Purpose and Objectives
The performance of OEHS practices in the workplace (i.e., whether on the shop floor or in the field) has a significant impact on the protection of people from exposure risks. Long lag times in the implementation of risk-critical state of the art science and best-in-class practices result in unnecessarily excessive risk. This initiative seeks to close risk-critical performance gaps between current practices and state of the art practices and thereby accelerate protection for workers and communities.
As envisioned, the initiative will create a suite of evergreen, continuous improvement processes to:
- Collect and update an inventory of current risk-critical OEHS practices and current state of the art best-in-class practices
- Identify gaps between current and best-in-class practices
- Prioritize those gaps based on their impact on the protection of workers and communities and
- Develop and implement plans to close priority gaps.
Our plan is to work within AIHA’s VG community and select a few OEHS areas of practice per year for focus. The process will consist of three steps that:
- Define “state of the art” practices and how current practices compare
- Identify existing barriers to achieving “best-in-class” performance in risk-critical practices and
- Implement plans to address barriers and empower practitioners to close practice gaps and achieve best-in-class performance.
As an example, if we were to look at “noise”, we would leverage SME’s (starting with outreach to the leadership from the Noise Committee) to:
- Identify what constitutes a state-of-the-art noise or hearing conservation program leveraging the newly published Noise Manual
- Query practitioners (from within the Noise Committee and outside as needed) to understand where the current state of practice is vs state of the art
- Uncover existing barriers to practice
- Implement plans to reduce barriers and help practitioners achieve best-in-class practice performance
Anticipated project phases would include the following and are likely to be accomplished in a more iterative fashion than illustrated in Figure 1:
1. In year 1 (2022), process development and beta test one (1) to two (2) OEHS areas of practice:
- 1A Investigate State of the Art (SOTA) vs. Practice (SOTP)
- 1B Analyze and Prioritize Gaps and Barriers to Best-in-Class Practice Performance
- 1C Implement Improvement Plans to Close Priority Gaps
2. In years 2 and 3 (2023-2024), refine processes and implement for two to five additional OEHS areas of practice.
- 2A Investigate SOTA vs. Practice
- 2B Analyze and Prioritize Gaps and Barriers to Best-in-Class Practice Performance
- 2C Implement Improvement Plans to Close Priority Gaps
3. Finalize Processes and Implement as Ongoing Rhythm of Continuous Improvement Activity
2022-2024 Strategic Plan
This initiative is reflected in the AIHA Enterprise’s 2022-24 Strategic Plan. The Plan’s Integrity of Professional Practice Domain lays out Strategic Objective One to “Implement a continuous improvement strategy to identify and address gaps between current and state of the art (best-in-class) OEHS practice.”
This initiative is aligned and overlaps with three other new initiatives:
- AIHA / ACGIH Defining the Science (DTS) – Formed in 2021, the mission of the DTS Advisory Group is to develop and maintain a national OEHS research. To learn more, click here.
- AIHA / ACGIH Improving Exposure Judgments – Forming in 2022, this advisory group aims to improve the accuracy of exposure judgments (both qualitative and quantitative). To learn more, click here.
- AIHA Principles of Good Practice – Also formed in 2022, this group will document a concise, easy-to-use summary of the minimum recommended principles of good practice of OEHS that incorporate best risk management practices whenever feasible. To learn more, click here.
- State of the Art: the highest point of technological achievement to date
- State of the Practice: that which is commonly done (practiced) in a particular business or profession
Competency vs. Performance
A point of potential confusion is the difference between competency and performance. Core competencies defined by professional associations, universities, standard-setting organizations, regulators, or certification bodies are about education, skills, and capabilities. Performance is about implementation, behavior, and outcomes in a professional’s practice. Competencies enable performance but do not guarantee it. A person can be capable of performing in a certain way but that does not mean that they do. This initiative is focused on understanding OEHS practices as they are performed relative to current state of the art practices so that plans can be put in place to close risk-critical gaps. Those improvement plans might include actions to improve practitioner competency if that is a primary barrier to best-in-class practice performance.
Examples of Areas Where Typical Practices Are Not Keeping Up with Risk- Critical State of the Art
- Routine use of Occupational Exposure Banding in instances where formal Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) like Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) and Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) are not available for the substances to which people are exposed.
- Routine use of statistical tools for ensuring accurate exposure risk decisions when monitoring data are available.
- Routine use of systematic techniques and tools like checklists and exposure models to increase the accuracy of qualitative exposure judgements.
Ancillary Initiative Benefits
- Generates greater awareness to practitioners at any stage of their careers about other resources, including AIHA's IH e-tools, packaged around an introduction to the fundamental concept of occupational exposure assessment strategy
- Supports the development of OEHS Principles of Good Practice
- Informs future research needs under the Defining the Science initiative
- Reinforces AIHA’s leadership role in further empowering practitioners and elevating the role/value of the profession