May 4, 2021 / Felix Boachie and Brandi E. Kissel

Building Better IH Tools: Results from the Tech Tools Survey

In April 2020, AIHA’s Technology Initiatives Strategic Advisory Group (TISAG) distributed the Tech Tools Survey to the AIHA membership. The survey was intended to informally assess the state of the currently existing industrial hygiene tools developed by AIHA volunteer groups and members. Additionally, the survey aimed to determine if any existing tools should be made available in other formats and identify whether any new tools need to be developed.

AIHA has released many online-accessible tools developed by its members and volunteer communities, many of them based in Microsoft Excel, that industrial hygiene and occupational and environmental health and safety professionals may find useful in different aspects of their work, particularly exposure assessment. The IH/OEHS Exposure Scenario Tool (IHEST) helps users measure or estimate exposure generation. The Basic Exposure Assessment and Sampling Spreadsheet (BEA) is a template for air and noise sampling data. The Qualitative Exposure Assessment Checklist helps users perform an initial (Tier 1) exposure assessment. AIHA has three tools available to help users perform more complicated Tier 2 assessments: IHMOD 2.0, IHSkinPerm, and OHDMod, which help users estimate liquid spill pool generation rates, dermal absorption, and oxygen concentrations. The IHSTAT application, available in several languages and accompanied by a book, calculates various exposure statistics and helps users interpret the outputs.

Despite this variety of options, the results of the TISAG survey suggest that AIHA members in general are not aware of the functions and merits of these AIHA-sponsored IH tools. 167 people responded to the survey, representing 74 AIHA technical committees, volunteer groups, and local sections. However, for every AIHA tool except for IHSTAT, about 50 percent or more of respondents who chose to answer the question reported that they were not familiar with it. About 62 percent of respondents did indicate that they were somewhat or very familiar with IHSTAT. Figure 1 displays the percentages of respondents who reported being very, somewhat, or not familiar with each of AIHA’s tools.

Figure 1.
Figure 1. Percentages of Tech Tools Survey respondents who reported being very, somewhat, or not familiar with a particular AIHA tool. From SurveyMonkey.

Respondents were also asked which AIHA tools they most wished to receive an update. Figure 2 shows the percentage out of those respondents, out of those who chose to answer the question, who favored an update to each tool—or, in a handful of cases, the entire toolset or all spreadsheet tools—distributed as proportions of a pie chart. For instance, 57 percent of respondents favored updates to either the IHMOD or IHSTAT tools. Eight percent of respondents, the section labeled NA/No Suggestion, either did not respond to this question or had no suggestions to update any of the tools.

Figure 2.
Figure 2. Percentages of Tech Tools Survey respondents who supported updating a particular AIHA software tool. From Brandi E. Kissel.

The survey also allowed respondents to suggest a particular format for the new version: that is, whether they preferred the tool to be offered on a Mac/iOS program, as a virtual assistant, as an application program, as a web-based program, or as integrable software. Respondents could also provide a justification for their choice, with just over half of them saying that they wanted AIHA tools to be more easily accessible. These results have informed TISAG’s priorities for moving existing e-tools to other platforms, such as app programs, with the aim of increasing their usefulness, accessibility, and other value to the IH profession.

When developing solutions to address the future needs of the industrial hygiene profession, it’s essential to acknowledge that many enterprises still rely on low-tech tools and processes, such as hardcopy forms and records, and have limited technological resources. Obtaining information about AIHA members’ current and future needs could identify opportunities to make new technology-based tools that could benefit the IH profession. It is especially important that as many IHs as possible find those tools accessible and easy to use.

The Tech Tools Survey included a section in which respondents could leave a comment suggesting apps or web-based tools they wished for AIHA to develop. These comments were almost as varied as the respondents, but included suggestions for tools specialized to predict noise exposure, assist with Bayesian analysis, and store IH data. While no plans have been finalized, TISAG may use these suggestions as starting points for future tool development. TISAG is working with the AIHA Computer Applications and the Exposure Assessment Strategies committees and with external AIHA partners to determine the next steps for developing IH tools.

Felix Boachie and Brandi E. Kissel

Felix Boachie, MS, CIH, CSP, is the industrial hygiene director at McCormick & Company and is a charter member of the AIHA Technology Initiatives Strategic Advisory Group.

Brandi E. Kissel, CIH, is the senior industrial hygienist at Rogers Corporation and is a charter member of the AIHA Technology Initiatives Strategic Advisory Group.


technical 'owner' of each app?

Is there a specific 'owner' of each app to whom specific technical questions could be sent? and IHSTAT and IHMOD are the ones in question.if so, i'd appreciate a reply by email.

By Lawrence Whitehead on May 4, 2021 4:14pm

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