Food Science Lab Manager goes above and beyond for occupational health and safety
By Jim Hynes
If you are in a line of work that requires you to get safety certification and accreditation, chances are that you will one day come across Ebrahim Noroozi. Perhaps you already have. Firefighters, dentists, doctors, lawyers, scientists, police officers and engineers, you name it, Noroozi has tested their knowledge of occupational health and safety.
And that’s just his volunteer work. On weekdays, “Eby” to his friends, is the Laboratory Manager in the Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry department in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, a position he’s held since 1987.
“Basically I manage various teaching laboratories and resources and have technical duties for the department and faculty,” said Noroozi. “We have about three dozen different research laboratories in the Food Science department alone and hundreds of others at Macdonald Campus in which health and safety issues must be addressed. Of course the professors supervise their own research labs but I assist them in areas like hazard identification, prevention and safe storage, and I’m responsible for other things like spill response and waste management”.
When he started at McGill, Noroozi was charged with overseeing the Hazardous Waste Management Program at the Macdonald Campus. A professional chemist who started his career in the food science engineering and food chemistry field (M.Sc. 78) he has since become a renowned expert in occupational health and safety field in the workplace, particularly in hazards reduction and elimination associated within the food processing industry. He was recently nominated for the 2009 Occupational Safety Leader of the Year Award handed out by Canadian Occupational Safety magazine.
“Food scientists take a lot of chemistry courses and many are qualified to be professional chemists. So involvement with hazardous materials was part of my training,” Noroozi said. “That perked up my interest to get more involved. I saw the importance of safety that touches every aspect of our life within this institution and beyond it. Even then I saw the importance of being certified as a health and safety professional. That’s basically how I started.”
In 1995, as part of his professional development, Noroozi received health and occupational safety accreditation from the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP). A year later, he was appointed Director of the BCRSP’s Quebec Region and Chair of its Regional Screening Centre. In 2005, thanks to his efforts in enhancing quality and growing membership in Quebec, he was named the organization’s National Volunteer of the Year.
Today, Noroozi will follow his mission of promoting occupational health and safety anywhere it takes him. He travels around the world giving lectures and workshops, mostly as a volunteer on his own time. In 2007 he travelled to India on a Canada/CIDA project sponsored by McGill’s Bioresource Engineering department where he was invited to give occupational food health and safety lectures and workshops in seven agri-food related universities and government research institutions.
Meanwhile, Noroozi estimates he’s given workshops and lectures in about 25 different universities and research institutes in his native Iran, including a trip this past May that saw him travel across the country speaking to people in industry, government and universities, professionals who want to know more about health and safety, especially in the food processing area. In 2005, he was presented with the Iranian National Food Industry Award for to his efforts in promoting health, safety and quality in the food industry. Following his most recent trip to Iran, Noroozi was a visiting lecturer at the International Institute of Food Safety and Quality (NOFIMA) in Oslo, Norway.
While Noroozi’s passion for improving occupational health and safety conditions is benefiting others nationally and internationally, it continues to do so at McGill too. In 2007, his own Food Science department received the University’s Safety Productivity Award.
“Wherever I go I promote public safety and the BCRSP’s mission, the protection of people, process, product, property and the environment from hazards,” Noroozi said. “It may not always be directly related to my work here, but it’s a two-way street. Because whatever I learn and experience in my volunteer work usually ends up back here in my everyday job.”