Laurie A. Roper
Introductions presents profiles of industrial hygienists working to protect
worker health worldwide. This month
we feature Laurie A. Roper, MPH, industrial hygienist and weld and paint
plant safety leader for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, LLC in Lincoln,
Ala. Roper plans, prepares and conducts task exposure monitoring for
an assortment of hazards. She is also
responsible for managing the plant-wide confined space and laser programs, and overseeing safety
management systems for the weld
and paint departments.
Roper received her BS in industrial
hygiene and chemistry and MPH in industrial hygiene from the University of
North Alabama. She received her master’s in public health (MPH) from the
University of Alabama at Birmingham.
She is a member of the AIHA® Alabama
Local Section, ASSE and ACGIH®.
Roper can be reached at
You are responsible for the plant-wide confined space program. What is this
program, and what role do you play in its maintenance? When our facility was
built, assessments were completed and all confined spaces were identified and labeled.
My responsibilities, as they pertain to confined spaces, are basically a tracking and
auditing function at this point. I provide support to departments who may have questions related to our program, and support training initiatives in this area.
One of your duties is to act as a liaison to emergency responders. Can you
explain what this entails? I make sure that they are kept in the loop on important
safety-related items. I also coordinate our annual confined space drill with them, and
assist in other drills. As the liaison, I am the one point of contact for safety-related
matters that emergency responders may encounter in the plant. I also assist in training and identifying take-shelter and evacuation locations.
What are some of the typical physical and chemical hazards that Honda employees face in their daily tasks? Our main hazard relates to ergonomics, which, in
an assembly environment, is the biggest, most challenging issue. In the automotive industry, there is always new model activity going on. Safety has to be on the forefront of
all of these activities to insure that new designs don’t equate to new ergo issues. This
involvement starts from the design phase and doesn’t stop. All aspects of the manufacturing environment must be considered—part design, packaging design, weight increase
of the parts, process layouts. There are so many aspects to consider when you’re dealing
with ergonomics in this industry.
The potential for exposure to chemical hazards is predominantly in our paint department; however, Honda has done a great job of putting controls in place during the
design phase to make this potential hazard negligible. One example of an engineering
control would be our down-draft ventilation paint booths with one-pass airflow. This
has many benefits, including hazard control, but also impacts quality. We also have an
approval system in place that helps us avoid any potential hazardous substances from
being brought on site without proper controls being in place, which is crucial. Honda
has also implemented a very strict contractor approval system that gives information
on how to gain approval from Honda to bring products into the facility.
As someone certified in oil spill response, what are some important points
you feel that an oil spill responder should be aware of? Maintaining a safe environment to work in—no matter how quickly they want the job done. There are many
dangerous situations that can occur while working on an oil spill—heat exhaustion,
fatigue, slips, trips and falls, just to name a few. Oftentimes, responders are required to
work long hours and long weeks. Adding such a huge fatigue factor can increase the
likelihood of incidents. Encouraging responders to be aware of their surroundings and
stay alert, and encouraging coordinators to allow for good rotation of workers, will help
reduce the potential for incidents.