Yant Awardee Works to Increase Occupational Hygiene Capacity Worldwide

By Kay Bechtold

June 5, 2015—The world needs more certified industrial/occupational hygienists and more people with technical skills in industrial and occupational hygiene, Noel H. Tresider FAIOH, CIH, COH, told AIHce attendees during the William P. Yant Award Lecture on Tuesday at AIHce 2015. Using a paper that was presented at AIHce 2009 by John Henshaw, CIH, as a reference point for “world class” occupational health programs, and extending the data to 2014–2015, Tresider calculated predictions of need by country based on gross domestic product (GDP) and working population.

“We need about 90,000 people around the world with skills in our profession,” he said.

Tresider estimates that there are currently about 17,000 people with OH technical skills who belong to professional associations around the world. Based on GDP, the world needs about 33,500 people with these skills, he said, and the need is greatest in China, Russia, India, Indonesia, and Turkey. However, the gap is wider if the estimation is based on working population: it would take approximately 84,000 skilled individuals to match this need. Based on the size of their work force, the top five countries in need of people with OH technical skills are China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Russia. 

As for the approximately 7,700 certified occupational and industrial hygienists around the world, about 70 to 80 percent reside in the U.S. and Canada, with only around 400 CIHs living outside the U.S., Tresider said. Based on GDP, the world needs a total of about 10,500 certified hygienists, he said. But when taking the size of the working population into account, the need is much greater: about 40,000 certified hygienists to protect workers around the world. Tresider said that those 40,000 are most needed in China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Russia.

It’s one thing to find people to fill these gaps, but Tresider addressed the key question: how would individuals receive training in the skills of the profession?

“OHTA,” he said.

OHTA, or the Occupational Hygiene Training Association, is an international training and qualifications framework that complements established programs. OHTA provides free, peer-reviewed materials; a global network of training providers; and internationally transferable modular qualifications. Tresider, who has been involved with OHTA since its inception, discussed the five levels of OHTA training, which range from awareness, a level appropriate for managers and employees, to leadership skills, a level suitable for senior hygienists.

“What we are trying to do is grow occupational hygiene capacity worldwide,” he said. “You can run this material anywhere in the world because” it doesn’t refer to country-specific regulations.

To date, Tresider said, OHTA has run more than 400 courses in 38 countries, and the organization’s website, OHlearning.com, has hosted more than 75,000 visitors from 199 countries. He explained that the goal is to bring industrial and occupational hygiene to a wider, international audience, which also means addressing professional certification around the world.

Tresider said that rather than trying to make a certification scheme international, it made more sense to set up a system to promote the recognition of professional certification programs already in place around the world. The system that took shape was the International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA) National Accreditation Recognition (NAR) Scheme, which currently includes 15 nationally recognized certification schemes. Tresider served as chair of the IOHA NAR Committee for six years, was on the IOHA Board for eight years, and was president of IOHA in 2011–2012.

OHTA and IOHA are working together to provide formal recognition of the qualifications that individuals gain through OHTA training, according to OHTA’s website. Organizations’ certification schemes must meet IOHA’s criteria, which evaluate each scheme’s goals, code of ethics, testing of candidates, evaluation and maintenance processes, and more. The 15 schemes recognized by IOHA currently cover nine languages, Tresider said. He hopes that the national certification schemes from Brazil and Mexico will soon be recognized by IOHA, bumping that number to 17.

Looking ahead, Tresider hopes to continue to grow OH capacity around the world, particularly in developing countries.

“The future awaits,” Tresider said. “It is up to us what we do with the information I’ve passed on to you.”

Tresider is the fifth Australian to receive the Yant Award, which is presented annually for outstanding contributions in industrial hygiene or allied fields to an individual residing outside the U.S.

Kay Bechtold is assistant editor of The Synergist. She can be reached at (703) 846-0737.

View more Synergist coverage of the conference on the AIHce 2015 Highlights page.