March 5, 2019 / Ina Xhani

A Deep Dive into the Trends That Affect IH/OH

Earlier this year, AIHA issued its first-ever biennial State of AIHA Research Report (PDF). The report is a thorough analysis of the trends and issues affecting the fields of industrial hygiene and occupational health. These trends include the changing workplace, big data, total worker exposure, and exposure banding, as well as various other research and resources provided by AIHA’s Education and Technical Initiatives department.

The State of AIHA Research Report is a product of the Content Portfolio Advisory Group (CPAG), a volunteer working group. It all started back in 2013–2014, when AIHA commissioned an environmental scan to understand the emerging issues that are critical for the profession. The scan identified many issues, and AIHA made the top seven a priority. Today they are known as AIHA's content priorities. CPAG was then created with the mission of managing these content priorities and overseeing studies, summits, surveys, reports, and guidance documents that attempt to address these critical issues head-on. The first biennial State of AIHA Research Report provides an update on CPAG’s activities and summarizes results of all the studies CPAG commissioned over the past few years. The following are some of the topics highlighted in the report.

Big Data

All decisions regarding the acceptability and accuracy of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling health hazards depend on supporting data. The future of industrial hygiene will require consideration of datasets generated by real-time detection systems or available data compilations. That’s why it’s important for IH professionals to be able to leverage cutting-edge data-management technologies, such as Big Data analytics, to inform risk assessment and management decisions. AIHA is pursuing an educational content strategy to help educate its members on the topic of Big Data.

Exposure Banding

Given the large number of chemicals present in commercial products, the relatively low number of occupational exposure limits for those chemicals, and the difficulty of updating OELs, exposure banding offers a robust way to manage risk. AIHA, in partnership with NIOSH, educates health and safety professionals on the importance of utilizing occupational exposure banding in their exposure risk assessments.

Sensor Technologies

New applications of sensor technologies hold promise for long-term and continuous monitoring and can be used to promote risk communication. AIHA continues to be a leader in this area, with a robust portfolio of education and training materials on sensor technology, including a body of knowledge and certificate program related to the use and application of direct-reading instruments for the detection of gases and vapors.

Total Worker Exposure

To adequately protect workers, IH professionals need to understand nonoccupational exposures. AIHA members play a crucial role in understanding how nonoccupational exposure profiles (for example, hobbies, consumer products, and environmental factors) integrate. IHs must expand and engage their skill sets to address this integration.

Changing Work Force

IH professionals must understand the importance of nontraditional exposure profiles and the changing work force, and how these factors impact the health of workers. IHs must also understand the circumstances that are shaping changes in the work force, such as global economic shifts and immigration. AIHA is developing educational content to help the profession understand the nature of these issues.

In addition to the forward thinking of CPAG, AIHA continues to engage in other research that could positively affect the day-to-day quality of life of workers all over the world. AIHA is contributing to the development of a global standard of care​ (PDF), which includes the updating of the ANSI Z10 OHS management systems standard and the development of the ISO 45001 OHS management systems standard.

AIHA will conduct a new environmental scan in 2019, develop applicable projects on topics discovered in the 2019 scan, and track the progress of these initiatives throughout 2019 and 2020. Our next research report will be published in early 2021. In the meantime, feel free to download and read through our current State of AIHA Research Report (PDF).

Ina Xhani

Ina Xhani is AIHA’s communications specialist.

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