A Deeper Bond
By Larry Sloan
In the association world, we often talk about the importance of “engagement.” People today have so many demands on their time; an organization like AIHA needs to figure out how to cut through the noise, not only to reach different audiences and attract new members, but to deepen our bond with current members, volunteers, and stakeholders. An engaged individual is one who is likely to find our mission inspiring and our vision worth pursuing. And so we dutifully track the many measures of engagement: retweets, Facebook likes, email open rates, visitors to our website.
Look at these numbers long enough and you may start to think that engagement is an end in itself, not a means to an end. But the truth is that engagement, while necessary, is only the beginning. AIHA needs to do more.
The proper way to think about engagement is as a step in a process toward action. We ask for more from our members than their attention: we ask for their commitment and for participation in our common cause. And the way we get from engagement to action is through advocacy.
Advocacy involves interfacing with elected leaders and government officials—both on the federal and state levels—to influence decisions and legislation related to members’ professional goals and interests. It’s a common activity in associations, and one that AIHA has enshrined in our strategic plan for 2019–21. In this, the final post in my series about the strategic plan, I’ll introduce readers to AIHA’s strategic objectives around advocacy.
WORKING THROUGH COALITIONS
AIHA’s recurring challenge in the realm of advocacy stems from the fact that our constituency is relatively small. The number of professionals engaged in protecting workers belies its importance. We’ve long sought to work with other groups to achieve common goals, and this will remain a focus of our strategy under the current strategic plan.
Through our contacts with like-minded organizations, AIHA was invited to participate in the first-ever combined workshop of public and private partners to discuss supply chain issues related to the Strategic National Stockpile for pandemics. We were also invited to become one of the first members of OSHA’s new Ambassadors Program.
Many elected government officials arrive in their positions having learned very little about occupational health and safety. Similarly, much of the general public is unaware of the important role played by IH professionals. Led by AIHA Director of Government Relations Mark Ames, we are working to raise awareness on issues related to IH and OEHS through in-person briefings, webinars, and press conferences.
This year, AIHA launched its first-ever public engagement campaign, focusing on wildfire. One aspect of this campaign was a video targeted to the general public that explains the toxic environment caused by the burning of metals and plastics found in homes. Detailed information for the public is available through our Wildfire Disaster Recovery Center.
AIHA’s greatest strength is the passion and commitment of its volunteers. Through our ACTIONS Committee, AIHA is organizing volunteers to influence public policy at all levels of government. Some recent successes our members helped achieve include working with state legislatures in California and Michigan to support passage of legislation concerning cleanup of fentanyl-contaminated properties and allowing OSHA 30-hour courses to count toward students’ graduation requirements, respectively. To get a sense of our volunteers’ experiences, read the previous SynergistNOW posts about young worker safety in Michigan and a meeting of the OSHA Alliance Program Construction Roundtable.
On the federal level, two AIHA-supported bills were passed by the U.S. House of Representatives: the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, and the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act. The House also passed a spending bill that funded OSHA, MSHA, and NIOSH at AIHA’s recommended levels. And a rule proposed by the Department of Labor that would have allowed independent operation of powered lifts by 16- and 17-year-old workers was withdrawn; AIHA had expressed concern about this rule.
As this series on AIHA’s strategic plan concludes, it’s fitting to look back on my introductory post from last July, which introduced AIHA’s current mission and vision statements. Those statements read:
Mission: Empowering those who apply scientific knowledge to protect all workers from occupational hazards.
Vision: A world where all workers are healthy and safe.
If these statements speak to you, I encourage you to join us in our advocacy on behalf of occupational health and safety and the industrial hygiene profession.
To join the ACTIONS Committee, please contact Mark Ames.
Good post Larry. I continue to be humbled by the expertise and passion of our members. We all can take that extra step from passive absorption of information to advocacy, engagement, and action. There are a lot of ways to get involved in AIHAs efforts. Join a volunteer group, answer an open call, serve as a leader in a local section, volunteer group or on the board, share your IH passion with local schools, implement what you learned from an AIHA educational experience, mentor a student or young professional, the list goes on!By Dina Siegel on February 12, 2020 9:15am