EnviroScience pays tribute to Occupational Hygienist, John Bartholomew

Posted on BY wme_admin

One of EnviroScience Solution’s longest-standing and much-loved employees, John Bartholomew, has announced his retirement after nearly a decade with the company. 

Starting as a casual Occupational Hygienist in the Dubbo office in mid-2015, John says since that first day, he “has never really had a day off.

“I still remember my first day with EnviroScience. I was on a casual contract at that point, so I would turn up when the work was there, but it just seemed I was working every day,” he laughs.

“My first impression was ‘this is good’. I had walked straight into another job, and they were nice and busy, so I was happy.”

Over that time, the regionally-based occupational health and environmental consultancy has grown strongly – opening offices in Wagga, Tamworth, Orange, and Newcastle – and with it, its reputation as the trusted market leader for hazardous materials and environmental management.

Known for his work in safeguarding the health and safety of workers, the community, and the environment, John says his role at EnviroScience has expanded from asbestos work, “one of the biggest aspects of Occupational Hygiene,” into indoor air quality, noise, vibration, and personal dust monitoring.

A Member of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) for more than twenty years, John says much of his work entails “being on site, liaising with the client, doing all the monitoring, sending the samples away, and writing the report with recommendations.

“At the moment, there is a lot of stuff happening with the engineered stone industry and the onset of acute silicosis cases.” Noting the company holds a licence with the NSW Government to monitor respirable crystalline silica dust in mines and quarries where elevated concentrations could potentially lead to an impact on workers respiratory health, like silicosis.

“It is really interesting work and never boring,” he says.

Coming into Occupational Hygiene later in his career, John started out as a motorbike mechanic in London. Since those early days, John has worked in the automotive, construction, and agricultural industries, with a short spell in the military, and says his interest in health and safety was sparked by what he was seeing around him.

“I had had enough of seeing people get sick and injured, and I thought I would have a look at what this is all about and see if I could do something about it.

“I decided to enrol at University, calling it my mid-life crisis.”

Setting him on the path to study a Bachelor of Applied Science, Occupational Health & Environment at Western Sydney University, John moved his, then, young family to Richmond so he could work and study full-time.

“It was a huge decision, but I was passionate about it,” he says.

This saw John embark on a career in health and safety with some Sydney-based environmental consultancies, take up roles in health and safety and risk management largely in the mining sector, which then led to a management role with GrainCorp and the NSW Office of Water Drilling Unit, before landing the Occupational Hygienist role at EnviroScience.

“There weren’t many people doing Occupational Hygiene out here in the central west back then.

“That is what I used to tell people. One of the main reasons I got into the health and safety sphere was because, at that point, it was like Occupational Hygiene had never crossed the Blue Mountains.

“It is vastly different now and has really picked up in the last seven years.”

As well as loving the variety of his work, and being out on-site, John says the aspect he will miss most is the camaraderie of working in a team environment.

“Being involved in a team, is where it has always been for me,” he reflects.

“As a team, we work together to get the job done and get it done properly. It doesn’t mean to say I have always led that, as I am quite happy for the younger team members to step up and get on with it. But I am always in the background to give them a tap on the shoulder if need be.”

A big part of this, and the most enjoyable, has been mentoring new staff members, he says.

“This sees a senior person linked up with a graduate or someone coming through the ranks to learn what we do and how they should be doing it.

“We are a professional organisation. We need to make sure we have people going out who are competent to do the work. So we take them through all that, by trying to explain why we are doing it and how it all fits together.”

This has seen John mentor the likes of Michael Williamson, who now heads up Operations for EnviroScience.

“When Mick started, we were joined at the hip, and he is basically running the place now,” he smiles. “It is the mentoring that I have really enjoyed.”

In turn, John says EnviroScience Managing Director and Founder, Juliet Duffy, has been “fully supportive” throughout his tenure with the company.  

“I tell everyone you won’t find a better boss than Juliet because, essentially, we are left to get on with it. There is no micromanaging, which is quite rare these days.”

With EnviroScience having big shoes to fill in the wake of John’s departure, John says there is an opening with the company for an Occupational Hygienist. 

“While they can be few and far between, especially out west here, we are after someone who is trained up or has the makings of it.”

As a growing industry, John urges those working in health and safety to “look at specialising in this sort of area.

“It is more interesting, and you deal with some really interesting industry sectors that lead to preventative measures combating potential asbestosis and silicosis.

“There is just so much opportunity in this field, and with a company like ours.”

As John heads off into retirement, with plans to travel around Australia, he says he will be finishing the trip he set out to do when he first came out from the UK in 1987.

“There were three of us that came out here together as backpackers, and we are all still here,” he laughs. “I was planning on being here a year!”

But this time his wife of 32 years, Dianne, will be in tow.

“We are renting out our place to travel around Australia. We have no time limit. It could be one year, two years, six months – I don’t know. We’ll play it by ear.”

With John keeping his name down as a casual with EnviroScience, he knows the trip will help ease him into retirement.

“I am not totally leaving; as I said, I will stay on a casual and work when they are really busy.

“Just a day here, day there, to help them out,” he says.