January 23, 2024 / Larry Sloan

New Research for a New Year

Image Credit: Getty Images / Igor Kutyaev

Many well-run organizations have a dedicated fund for research and development. At AIHA, this fund goes by a strange name: IRAT, which stands for "invested reserves above target." According to our IRAT policy, AIHA maintains investment reserves equal to at least fifty percent of our operating budget. Assuming this requirement is met, AIHA may invest a portion of the investment return in projects with a potential return or strategic benefit to the AIHA enterprise. IRAT projects are designed to support all AIHA business units, which include our LLCs and the Product Stewardship Society. Those approved for funding have a high likelihood of one or more of the following outcomes: 

  1. to provide a new product or service of value to our members and other constituents
  2. to generate new sources of revenue to help strengthen the financial stability of the association 
  3. to develop new educational or other content that advances our content priorities or core competencies 
  4. to provide support and guidance to occupational and environmental health and safety professionals to help address and improve global worker health and well-being

The amount of money available for IRAT and the number of projects it funds changes every year and is based on a three-year rolling average of both realized and unrealized returns. For 2024, the Board has approved seven IRAT projects that will help further many important AIHA priorities.

Advancing OEHS Science and Practice: Communications Strategy

Our Advancing OEHS Science and Practice project involves four ongoing initiatives:

  • Defining the Science. Co-managed with ACGIH, this initiative aims to develop and maintain a comprehensive research agenda for the profession. Our goals are twofold: to broadly communicate this resource with the hope of identifying funding partners that can advance our research priorities and to help our volunteer groups identify new guidance documents that interpret the findings of established research.
  • Principles of Good Practice. This initiative documents practices determined to reliably and effectively protect workers and communities from unacceptable risks by challenging practitioners to go above and beyond regulatory compliance.
  • State of the Art versus Practice. This initiative involves implementing a continuous improvement strategy to address gaps between current and best-in-class OEHS practices.
  • Improving Exposure Judgment. Also co-managed with ACGIH, this initiative aims to improve the accuracy of exposure judgments, both qualitative and quantitative.

As all four initiatives were rolled out relatively quickly over the past couple of years, the Board of Directors feels that AIHA needs to invest in some creative communications to help members better understand the purpose of each initiative and how it connects with the others.

State of the Art vs. Practice

This multi-year IRAT funds research that surveys practitioners to define and implement a continuous improvement strategy that will identify and address gaps between current and state-of-the-art OEHS practice. An initial survey released last year documented practices related to airborne chemical exposure assessments and found significant room for improvement. The full survey findings are available on the AIHA website (PDF). This year, we plan to launch a second survey that focuses on practices related to the assessment of noise exposures and potentially one other topic.

Improving Exposure Judgments: Public Relations and Culture Shift Campaign

The goal of this IRAT is to help OEHS professionals make better exposure decisions. We're taking a long view, aiming for results over a five- to 10-year period. Using webinars, training videos, advertisements, case studies, and social media, we will engage OEHS professionals on issues related to exposure judgments. We also want to bring greater visibility to the Exposure Decision and Analysis Registry, which recognizes practitioners who have the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about worker exposure and exposure uncertainty.

Education Needs Assessment

AIHA conducts an education needs assessment every five years. This IRAT will fund a survey whose findings will help create a strategic plan for continuing education, provide data for evaluating our content priorities, optimize the education offered at AIHA Connect, provide insight into potential regional education offerings, and help us develop new webinars and online courses. The survey may also lead to new projects or direction for our volunteer groups.

Heat Stress App

There is a lot of excitement about this IRAT, which is funding the development of a new app that will help outdoor workers avoid incurring excessive heat stress. The app will automatically calculate the current and forecasted wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) index, indicate a risk level for heat stress based on WBGT and workload, recommend prevention measures, and inform users about the signs and symptoms of specific heat-related illnesses. A huge number of workers are potentially exposed to heat stress, so there is a tremendous need for an app of this nature. We are seeking sponsors to help defray the costs of development. The Thermal Stress Working Group has been instrumental in bringing this project to fruition.

Developing Approaches for Sampling Accreditation

This multi-year IRAT is specific to AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs LLC. ISO/IEC 17025, Testing and Calibration Laboratories, allows accreditation bodies to include sampling as a standalone activity that can be accredited. AIHA LAP has been working with a contractor to conduct a survey of AIHA members about their sampling practices and needs to determine whether accreditation could play a role in improving confidence in accredited test results. Additional research has been conducted to better understand sampling, the role it plays in analytical testing, and how best to accredit this type of activity. This year's IRAT will fund the development of a report based on interviews with technical experts to outline minimum requirements for sampling accreditation.

Sensor Technology Feasibility Study

Another AIHA LAP project, this IRAT continues a project initiated last year to explore market feasibility of a new accreditation program based on performance validation of direct-reading sensor devices. In 2024, the project team is expected to conduct a pilot program. The long-term goal is to establish a new Sensor Technology Laboratory Accreditation Program.

With these projects on deck, 2024 is shaping up to be another great year for AIHA. Please reach out if you have any questions about IRAT or AIHA's budget.

Larry Sloan

Larry Sloan is AIHA’s CEO.


IH Profession

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot emerging topic that has to be included in State of the Aret vs Prqactice and in education needs

By Michel P. Guillemin on January 24, 2024 3:43am

Add a Comment