July 2, 2020 / William J. Mills, III

A New Technical Framework on the Use of DRIs

Occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals have a new resource now to help them select and operate direct reading instruments (DRIs) and their sensor components: on May 26, 2020, the AIHA volunteer workgroup completed the “Guidance on Use of Direct Reading Instruments” draft document and submitted it to the AIHA Board. The Board gave its final approval, and the document was posted to the AIHA website shortly thereafter.

Also referred to as the Body of Knowledge for Direct Reading Instruments, the BoK for DRI, or, in this blog post, simply the BoK, this new document establishes a technical framework for the appropriate use of DRIs, provides guidance on common challenges with their use, and identifies references for the further development of competencies.

The project team included representatives from the AIHA Real-Time Detection Systems Committee (RTDSC), government enforcement and research agencies, and industry professionals employed in both the private sector and academia. Foreshadowing remote work mandates resulting from COVID-19, most of the work on this project took place through online meetings, and document sharing and discussion via the AIHA Catalyst site. Only one face-to-face meeting took place, over a day and a half in Arlington, Virginia, not far from AIHA headquarters, in early August 2019.

This document’s release culminates a project that began in the spring of 2019 with a call for volunteers to work on revisions to the previous BoK. There were a number of reasons to revise the previous BoK document: evidence that improper use of DRIs had caused property damage, injury, and even death; increased availability of low-cost sensors; and the expanding definition of what constitutes DRIs. DRIs now include wearable sensors as well as devices to detect aerosols, body temperature, visible light spectrum, and ergonomic issues, all of which are being used in the OHS field.

One of the most significant changes to the BoK was establishing the competencies—specific sets of knowledge, skills, and abilities—associated with levels of responsibility or trust in the user. These levels, called “tiers,” ranged from Tier 1 for the basic user, to Tier 4, for the advanced user. The BoK also includes a guide on how to evaluate the competencies associated with each tier.

As part of the document development, a draft of the BoK was made available to external stakeholders, allied professionals, and AIHA members for review against the guiding principles and a survey was used to compile responses. One issue identified by the survey responses was the apparent lack of knowledge about the Standard Equipment Specification Sheet (SESS), which forms part of the base framework for the BoK. As a result, revisions were made to the BoK draft to emphasize how the SESS documents (there are two: one for an instrument, and one for individual sensors that can be used in an instrument) outline the type of questions a DRI user needs to ask regarding the DRI instrument or sensor. (The SESS documents are available on the RTDSC page of the AIHA website. For more information, read “Purchasing the Best Instrument” in the June/July 2017 issue of The Synergist.)

Throughout the BoK revisions, workgroup leader Dawn Bolstad-Johnson kept the members on focus and the project moving forward. The assistance of AIHA staff members Stacy Calhoun and Connor O’Malley was also appreciated.

In the future, the BoK workgroup intends to publish some case studies of the inappropriate use of DRI, and how the BoK could prevent the issues encountered therein. Members of the workgroup also plan to offer professional development courses and presentations regarding the BoK and how to apply it at AIHce EXP 2021.

Finally, the BoK workgroup welcomes corrections, such as typographical and technical errors, and suggestions for improvement. These can be submitted to Stacy Calhoun.

William J. Mills, III

William J. Mills, III is an associate professor of environmental health and safety at Northern Illinois University’s Department of Engineering Technology. He was a member of the RTDSC group responsible for drafting the Covid-19 Response document, and has over 38 years of professional experience in EHS issues.


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