July 5, 2022 / Spencer Pizzani and Steven D. Jahn

Technical Frameworks: Resources on Core OEHS Knowledge

AIHA University has published 11 technical frameworks on critical subjects and areas of practice in occupational and environmental health and safety as part of the association’s commitment to serve OEHS professionals and protect workers’ health worldwide. Technical frameworks are intended to provide practitioners and stakeholders with baselines of knowledge on the components of OEHS subject areas. A technical framework may include guidance on what to consider when addressing a topic or seeking professional development within a domain.

Each technical framework is authorized by the Content Portfolio Advisory Group, created by a team of subject matter experts and qualified OEHS professionals, and vetted by AIHA members to ensure that the content is validated under the current standard of care. The review stage provides consensus on the current state of practice and establishes credibility when building coalitions with other allied professionals in roles such as human resources, occupational health, and risk management.

Technical Frameworks

A central focus of each technical framework is the identification of professional roles or tiers of competency that are necessary to responsibly complete work in each OEHS subject area. Technical frameworks may include specific knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for each role or tier of competency as well as supporting experience or skills that help practitioners properly fulfill identified roles. Technical frameworks are not intended to establish practitioner criteria or requirements but to guide professionals on important considerations for their work and professional development. They can also answer important questions on each OEHS topic, such as:

  • How is this subject viewed by the OEHS community?
  • What are the key terms in this subject area?
  • What KSAs should practitioners in this area have or consider obtaining?
  • What topics or components of work should be considered?

Following are descriptions of the topics covered by the existing 11 technical frameworks, plus another that is currently in development.

“Guidance on Use of Direct Reading Instruments.” This technical framework outlines steps for conscientious use of all types of direct reading instruments, using a model that places trust in the users of these instruments. Four tiers of competency are established based on progressive and verifiable KSAs that inform instrument use, management, selection, and qualification. A detailed guidance section shares lessons from the authors, with the aim of helping to prevent potentially disastrous misapplications, and reinforces the importance of using systemic evaluation to establish instruments as fit for purpose.

Legionella.” Partnerships among professionals in healthcare, property management, and water systems are critical to ensuring proper management of risks posed by Legionella bacteria and effective outbreak response. This technical framework identifies three key roles for Legionella control in building water systems: a competent technician who executes monitoring plans and conducts risk assessments, a responder professional who leads outbreak investigations and mitigations, and a program professional who develops and manages water management programs to minimize risks of illness related to Legionella.

“Big Data.” One of the greatest challenges facing modern OEHS is adapting to the advent of Big Data. This technical framework establishes three industrial hygiene roles important to the use of Big Data: IH technicians for standardized data collection and basic analysis, advanced IH professionals for developing and implementing data management plans, and IH data experts for leading projects and aligning technology-enabled solutions. Each tier of KSAs outlined in this technical framework emphasizes the execution of high-quality data collection, communication, and privacy protection. This technical framework is essential for OEHS professionals tasked with commissioning continuous real-time detection systems.

A One-of-a-Kind Resource for All IAQ/IEQ Practitioners.” Jointly approved by AIHA and the Indoor Air Quality Association, the indoor air quality and indoor environmental quality technical framework establishes a diverse set of 94 KSAs across eight domains of competence for assessing and mitigating contaminants and stressors in the built environment and building envelope. Almost all OEHS professionals can find a KSA in this technical framework that they can improve upon in their own careers to benefit their professional capabilities.

Occupational Exposure Banding Process.” Occupational exposure bands offer essential guidance in situations where occupational exposure limits have not been established. The OEB technical framework provides KSAs for IHs, chemical risk assessors, and toxicologists who are responsible for interpreting complex and sometimes disparate sources of technical information and literature data to establish a range of tolerable exposures in the face of potentially significant uncertainty.

“A Resource for Respiratory Protection Programs.” This technical framework establishes KSAs necessary to implement effective respiratory protection programs (RPPs) for four critical stakeholders: employers or users, fit testers, supervisors, and RPP administrators. The technical framework also addresses the following 12 program elements: RPP requirements; medical evaluations; training; respirator fit testing; hazard determination; respirator selection; respirator maintenance, care, and storage; proper use of respirators; breathing air quality and use with respirators; regulatory framework; documentation; and program evaluation. This technical framework provides a robust basis for establishing the roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, and authorities for successful RPPs.

“The Keys to Effective Presentation of Your Business Case.” Established by AIHA’s Leadership and Management Committee, this technical framework provides OEHS practitioners with an easy-to-follow, seven-step process for establishing a business value proposition. The text outlines the application of the hierarchy of controls in a cost/benefit regimen tied to operational management. Establishing a business value proposition allows practitioners to assign financial and other tangible benefits and costs to risk management decisions as well as present defensible risk control options in terms that the corporate suite can understand.

“The Road Map for OSH Professionals. This technical framework integrates hazard recognition and evaluation with risk assessment and the resulting implementation of controls to support business case development and communication with stakeholders. It formed the basis of the OEHS profession’s addition of the “confirmation” step to the former “anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control” convention for assessing exposures. This technical framework establishes validating controls as a resource-demanding but critical tenet of effectively implementing exposure risk assessment and management logic.

“Role of the OEHS Professional in Emergency Planning.” Modeled after the planning process used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), this technical framework focuses on the collaborative effort necessary to represent the health and safety interests of all stakeholders that may work together in planning emergency responses. Using the “Plan, Do, Study, Act” cycle, the technical framework identifies critical resources needed at the planning table and offers readily available resources to facilitate emergency planning.

Emergency Preparedness and Response for the Industrial Hygienist.” This technical framework discusses the distinction between emergency preparedness and emergency response and covers the field execution of planning for and responding to emergencies. OEHS professionals are likely to fill three principal roles: safety officer, assistant safety officer, or technical specialist. The latter has expertise in matters such as personal protective and respiratory equipment, instrumentation, or release modeling. For each planning or response role that an OEHS professional can fulfill, this technical framework presents KSAs based on incident complexity, following a model created by FEMA. The technical framework also includes a substantial list of definitions and resources for use by members of the OEHS community engaged in emergency preparedness and response.

“Role of the OEHS Professional in Continuity Planning.” Continuity planning transcends the traditional safety and health posture taken toward planning for and then responding to emergencies. This technical framework addresses maintenance of business operations in the aftermath of any crisis that interrupts the business’s mission, including fires, floods, supply chain disruptions, and staffing shortages. Business impact analyses leverage risk assessments to identify threats and hazards that might create loss of continuity, as well as their implications. Following a model created by FEMA, this technical framework discusses how business operations can complete resource needs assessments in order to prioritize the allocation of labor, time, and budget to mitigate potential consequences of disruptive events.

According to the technical framework, these preparatory activities and sufficient management attention allow for the development of responsive continuity plans to set priorities for essential business functions, including when resources fall short. The technical framework details four phases of continuity plan implementation that will occur after disruptive events: readiness and preparedness, plan activation, continuity operations, and reconstitution and return to normal operations.

Coming Soon

AIHA is actively creating new technical frameworks, including one currently in development that focuses on protecting workers who are particularly susceptible to certain exposures and their associated health effects. This upcoming technical framework is founded on the anticipation that OEHS will be fundamentally changed by rapidly improving knowledge of genetics and shifting landscapes related to biometric devices and personalized medicine, and it will aim to establish a new core domain of practice. Using lessons learned from beryllium disease investigations, ongoing research into stressors such as noise, and the principles of Total Worker Health, this technical framework will deliver usable guidance for OEHS professionals when evaluating exposures to agents that may present identified or unknown factors that increase risk.

To learn more and download free PDFs of AIHA’s technical frameworks, please visit AIHA's frameworks webpage.

Spencer Pizzani and Steven D. Jahn

Spencer Pizzani, CIH, is the global industrial hygiene manager for PepsiCo.

Steven D. Jahn, CIH, MBA, FAIHA, is a technical advisor for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC in Aiken, South Carolina.


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