Mission and Message

This past week I attended my first AIHA event—the Fall Conference in San Antonio. My very first impression was of the high energy exhibited by the AIHA Board during our weekend meetings. In my 16-plus years working with boards in the non-profit sector, I’ve never seen such an enthusiastic volunteer governing body. If I had not been convinced before, this certainly reaffirmed that I made the right decision to come work here!

The kick-off session to the Fall Conference was the Profession Rebranding Debate held over Monday’s breakfast. The debate concerned whether the name “industrial hygiene” is a barrier to young people entering the profession. As an outsider, I came to the session convinced that we needed to change the “industrial hygiene” moniker. But as I listened to the opposing side’s perspectives, I changed my mind. What is most important is how we communicate who we are—it’s a branding issue, not a name issue.

Later in the conference, we heard that the Australians have tons of young professionals in the field—it’s considered cool and hip to practice occupational hygiene. So the first thing we should do is ask what the Aussies have done to achieve this state and how can we leverage their efforts to reverse the decline here. I intend to delve deeper into this matter when I travel Down Under for the AIOH annual meeting in early December.

AIHA and the CIH credential are well respected and recognized in our circles around the world. We know that other countries aspire to have as robust a certification program as our CIH. And we know that developing countries—India, with its large English-speaking population of workers, is one example—are eager to embrace the CIH credential. (As an aside, one of my priorities is to lead the effort to draft an AIHA international strategy, which may focus on markets that want to work in tandem with us. Look for more on this topic in a future blog.)

AIHA’s logo consists of our acronym along with the tagline “Protecting Worker Health.” I think this makes sense—rather than referencing “industrial hygiene,” which is confusing to the public at large, we feature this tagline to better communicate what we do. One would think our mission should be highly appealing to millennials contemplating their future career paths. After all, haven’t we been hearing that millennials want to pursue altruistic professions? What better fit than to work in the multi-disciplinary, financially rewarding field of IH/OH?

Monday’s lunchtime presentation featured NIOSH discussing its Total Worker Health program. This initiative encompasses policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being. It got me thinking: how else could we position ourselves as we speak to government officials and the public at large? Here’s just one approach: “We sustain (that is, foster and facilitate) holistic workplace (and community) health (and wellness).”

If that doesn’t appeal to students and young professionals interested in making a positive difference in the world, I’m not sure what does. Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts. In the meantime, I look forward to meeting you at a future AIHA or other industry event.

Larry Sloan

Larry Sloan is AIHA​’s CEO


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