American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) Releases First Public Policy Agenda

On January 7, 2019, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) released its first public policy agenda. This represents a landmark event in AIHA’s ongoing efforts to help prevent unnecessary work-related illnesses and injuries. The agenda covers fifteen key issues:

  • Big Data
  • Cannabis Industry Health and Safety
  • Disaster Planning, Response, and Recovery
  • Hazard Banding/Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) Process
  • Hearing Protection
  • Opioids in the Workplace
  • Professional Title Protection
  • Sensors
  • Teen Workplace Health and Safety
  • Temporary and Contract Workers
  • Total Worker Exposure
  • Transportation Safety
  • Worker Fatigue
  • Workforce Development
  • Workplace Violence

The Key Issues

Let’s take a closer look at each of the principal workplace health and safety issues included in the agenda, and at some of the steps the AIHA intends to take to address them in 2019 – 2020.

  • Big Data: Massive amounts of data exist relative to workplace health and safety. Fast, effective research and analysis is key to transforming the data into applicable knowledge for industrial hygienists and other professionals. To facilitate this, AIHA will support government funding for research, training, technology, and more.
  • Cannabis Industry Health and Safety: The growth of the cannabis industry in this country continues to present new challenges to workplace health and safety. Dangers may result both from industry-specific hazards and from potential impairment caused by cannabis use or exposure. To help address this problem, AIHA’s efforts will include encouraging research, supporting employer-employee education programs, and promoting accreditation of testing laboratories.
  • Disaster Planning, Response, and Recovery: For any disaster, effective planning, response, and recovery are integral to protecting those affected by it, both outside and within the workplace. AIHA will promote awareness of disaster hazards and response frameworks, and it will endorse government funding for more emergency and disaster recovery resources and for research on hazard prediction and exposure.
  • Hazard Banding/Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) Process: Many hazardous substances in the workplace do not have formally-established OELs. In response to this problem, AIHA will encourage legislation to improve the OEL development process. It will also support government funding for the research and publication of various types of exposure limits and levels.
  • Hearing Protection: Occupational hearing loss, while one of the most common work-related conditions, is also highly preventable. AIHA endorses adherence to NIOSH’s Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) of 85 decibels (dB) for occupational exposure to noise.
  • Opioids in the Workplace: In addition to its profound effect on society, the opioid epidemic in this country elicits a significant impact on the workplace. To address this, AIHA’s efforts will include supporting government funding for prevention and management, promoting employer and employee support and training programs, and increasing awareness of the link between workplace injuries and opioid use.
  • Professional Title Protection: Despite the importance of certain professional certifications, like Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and Certified Safety Professional (CSP), the future of protections for them is unclear. AIHA will work to increase awareness among policymakers of the benefits of these certifications and encourage them to increase protections.
  • Sensors: While sensors and other monitoring strategies can be leveraged in the workplace to increase awareness of potential hazard exposure and risks, their use is relatively limited. Because of this, AIHA’s efforts will include promoting funding for sensor research and development and furthering use and understanding of big data.
  • Teen Workplace Health and Safety: Work-related injuries among individuals under 18 years of age represent an ongoing problem throughout the country. To help prevent this problem, AIHA’s efforts will include supporting legislation to assist schools in implementing teen workplace safety curricula.
  • Temporary and Contract Workers: Because many temporary or contract workers in potentially hazardous jobs do not receive adequate safety training, this poses increased risks in the workplace. AIHA will collaborate with government and employers to increase awareness of the problem and work toward remedying it.
  • Total Worker Exposure: While it is known that hazards in the workplace and other outside factors can have a combined impact on the health of workers, the reasons behind this interaction are not well understood. AIHA will continue to support total worker health initiatives as it works to address this knowledge gap.
  • Transportation Safety: Transportation-related incidents represent the leading cause of work-related deaths. Transportation safety is, therefore, a critically important factor in maintaining the overall health and wellbeing of workers. The AIHA will urge policymakers to support safety education and training programs and to accelerate transportation safety technologies.
  • Worker Fatigue: Whether due to inadequate sleep or other factors, fatigue among workers has a tremendous impact on the workplace, often resulting in decreased productivity and an increased likelihood of injury or poor health. AIHA will urge employers to offer paid time off and sick time, and to develop and use comprehensive fatigue risk management systems.
  • Workforce Development: A relative shortage currently exists in the number of occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professionals, a role vital to protecting this country’s workforce. To help address this issue, AIHA’s efforts will include urging educators to make students aware of OEHS careers and the opportunities within them. It will also encourage policymakers to increase education and research center funding.
  • Workplace Violence: For both men and women, violence in the workplace is a leading cause of death from traumatic injury. It is also the cause of a huge number of non-fatal injuries. Because of this harmful impact, AIHA’s efforts will include encouraging OEHS professionals to develop workplace violence intervention programs. It will also promote continued funding for workplace violence prevention research.

For More Information

If you would like more detailed information on AIHA’s first public policy agenda, it is available on the American Industrial Hygiene Association website.

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