Yant Awardees Recount Successes of Global IH Training Program

By Ed Rutkowski

Baltimore Convention Center, Inner Harbor Baltimore, Md. (May 24, 2016)—Ten years ago, Roger Alesbury and Stephen Bailey began discussing a ​topic that concerned them greatly: the vast gulf between the need for industrial hygiene expertise around the world and the number of industrial hygienists available to fill it. Motivated by the estimated 2 million lives lost each year to occupational disease and 35 million new cases of work-related illness due to chemical exposures, according to the International Labor Organization, Alesbury and Bailey began laying the foundation for what may now be the world’s best hope for protecting worker health in developing nations.

Today, the Occupational Hygiene Training Organization (OHTA), an organization that Alesbury and Bailey founded in 2010 to cultivate industrial hygienists in local areas, has conducted 600 IH courses in 40 countries, supported the creation of at least one new national industrial hygiene organization, and drawn more than 100,000 users to its OHLearning.com website. In recognition of OHTA’s actual and potential achievements, AIHA acknowledged Alesbury and Bailey with the 2016 William P. Yant Memorial Award, which is presented annually to individuals residing outside the United States who have made outstanding contributions to industrial hygiene.

This year marks the first time that the Yant award, which honors AIHA’s first president, has been granted to multiple winners.

At the Yant Award Lecture today at AIHce 2016, Alesbury and Bailey discussed the origins of their vision for a localized training network and described its improbable growth. Largely through the support of professional societies and multinational companies, OHTA has built training modules in several industrial hygiene topics, translated them into multiple languages, and delivered them to a small but growing number of individuals interested in protecting worker health in their native countries.

“We’re trying to build some stepping stones” for people to enter the industrial hygiene profession, Alesbury told attendees. OHTA training modules range from introductory to advanced and cover topics such as noise, asbestos, and ergonomics. 

One of the people trained by OHTA, Elsye As Safira, took an OHTA training module in her native Indonesia in 2008, attained a degree in IH from the University of Wollongong in 2010, and achieved her CIH certification in 2015. This year, she founded the Indonesian Industrial Hygiene Association and is serving as its first president.

Despite its successes, OHTA has several needs that could make it even more effective, Bailey said. These needs range from help with translation, the creation of promotional materials, and, in particular, additional training modules. OHTA is seeking intermediate-level courses on silica and advanced-level courses on control banding, Bayesian statistics, and exposure modeling.

So far, the number of people trained by OHTA is a tiny fraction of the total needed around the world. Both Alesbury and Bailey acknowledged that fully meeting the demand for IH expertise is a tall order, but expressed hope that additional support for OHTA from volunteers and organizations will eventually achieve significant gains for industrial hygiene.

“It's not perfect, but this is an organization that has been designed to evolve,” Alesbury said. “If you don't like what you see, you have the power to change it.”

Ed Rutkowski is editor in chief of The Synergist. He can be reached at (703) 846-0734.

View more Synergist coverage of the conference on the AIHce Daily page​.