Connecting with thousands of workers yearly

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Biologist, chemist and certified industrial hygienist Nellie Brown is everywhere, it seems.

She crisscrosses the state dozens of times every year teaching 2,000 to 3,000 people —  beauticians, farmers, lab workers, artists, office workers and many others — how to be safe on the job.

That can mean learning how to safely compost roadkill, prevent a flu epidemic, identify endocrine disruptors, distinguish a poisonous hogweed from a harmless plant and protect employees if a gunman enters the workplace.

ILR’s Workplace Health and Safety Program was founded 30 years ago. Brown, now its director, travels around the country sharing her expertise at conferences about hazards and substances that can prove lethal in the workplace.

Reporters from international, national and regional news outlets tap her to talk about federal health and safety regulations, designing safe anaerobic digesters, truck driver safety, workplace violence and other issues.

Even toddlers are touched by Brown’s work.

“The number of lead-poisoned children in our community continues to decline … you play a significant role in this slow, but sure, victory,” Paul Hunt of the Monroe County (N.Y.) Department of Public Health wrote Brown and her ILR-in-Buffalo colleagues.

An amateur harpist who lives in a solar dome house she built with her husband, Brown began her career as an inland water scientist, then worked as a chemist at fuel and wastewater facilities.

Brown is the recipient of many professional awards and author of numerous publications.

They include “Greener and Safer: Some Potential Choices for Interior Materials for Buildings Undergoing Construction or Renovation,” a green purchasing guide, and health hazard manuals for cosmetologists, metalworkers, wastewater treatment and sewer workers, janitors and firefighters.