October 12, 2023 / Larry Sloan

An Update on DEI at AIHA

AIHA’s upcoming virtual conference on diversity, equity, and inclusion offers a thorough program focused on DEI issues through the lens of occupational and environmental health and safety. The conference seeks to give OEHS practitioners a greater understanding of topics such as microaggressions, unconscious bias, code switching, equitable PPE, and updates on relevant legislation.

In addition to offering this education for our members and other professionals, AIHA is also working to infuse DEI throughout the association where it is most relevant. Here are a few highlights:

Board nominations. Based on recommendations from an outside consultant in the summer of 2022, we’ve made changes to the way AIHA identifies and assesses candidates for our Board of Directors. For example, to create greater continuity on our Board Nominating Committee (BNC), we’ve instituted two-year terms for some of the at-large members; previously, all at-large members served only one year. This change helps facilitate knowledge transfer and lessons learned between Board nomination cycles. We also now require two BNC members to participate in every candidate interview to better capture diversity of perspectives. We’ve implemented a new Board Composition Matrix that identifies skills and knowledge across multiple areas identified by each Board member, which helps us fill gaps as members roll off the Board each year. Another change is that we now ask Board candidates to describe how they’ve advanced DEI in their own careers, and—in recognition of the fact that there are many potential pathways to leadership—we’ve broadened our focus to ensure we are evaluating candidates on volunteer work, which may extend beyond AIHA committees.

Board discussions. Over the past many years, the AIHA Board has indeed reflected a diverse composition based on various factors, including career stage, industry representation, ethnicity and gender. The Board is more cognizant of fostering a climate where everyone is encouraged to contribute; directors are mindful of varying perspectives on an issue and ensuring no one dominates the discussion. While the Board frankly acknowledges it has work to do in the realms of equity and inclusion, it continues to engage in dialogue about what each element of DEI means to the group.

Cognitive bias training. This past spring, the Board and senior staff participated in a session that helped each of us become more aware of our implicit biases. It also gave us tools for managing these biases—for example, through focusing on people as individuals, consciously changing our stereotypes, adjusting our perspectives, and increasing our exposure to other people and viewpoints.

PR(IH)DE SIG. Last year, the Board approved the formation of the PR(IH)DE Special Interest Group, whose mission is to support OEHS professionals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and all other sexual orientations and gender identities. The SIG has already contributed an excellent article to The Synergist about the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals in OEHS.

Diversity and Inclusion Policy. The PR(IH)DE SIG, Minority SIG, Women in Industrial Hygiene volunteer group, and the Leadership and Management Committee are working on an update of AIHA’s Diversity and Inclusion Policy (PDF). The policy was last updated in 2018.

Strategic Plan and Our Core Values. As part of our work on AIHA’s next strategic plan, in July the Board reviewed the association’s core values and elements of our strategic plan, looking at each through a DEI lens to help determine if changes are needed. These recommendations have been shared with the PR(IH)DE SIG and other VGs and will be evaluated and considered by a task force that will work on the next iteration of our strategic plan next year.

Calls for volunteers. Our process when seeking volunteers for national-level committees, advisory groups, and task forces now includes optional DEI questions. I want to emphasize that AIHA uses this information for internal tracking purposes only. Skills, knowledge, and experience remain the predominant factors in selecting individuals for volunteer positions.

An image on social media depicting DEI as a Venn diagram gets to the heart of what AIHA hopes to achieve through these initiatives. In the center of the image, where diversity, equity, and inclusion overlap, is the word “belonging,” which is defined as “an organization that engages full potential of the individual, where innovation thrives and views, beliefs, and values are integrated.” That’s the kind of organization that AIHA strives to be.

For more information or to register for AIHA’s virtual conference on DEI, visit the AIHA website.

Image credit: wildpixel / Getty Images

Larry Sloan

Larry Sloan, CAE, is AIHA's CEO.


Great message

I love the saying “Safety for All” and that is exactly why OEHS and DEI concepts partner well together. If we aren’t giving our all for all, then we aren’t doing our job.

By Justine Parker on October 15, 2023 2:25pm
Thank you, Larry!

Great blog!

By Dina Siegel on October 12, 2023 2:23pm

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