AIHA Meets with the New U.S. Secretary of Labor

Posted August 2, 2017

By Mark Ames, AIHA Director of Government Relations

How can AIHA accomplish its mission of creating knowledge to protect worker health and our vision of eliminating workplace illnesses? The answer lies, in no small part, through partnerships with governments. It was this very reason that brought AIHA—President Deborah Imel Nelson, PhD, CIH; CEO Lawrence Sloan, CAE; Russell Hayward, CIH, managing director of Scientific and Technical Initiatives on AIHA’s staff; and me—to the steps of the Frances Perkins Building in Washington, D.C., on a hot and humid summer day to meet with U.S. Department of Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta.

The hopes for this meeting were simple enough: introduce AIHA to the new Secretary of Labor, deepen his appreciation for the role industrial hygienists play in protecting worker health and safety, present the business case for OEHS, and learn how he views our priority issues—including, if possible, his thoughts on the future direction of OSHA under his leadership and that of the Trump presidency. What we obtained from this meeting exceeded our expectations.

It was clear from the meeting that the Secretary understands the business case for worker health and safety; there was no need to convince him of this. Like AIHA, he is also very supportive of the Voluntary Protection Programs; a more challenging issue is that of communication.

There are many groups making many claims, often citing different and sometimes conflicting statistics. There is a need for clarification and confidence from trusted sources to rise above the cacophony to help those in government identify and understand the issues of greatest import. In the worker health and safety space, AIHA can be one of those trusted voices.

The meeting concluded with a positive acknowledgement of the historic partnership between the U.S. Department of Labor and AIHA, and charged excitement for future work together to accomplish our shared goals.

Left to right: Mark Ames, Russell Hayward, R. Alexander Acosta, Deborah Imel Nelson, and Lawrence Sloan.