Utah State University industrial hygienist John Flores is the recipient of the 2022 Meritorious Achievement Award from the Utah Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the state organization’s top honor.
Flores, principal lecturer in the Public Health program of USU’s Department of Biology, was recognized during the 39th annual Utah Conference on Safety and Industrial Hygiene on Oct. 13-14, 2022, at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The conference is a joint gathering of the Utah Section of the AIHA, the Utah Chapter of the American Society of Safety Professionals, and the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health.
“We’re proud to recognize John Flores as this year’s recipient of the Meritorious Award,” said USU alum Kyle Naylor (BS’13, Public Health, Industrial Hygiene), AIHA-UT president-elect, at the awards ceremony. “John’s influence on workplace health and safety has been felt on a global scale through the many students he’s impacted.”
Naylor praised Flores’ efforts as a teacher, mentor and adviser to student and professional AIHA members, both in Utah and throughout the world.
“John’s efforts over many dedicated years continue to drive our profession forward,” he said.
Naylor noted Utah State’s importance as one of only four ABET-accredited undergraduate programs in industrial hygiene in the nation.
“It was an impressive moment during John’s recognition when he asked all of the Aggie graduates of USU’s IH program to stand,” Naylor said, following the ceremony. “It was the majority of people in the room and they enthusiastically applauded John. Many of us have grown professionally thanks to his guidance and mentorship.”
Flores, himself a 1993 graduate of USU’s industrial hygiene program, joined Utah State’s faculty at the urging of his former professors in 2002.
“I’m very humbled by this recognition,” Flores says. “For me, my role at USU is not just about teaching, but guiding students in preparation for successful careers. I’ve helped many students find their first — and in some cases, second and third — jobs.”
Flores’ students will tell you he’s not only helped them secure employment, but to do so at competitive salaries and with the real-world skills needed to productively navigate careers in industry, the public sector, the military and in academia.
“I often get messages or calls from former students asking for workplace safety or career advice,” Flores says. “One communication came through WhatsApp from a USU alum in the military, deployed in a combat-forward area, asking for advice on a noise mitigation issue. Together, we took care of it.”
Flores, who earned a master’s degree from the University of Utah and is a certified industrial hygienist, says industrial hygiene, which combines science and engineering to anticipate, recognize, evaluate and control workplace hazards and promote occupational health, is not a well-known profession.
“I would bet nearly 90 percent of people who study industrial hygiene had never heard of the field, before they stumbled into it as undergrads, grad students or in the workplace,” says Flores, who learned of the profession while working in construction. “Even graduates who don’t become industrial hygienists have benefited from this degree — we have a substantial number of physicians, dentists and other health care professionals among our alumni — many say they’re thankful for the edge it’s given them by studying occupational exposures, ventilation, epidemiology, environmental health and other topics, as they prepared for their respective careers.”
Flores says one of the most rewarding aspects of industrial hygiene is “knowing your efforts are improving people’s lives.”
“All of us in this profession have the opportunity to make the workplace better and healthier,” he says. “We do our part to help workers in all kinds of occupations avoid injury and illness as they provide for their families.”
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