March 30, 2021 / Stacy Calhoun

Using Big Data to Promote Worker Health and Safety

AIHA has recently published a new Technical Framework on Big Data, which equips industrial hygiene and occupational and environmental health and safety (IH/OEHS) professionals with the fundamental competencies to identify, collect, analyze, and apply Big Data to promote worker health and safety.

In 2014, AIHA began exploring major strategic and emerging trends that significantly affect the field of IH/OEHS. The association identified the rapid advancement of sensor technology as a significant trend and an area worthy of further research and understanding. It also raised several concerns related to Big Data, including such issues as: How is Big Data defined? What do we need to know concerning the subject matter? What tools will we need in the future to store and analyze Big Data? How does machine learning (ML) play into analyzing our current data sets? And where does the IH/OEHS community go from here with incorporating Big Data into the future of the profession?

In March 2019, the AIHA Rocky Mountain Local Section and the ASSP Colorado Chapter hosted a two-day workshop on Big Data and data analytics to raise awareness about these concerns and the use of Big Data in IH/OEHS. By the end of the workshop, it was apparent that IH/OEHS professionals needed a guidance document that outlined the knowledge and skills they require to successfully apply Big Data analysis methodology and tools. IH/OEHS professionals encounter challenges today related to managing risk and keeping up with emerging technologies, and will continue to do so in the future, that such a guidance document could help them overcome.

In May 2020, AIHA formed a project team to lead the effort of creating a guidance document that included representatives from NIOSH, Big Data scientists, and IH/OEHS professionals employed in both the private sector and academia.

In October 2020, AIHA conducted a job task analysis (JTA) survey, in which the association polled members, allied professionals, and external stakeholders to assess what knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) are the most critical for performing tasks related to Big Data. The results of this survey were used to finalize the content of the new Big Data Technical Framework.

Individuals and organizations can use this framework to improve, plan, and assess their data collection, management, and analysis practices. AIHA will use it to develop educational programs that promote the effective and ethical use of Big Data and enable IH/OEHS professionals to implement Big Data concepts to make more effective data-driven decisions.

AIHA works constantly to advance and position the IH/OEHS profession to better protect workers, businesses, and the public. We welcome ideas on how we can best promote and educate our members on Big Data and Big Data analytics. If you would like to present on this topic or share case studies on best practices, please contact Stacy Calhoun.

Stacy Calhoun

Stacy Calhoun is AIHA's senior project manager for scientific and technical initiatives.


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