November 16, 2021 / Mark Ames

A Surprise from AIHA’s Government Relations Survey

Early this fall, AIHA asked members to fill out a short survey to help us better understand the types of public policy issues they care about and the government relations actions they wish for AIHA to pursue. Now, the results are in, and they contained a surprise.

When asked what public policy issues you’re interested in—respondents could select as many as they wished—nearly half of members chose the options for indoor environmental quality (IEQ), COVID-19 and pandemics, and increased OEHS visibility in government. These responses track with AIHA’s expectations.

However—not in keeping with AIHA’s expected results but appreciated nonetheless—42 percent of respondents indicated they were interested in hearing loss prevention. To put this in perspective, respondents ranked hearing loss prevention higher than heat stress, disaster preparedness, professional title protection, and other choices. Although the difference may only be a handful of percentage points in some cases, these results tell an interesting story and yield exactly the type of insights we hoped for from a survey such as this one.

This survey tells us that, for the most part, AIHA is on the right track by focusing on COVID-19, IEQ, raising the profile of OEHS, heat stress prevention, and disaster response. But this survey also conveys that there’s a sizeable demand for action on hearing loss prevention. That makes sense considering that 22 million Americans are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work each year and nearly a quarter of hearing loss is caused by occupational exposures.

AIHA has made a lot of progress on COVID-19, IEQ, heat stress, disaster response, and title protection, and we’ll continue to focus on those areas. However, through this survey, we also looked to identify topics for which members expressed energetic interest and an urgent desire to change the status quo—topics that indicate the type of untapped potential that can make a difference.

Before the pandemic, hearing loss prevention was a top issue for AIHA, but it’s true that we haven’t focused as much on it since the pandemic began. Still, AIHA has good news to report in this area: the House of Representatives is following AIHA’s recommendation to encourage OSHA to lower its current Permissible Exposure Limit for occupational noise exposure to 85 dBA for an 8-hour time weighted average, using a 3 dB exchange rate. This PEL would match NIOSH’s Recommended Exposure Limit.

Thanks to the survey results, AIHA can be more confident in choosing the government relations issues that we ask our volunteers to engage with. The survey helps us better understand the types of government relations activities our members are interested in taking.

Most respondents confirmed that they’d like to help draft comments on proposed government actions. That comes as no surprise, as we’ve had great success in the past with recruiting members as volunteers to author comments from AIHA to government agencies such as OSHA and NIOSH. A sizable number of survey respondents also indicated their interest in serving on government advisory boards, and about one-third said they’d like to meet with a federal or state legislator or agency official. Many of our members also expressed interest in writing letters or emails to government officials, tracking with the previous success of AIHA’s action alert email campaigns, which often have response rates three times greater than the industry average for government relations.

Small actions have large results. By taking a few moments to answer our survey questions, you have helped guide the course of AIHA’s government relations activities. Thank you to everyone who filled out the survey!

While the survey is now closed, there’s still time to let your voice be heard by sending me an email. I’d love to hear from you!

Mark Ames

Mark Ames is AIHA's director of government relations.


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