Bioenvironmental engineering keeps workplace safe

by Airman 1st Class Hailey Haux
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron’s bio-environmental engineering flight ensures all Air Force members and employees working in the KMC have a healthy work environment.

“The daily operations of the bioenvironmental engineering flight are important to mission accomplishment,” said Maj. Robbie Wheeler, 86th AMDS bioenvironmental engineering flight commander. “The short-term goal is to help ensure that every KMC warrior and their family members are healthy enough to complete the mission.”

The bioenvironmental engineering flight performs a number of duties to guarantee their work environment is a healthy place.

“We perform surveys that help determine risks such as irritating chemicals and waterborne illness, and use our equipment to analyze any health hazards,” said Airman 1st Class Brian Bigney, 86th AMDS bioenvironmental engineering technician.

Not only does a bioenvironmental engineering technician perform gas mask fit tests; they also respond to emergencies such as chemical spills and take water samples on a weekly basis.

“Water sampling is one of the biggest things we do,” Bigney said. “We are constantly taking samples to make sure the KMC has clean, uncontaminated water.”

Another part of their job involves making sure any confined spaces have the correct oxygen levels.

“We don’t want anyone entering an area that is a hazard to their health,” Bigney said.

If an area is found to be hazardous, the bio-environmental engineering technicians recommend a solution, ranging from changing the process, to implementing workplace controls like industrial ventilation; to telling workers what protective equipment should be used to keep their work environment safe.

Working with other agencies on emergency responses puts a different spin on the everyday jobs, said Bigney.

“Since we are dealing with hazardous materials, teamwork and communication is crucial,” said Senior Master Sgt. Alvaro Magana, 86th AMDS bio-
environmental engineering flight chief. “We have to be able to respond and talk with each other about what is going on because everyone’s health is at stake.”
Ramstein’s bioenvironmental engineering flight has the same procedures as any base in the states; however, one thing that is different is that they have to comply with the host nation requirements, to make sure their codes and standards are met as well.

To learn the tricks of the trade, bio-environmental engineering technicians go to technical school for three and a half months to train for anything that might come up.

“It’s a difficult course,” said Magana. “There are a variety of chemicals they need to learn about. They have to know what’s toxic versus radioactive. In technical school they learn how to protect themselves and others against this broad field of chemicals.”

Keeping the KMC safe is a major priority, however; Airmen from the bioenvironmental engineering flight have another long-term goal in mind when they come to work every day.

“Our efforts help us keep our military members and their families healthy well beyond their term of service,” said Wheeler. “We prevent avoidable illnesses that might develop long after they’ve left the military.”