AIHA Education: Year in Review
December is typically a time of reflection on the year’s achievements. For AIHA, 2019 included a major milestone as we celebrated our eightieth anniversary. The driving force behind AIHA’s formation in June 1939 was a desire to foster the development of industrial hygiene knowledge. From the beginning, then, a focus on expanding the boundaries of IH practice was woven into the fabric of AIHA.
So it remains today: one of the five “domains” in AIHA’s strategic plan for 2019–2021 is the advancement and dissemination of knowledge. This post introduces the strategic goals that support our educational mission. (Previous posts on my series on the strategic plan discuss the domains of awareness and community.)
OBJECTIVE 1: RESEARCH EMERGING ISSUES
AIHA’s main tool for identifying emerging issues for industrial hygienists is the environmental scan. Our most recent environmental scan, completed earlier this year, involved a survey of nearly one thousand industrial hygienists, both members and nonmembers. The results of the survey confirmed that AIHA’s content priorities were largely in tune with what practitioners consider to be key issues in the profession. The survey also asked participants to indicate their preferred learning formats. The results indicated that AIHA should prioritize webinars, online courses, professional development courses, and guidance documents. Our Content Portfolio Advisory Group is the key entity that helps AIHA keep up with the needs of today’s—and tomorrow’s—industrial hygienists. (Read more about the environmental scan in the November Synergist.)
Our commitment to researching emerging issues also includes support for the AIHA Guideline Foundation, which develops our Emergency Response Planning Guidelines, or ERPGs. As AIHA President Kathy Murphy explains in this month’s Synergist, the ERPGs are the only up-to-date airborne levels for risk assessment of a single brief exposure to chemicals. (If you’d like to make an end-of-year donation to support this important work, you can do so through the Guideline Foundation’s web page.)
OBJECTIVE 2: DEVELOP EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES FOR TARGETED AUDIENCES
Primarily through CPAG, AIHA is encouraging and supporting the efforts of members and volunteer groups to create products and services. CPAG’s recommended content priorities—Big Data and sensor technology, total exposure health, exposure banding, communicating IH concepts, and serving the changing workforce—are intended to help members and committees generate ideas for articles, webinars, and other educational content on topics that are likely to have a significant impact on IH professionals. CPAG also maintains “dashboards” that include suggestions for content and explain AIHA’s vision for each content priority. For example, if our work on Big Data is successful, we expect that AIHA members will be able to use sensor technologies and data management to inform decisions related to risk assessment and risk management. You can review the dashboards on the CPAG web page.
Other strategies that support this goal are to collaborate with allied organizations and agencies; finalize the IH Professional Pathway program that identifies technical, management, and leadership resources for each career pathway; and beta-test regional face-to-face workshops and conferences.
OBJECTIVE 3: PROVIDE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES FOR TARGETED AUDIENCES THROUGH MULTIPLE DELIVERY OPTIONS
AIHA already has a strong portfolio of educational resources. Our strategic plan calls for us to continue to sustain, grow, and promote AIHce, JOEH, and The Synergist, while expanding online resources such as e-learning events and webinars. One highlight of the year was our virtual conference on exposure assessment, the first time AIHA had ever attempted such an undertaking. The conference was highly successful, garnering rave reviews from attendees and exceeding revenue forecasts. We will be offering additional virtual conferences in the future.
Another success in 2019 was the launch of our Occupational Exposure Assessment Certificate Program. This online course instructs technician-level professionals on the skills required to gather, document, and report monitoring data and make exposure judgments.
AIHce has gone through a number of changes in recent years intended to improve the conference experience for attendees at all career stages. Adopting a more modern structure is paramount to ensuring AIHce’s continued success at a time when employers are tightening travel budgets. Many of today’s professionals simply don’t have the time or money to spend four or five days away from work, yet their educational needs are greater than ever. Analysis of post-conference surveys shows that our recent changes have been well received by the majority of attendees.
This year, a consultant led AIHA through a “design lab” for AIHce that identified additional ways to ensure that the conference provides excellent education for diverse groups of professionals. More information about that experience is forthcoming in The Synergist.
OBJECTIVE 4: ENABLE COLLEAGUES FROM EMERGING ECONOMIES TO ACCESS FUNDAMENTAL EDUCATION
The most effective way to protect workers around the world is to increase IH capacity in emerging economies. IH professionals in these areas need education that addresses the unique hazards in workplaces that are experiencing industrialization. Our partnership with the Occupational Hygiene Training Association is intended to help meet this need. OHTA develops training materials and promotes the development of qualifications to ensure that all hygienists are trained to a consistent high standard.
In collaboration with OHTA, AIHA offers an online “Basic Principles of Occupational Hygiene” course, which introduces participants to the role of occupational hygienists, a range of physical and chemical hazards in the workplace, techniques for recognizing and evaluating hazards, and methods of controlling exposure. The course has 19 separate modules that participants have six months to complete.
With 2019 receding and 2020 approaching, we are entering the midpoint of our current strategic plan. Please accept my thanks on behalf of the AIHA staff and Board of Directors for the role you’ve played in AIHA’s successes and your help in meeting future challenges. I wish you all a happy, safe, and healthy holiday season.