June 27, 2024 / Amanuel Kassahun and Conor O’Malley

An AIHA Staff Initiative to Foster Inclusivity

Image Credit: Getty Images / VectorArchive

As Pride Month draws to a close, we, as AIHA staff, wanted to share one of the association's internal initiatives relevant to this month's celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. Efforts to promote inclusivity align with AIHA's mission to protect all workers and their communities from occupational and environmental hazards, regardless of background or identity. While AIHA as an organization recently updated its diversity, equity, and inclusion policy (PDF), which states the association's commitment to fostering a culture and environment supportive of DEI and accessibility for all members and volunteers, AIHA staff have been working to ensure an inclusive environment for our colleagues. A group of staff formed a DEI committee a few years ago, and one of the key initiatives to stem from that was a staff-led workshop focused on inclusion and educating participants about sexuality, gender, and LGBTQ+ concepts.

This training opportunity, called Project Safe Zone, was first facilitated by AIHA staff members Conor O'Malley and Lauren Corlett. Project Safe Zone is made up of discussion-based activities that encourage employees to reflect on their own identity and to educate them about the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals. All AIHA staff have participated in Project Safe Zone 101, which addresses fundamental topics such as LGBTQ+ identities, prejudice, assumptions, and privilege, and many staff have completed Project Safe Zone 201, which focuses on reflective discussions about gender and identity to help foster understanding among coworkers.

AIHA staff's Project Safe Zone activities are based on resources from the Safe Zone Project, which offers training opportunities for interested individuals and groups to learn about LGBTQ+ identities, gender, and sexuality while examining the effects of prejudice, assumptions, and privilege in these topic areas. Despite recent progress regarding LGBTQ+ rights and workplace inclusion, there remain concerns for those who come out or are perceived as LGBTQ+ in the workplace, as the authors of a Synergist article published last year explain. They point to research involving a survey of 2,000 LGBTQ+ workers across the U.S. that found "a staggering 75 percent of LGBTQ+ employees … reported having experienced at least one negative interaction at work related to their identity in the past year and 41 percent of respondents experienced more than ten instances."

In a time when striving for equity and empathy toward our fellow humans is crucial, we have found Project Safe Zone to be a valuable tool for AIHA to achieve these goals. The program can be adapted for use in workplaces, schools, or community settings. The Safe Zone Project provides its full curriculum for free, allowing independent facilitators to select activities that best serve their audience. By reflecting on both the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community and examining their own conscious and unconscious privileges and biases, participants can gain a broader perspective on societal culture and increased awareness about LGBTQ+ issues.

How has your organization recognized Pride Month? In what ways does your company work to support LGBTQ+ staff? Let us know in the comments!


In 2022, the AIHA Board of Directors unanimously voted to support the formation of the PR(IH)DE Special Interest Group, which seeks to support and promote the professional growth and development of industrial hygienists and occupational and environmental health and safety professionals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and all other sexual orientations and gender identities through networking, mentorship, and research. PR(IH)DE also works to support LGBTQ+ allies and supporters.

An article published in 2023 in The Synergist features interviews with three out LGBTQ+ IH and OEHS professionals to gain an understanding of their work experiences and hear their views. "Out in the Workplace" briefly discusses PR(IH)DE. More information about the special interest group can be found on AIHA's website.

Amanuel Kassahun and Conor O’Malley

Amanuel Kassahun is AIHA’s social media coordinator.

Conor O’Malley is AIHA’s program manager, education.


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