November 8, 2022 / Ina Xhani, Jérôme Lavoué, and John Mulhausen

How to Make Better Exposure Risk Decisions

Earlier this year, AIHA started offering a free course on using statistics for more accurate risk decision-making. This course is being taught by Andrew D. Perkins, MS, CIH, CSP, COHC; Jérôme Lavoué, PhD, MS; Paul Hewett, PhD, MS, CIH, FAIHA; and John Mulhausen, PhD, MS, CIH, CSP, FAIHA. Recently, we discussed the course and what the audience will gain from it. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

Ina Xhani: What can participants expect from the course?

Jérôme Lavoué: This is a six-part series of video recordings that provides the audience with a basic understanding of the properties of lognormally distributed exposure profiles and how to use traditional and Bayesian statistical analysis tools to make accurate exposure risk decisions based on monitoring data.

The first two parts, which are taught by John Mulhausen, focus on basic statistics. These are followed by an introduction to Bayesian statistics to set the foundation for the rest of the course. I provide an overview of the free Expostats tool, and Paul Hewett describes IHDA-AIHA, the freeware version of his own IH data-analysis tool. And finally, Andrew Perkins presents several examples of how OEHS professionals can use the two tools to make accurate exposure risk decisions.

IX: Why is this course important for OEHS professionals?

John Mulhausen: Accurate exposure risk decisions are important because everything we do in OEHS depends on making an accurate decision. If we're correct, we're able to focus our exposure risk management resources directly on the problem and solve it. If we're incorrect, we're going to waste resources. We're going to spend money controlling hazards that we don't need to control because we've overestimated the exposures, or we're going to leave employees at risk because we've underestimated exposures.

JL: In my opinion, it's particularly important for chemical risk assessment because of the long latency between exposure and disease. This is very different from safety issues. When you make a mistake that affects safety, the accident rate will rise very quickly, providing a relatively quick feedback loop to tell you that you made an error or something isn’t right. But when it comes to chemical risk assessment, the health outcomes can occur decades after a worker has been exposed, so OEHS professionals never really have any feedback on the quality of their decisions. That’s why making sure that your decisions are accurate and as good as they can be is very important.

IX: What will the audience gain from this course?

JL: OEHS professionals who sign up for this course will learn about the basics of exposure variability and how to manage this variability using statistics. They will be taught about the existing calculation tools for making good decisions, and they’ll see examples of how to use the tools. So, I think it would set them up for making accurate risk assessments. They will also learn to use free, powerful statistical tools so they can better interpret monitoring data and make accurate exposure risk decisions, and better protect workers and communities.

JM: By taking this course, the audience will gain an appreciation of the variability of exposures and the importance of using statistical tools to understand and manage that variability and the uncertainty it causes. This course will teach them to use the free tools, which are very powerful and very user-friendly. By learning how to use these tools, they can make accurate exposure decisions every time they have monitoring data.

I invite professionals in every segment of the OEHS discipline to take this course if they are making exposure risk decisions. Everybody who is protecting the health and safety of workers or communities and makes decisions about risk can improve their decision-making by understanding these tools and using them every time they have monitoring data. Upon completion of the course, the audience will have the knowledge and skills needed to demonstrate their competency in making accurate exposure decisions by taking and passing the exam for the AIHA Exposure Decision Analysis Registry.

To learn more about the free course Making Accurate Exposure Risk Decisions, please visit AIHA’s website.

Ina Xhani, Jérôme Lavoué, and John Mulhausen

Ina Xhani is AIHA’s communications associate.

Jérôme Lavoué, PhD, MS, is a professor at the school of public health, University of Montreal.

John Mulhausen, PhD, MS, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, is past president of AIHA.


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