August 28, 2018 / Barbara Dawson, CIH, FAIHA, CSP

Contributing to the Success of Industrial Hygienists

I recently had the opportunity to lead a team that revised the AIHA publication Core Competencies for the Practice of Industrial/Occupational Hygiene. The goal of the Core Competencies publication is to outline the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities that IH/OH practitioners should possess when working at different levels of practice. The original document was published in 2012 and, in this update, we added more technical competencies, including emerging issues, fatigue management, and indoor air quality, as well as functional competencies such as “soft skills” that will contribute to the success of the industrial hygienist. We also broke the technical competencies down into “foundation” (that is, basic math and science), “fundamentals” (all of the different industrial hygiene areas like air sampling, chemical hazards, noise, and so on), and “application” (pulling all of the foundation and fundamentals knowledge together to assess, manage, and communicate the workplace health hazard risks to protect worker health).

We also tried to align the document with the knowledge areas and career levels described in AIHA’s IH Professional Pathway program, which links association resources and development opportunities with the various career levels of the profession. We believe the Core Competencies document is applicable to several audiences, including students, who can use it to gain an understanding of industrial hygiene and prepare for a career in IH/OH. Academic programs can use the document to design, review, and update curricula. Employers can use AIHA’s core competencies to create career paths by setting expectations for knowledge and skill development for individuals assigned to IH/OH positions within their respective organizations. We hope that individual practitioners at all stages of their careers will be able to use the revised document as a guide to further their own professional and career development. I’d love to hear from anyone who has used the Core Competencies to help guide their career.

With the help of AIHA staff, we solicited volunteers to help with the update, and we had a great response. We wanted to make sure we pulled together a diverse team, with representatives of both genders and from different geographic regions, experience levels, and industries. We worked via teleconferences and google docs. It was great to work with industrial hygienists whom I hadn’t met before and who share my passion for the field. At AIHce EXP in May, I met some of my terrific revision team members in person and thanked them for their help.

I find it personally rewarding to be involved in our professional association. Working on this document gave me a chance to interact with other hygienists and continue to broaden my network of peers. I know sometimes people don’t have time to volunteer for things that require sizable commitments and I think this was a great example of a project with a finite timeline that provided an opportunity for people to contribute their knowledge in a meaningful way without worrying about a long-term obligation. Keep an eye out for ways you can help AIHA​ with whatever time you have available!

As a career industrial hygienist, I am passionate about keeping the profession a vibrant and attractive choice for those who are just starting out in their work lives. One way I can give back to the profession is to make sure everyone knows what we do and that there is a clear path of what we as industrial hygienists need to know to prepare for a career in the field.

Barbara Dawson, CIH, FAIHA, CSP

Barbara Dawson, CIH, FAIHA, CSP is the Global OH Competency Leader at DuPont.


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