June 29, 2021 / John Baker

How AIHA’s Content Priorities Serve the OEHS Community

Every five years, the AIHA Content Portfolio Advisory Group (CPAG) reviews an “environmental scan” of future trends influencing the occupational and environmental health and safety profession. The scan is conducted by a futurist consulting firm that conducts surveys and focus group sessions with OEHS and allied professionals and interested communities. AIHA’s content priorities are selected based on the results of the scan. This post assesses how well each content priority has served us over the past year, during which our profession has experienced unprecedented challenges.

Communicating OEHS Concepts supports nearly all AIHA activities. This priority encompasses interpersonal communication, risk communication, business communication, training and education management, and marketing the profession. When the novel coronavirus pandemic began, AIHA volunteers formed our COVID-19 Re-Open America Guidelines Task Force and published guidance specific to 27 occupational exposure scenarios. These documents are freely available through AIHA’s Back to Work Safely website, which also links to webinars, posters, and other relevant information for the general public, and much of this content has been translated into Spanish. This effort had such impact that it was recognized on Twitter by the entrepreneur Mark Cuban:

Mark Cuban May 5 2020

In addition, AIHA led a broad coalition of healthcare, infectious disease, and epidemiology associations to inform society about the aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2. This effort was very important to our understanding of how to prevent COVID-19. A joint statement from these organizations is available on the AIHA website (PDF). More information about the Task Force and Mark Cuban’s involvement appears in the September 2020 issue of The Synergist.

Big Data/Sensor Technology continues to be an area of limited understanding among the industrial hygiene community. Today’s exposure data stream includes not only alphanumeric characters but images, sounds, and directly transcribed input from digital sensors. In the past year, CPAG worked with NIOSH to conduct two surveys about OEHS professionals’ current understanding and use of Big Data concepts and IH data definitions, and CPAG members published an article on IH data standardization in the December 2020 Synergist. AIHA published technical frameworks—formerly known as “bodies of knowledge”—on Big Data and on direct-reading instruments to define an individual’s core knowledge and skills for effective performance in these practices. CPAG members also drafted new chapters on Big Data and sensor technologies for the second edition of the Industrial Hygiene Performance Metrics Manual. AIHce EXP 2021 included 16 sessions and 3 Professional Development Courses (PDCs) on Big Data and sensor technology. For an introduction to Big Data, read “Predictive Purposes” in the March 2018 Synergist.

Serving the Changing Workforce provides an opportunity for AIHA to partner with NIOSH and other allied professionals to make our audiences aware of nontraditional exposure profiles such as working for multiple employers, gig work, and telecommuting; changes in the workforce such as aging and chronic disease; and societal trends such as global economic shifts and migration. These efforts include two webinars broadcast this year: “The Lens of Minority Populations in the Workplace During COVID-19” in February and “Bridging Boomers to Zoomers: Understanding a Multi-Generational Workplace” in May. Kudos to AIHA’s Minority Special Interest Group and Leadership and Management Committee, respectively, for creating and presenting these webinars. Most recently, the Social Concerns Committee spearheaded a white paper (PDF), published earlier this month, that highlights worker rights and protections as essential elements for a safe and healthful workplace. AIHA members are collaborating with the NIOSH Center for Productive Aging and the NIOSH Future of Work initiative to address changes in work, the worker, and the workplace wrought by social disruption, technological change, globalization, and extreme weather conditions. AIHce EXP 2021 included 14 sessions that address the changing workforce.

The Total Exposure Health (TEH) content priority helps IH professionals understand how occupational and nonoccupational exposures are integrated to protect the health of the worker and the worker’s family and community. This content priority underscores the role of industrial hygienists as exposure science experts beyond the traditional workplace. In April 2020, Kirk Phillips, John Suter, Larry Sloan, and Ben Kollmeyer explained the concept of TEH and the role of the IH in the future of exposure management on SynergistNOW. Unique factors that affect an individual’s susceptibility to adverse health effects such as small changes in genes or in the individual’s proximity to sources of exposure in the workplace or the home can result in marked differences in health. A new technical framework on this topic, led by Spencer Pizzani and sparked by his April 2020 Synergist article “Protecting Modified Worker Health: Biohacking and the Workplace,” is in development, and a revision of a technical framework on occupational exposure assessment is underway. CPAG members are joining forces with the Society for Risk Analysis and NIOSH to include cumulative risk analysis within the topic of health. AIHce EXP 2021 included 19 sessions and PDCs on the topic of TEH. For more information on TEH, read “A New Approach to the Exposure Sciences” in the June/July 2019 Synergist.

The Occupational Exposure Banding (OEB) content priority stems from the fact that of approximately 350,000 chemicals and mixtures in commercial use, as reported by the American Chemical Society, only about 1,000 have authoritative occupational exposure limits. This problem was first addressed by the pharmaceutical industry in the 1980s, which grouped exposure estimates and control recommendations of new active pharmaceutical ingredients based on similar structures, toxicities, and risks of exposure. Since then, the concepts of exposure, hazard, and control banding have been applied in other industries. AIHA is partnering with NIOSH to educate health and safety professionals on the importance of utilizing occupational exposure banding in their exposure risk assessments. A page on the AIHA website provides ready access to exposure banding educational materials, including links to the NIOSH OEB e-tool and the NIOSH report that explains the OEB approach to chemical exposure risk management. Two videos on this topic are in production and will be published on the AIHA website. Virtual AIHce EXP 2021 included 6 sessions and 1 professional development course on the OEB content priority.

These activities show that your association has been at the forefront of improving the health of workers and their families and communities. Any AIHA member who wishes to contribute to further development of our content priorities is welcome to contact Tara Laptew, AIHA’s project manager for Technical Initiatives.

John Baker

John Baker, CIH, FAIHA, retired from BSI EHS Services and Solutions in May 2021 after 50 years in the OEHS profession. He has worked in air pollution enforcement, the steel industry, and diversified manufacturing industries, as well as consulting. He is an AIHA Fellow and an active member of AIHA’s Nano and Advanced Materials Working Group.


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