January 16, 2020 / Larry Sloan

Reinforcing the Integrity of IH Practice

“Is it safe?”

This is perhaps the most important question an industrial hygienist has to answer. The workers you’re responsible for want to know that the hazards they’re exposed to on the job won’t harm them. To determine risk, you look to standards, regulations, and guidelines. You use accredited laboratories so that you can be confident in the lab’s analysis of your samples. You achieve and maintain certifications, and you attend professional development courses to keep current on the latest information in the profession. In some cases, you pursue special status as a registered practitioner.

Coming from a worker, the question “Is it safe?” really means “Can I trust you?” It’s a question that gets to the heart of industrial hygiene.

Recognizing that issues of trust are essential to your work, the AIHA Board of Directors dedicated part of AIHA’s strategic plan for 2019–21 to the “integrity of IH practice.” Continuing my series of blog posts on the strategic plan, today I’ll discuss AIHA’s strategic objectives related to the integrity of IH practice. (Previous posts have focused on the plan’s other domains, including community, awareness, and advancement and dissemination of knowledge, with advocacy still to come.)

Standards Development

AIHA has a long history of supporting standards. For many years, we served as a standards-developing organization. Although we are no longer an SDO, we provide resources and support for members who wish to serve on standards-setting bodies. This process was recently formalized through the AIHA Guideline Foundation’s Standards Advisory Panel, which makes recommendations regarding AIHA's involvement in standards-setting activities to ensure that industrial hygiene and occupational/environmental health and safety are represented.

AIHA members currently contribute to approximately two dozen national and international standards-setting committees. A list of these representatives appears on the Standards Advisory Panel web page. We have also issued a call for volunteers to represent AIHA on several other standards-setting committees. More information is available on the AIHA website.

If you know of a relevant standards-setting committee that doesn’t have an AIHA representative, please let the Standards Advisory Panel know by filling out this form.

Registry Programs

AIHA Registry Programs promotes the recognition of individuals who have demonstrated competency in specialized areas of industrial hygiene. These programs encourage individuals to keep their skills and knowledge current by demonstrating competency through recurring assessment. Our programs are the Asbestos Analysts Registry, the Exposure Decision Analysis Registry, the Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems Auditor Registry, and the SDS & Label Authoring Registry. As the newest of these programs, the OHSMS Auditor Registry was recently featured on SynergistNOW. AIHA’s strategic plan calls for continued support of AIHA Registry Programs through marketing the current programs and researching opportunities for new registry programs.

Laboratory Accreditation

Since 1974, AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs, LLC has been helping to ensure the quality of laboratory analysis. Accreditation involves the onsite review of a laboratory’s technical competence and quality management system. In 2010, the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) formally recognized AIHA-LAP, LLC for the scope of ISO/IEC 17025 testing, which affirmed that the accreditation program is itself compliant with international standards. This recognition also expanded AIHA-LAP’s sphere of influence into regions outside North America. Its strategic plan calls for AIHA-LAP to market the benefits of both accreditation and international recognition and to develop training programs to help its accredited laboratories maintain their accreditation. AIHA-LAP, LLC will also continue to look for opportunities to develop new accreditation programs. Currently, AIHA-LAP, LLC has programs for IH laboratories, environmental lead, environmental microbiology, food laboratories, and unique scopes.

Proficiency Analytical Testing

AIHA Proficiency Analytical Testing Programs helps laboratories improve their quality control. It is therefore another key contributor to the integrity of industrial hygiene. Proficiency testing assesses the abilities of laboratory analysts to identify specific substances through established methods. Current PAT programs focus on asbestos in bulk materials, beryllium, environmental lead, environmental microbiology, and other common analytes (such as metals, organic solvents, and silica).

Our strategic plan commits AIHA to establishing new opportunities for our PAT programs. Recently, AIHA PAT Programs ran a pilot program for worker exposure in the cannabis and hemp industry. Pilot programs designed for laboratories that analyze samples for fungal spores and gravimetric determination of particulate matter are expected to run this year.

Leading Health Metrics

Through our participation in the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability, AIHA is supporting the development of metrics that help companies predict harmful exposures before they occur. A long-term goal of CSHS is to persuade multinational companies to adopt such metrics. In addition, a group of AIHA volunteers is currently developing a guidance document on leading health metrics that we plan to publish later this year.

Reinforcing Integrity

From educational opportunities for developing IH skills to programs promoting the highest quality of laboratory analysis, AIHA is committed to reinforcing the integrity of IH practice at every turn. So, the next time a worker asks “Is it safe?” you can feel confident in your answer.

Larry Sloan

Larry Sloan is AIHA’s CEO.


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