cut costs? We completely understand clients’ need to
control costs in these economic times. As an example, we work with clients to find
feasible ways to bundle tests on a single sample. We also counsel on wise use of sampling media, so there’s minimal waste. We have always stressed the need for practical
and efficient sampling and analysis. In these times, especially, we caution against becoming “penny-wise but pound-foolish.”