AIHA FALL CONFERENCE
Trends and Transformations
Keep Pace with New Ideas at AIHA’s Fall Conference
BY ED RUTKOWSKI
This year’s AIHA Fall Conference in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 26–27, will bring together a cohort of experts to examine how trends in the culture at large might affect industrial hygiene over the next several years. Guided by work recently completed by other AIHA volunteers, the Fall Conference Planning Team, led by Chris Laszcz-Davis, MS, CIH, FAIHA, has created a program that addresses six areas of promise for industrial hygiene and appeals to professionals at every career stage. WORK FORCE DEMOGRAPHICS The populations IHs are expected to protect have changed significantly, resulting in new or different hazards. For example, financial insecurity is keeping many people in the work force past retirement age, and these workers are at greater risk for musculoskeletal disorders. In addition, traditional notions of “the workplace” are giving way as contract work proliferates. People who might once have taken a job on an assembly line are now working out of their homes or their cars. At the Fall Conference, keynote speaker Michael Rodgers will examine changes in demographics, technology, culture, and human nature. Rodgers, an author and journalist, writes the “Practical Futurist” column for MSNBC and is a frequent guest on radio and television. Laszcz-Davis has heard futurists speak at other AIHA conferences and believes Fall Conference attendees will find Rodgers’ presentation to be entertaining and practical in equal measure. Rodgers is “in a position to paint the landscape,” she says. “If you know what that landscape might look like, you can potentially prepare for it, you can anticipate, you can adjust, and you can strengthen your skills and resources.”
EXPOSURE BANDING AND OELS Perhaps no challenge in IH has proven more intractable than practitioners’ urgent need for authoritative occupational exposure limits. Of the hundreds of thousands of chemicals in commerce, only a small number have OELs, and the processes in place to produce them are typically glacial and expensive. Given these limitations, one of the more promising tools for practitioners is occupational exposure banding, an approach to risk assessment that categorizes substances according to their chemical and toxicological properties. Exposure banding allows industrial hygienists to estimate the toxicity of a substance as a category or potency “band,” using pre-established decision criteria related to a set of standard toxicity endpoints. While this approach has been used for decades in the pharmaceutical industry, it hasn’t yet found broad applications in other industries. But recent developments suggest that exposure banding may soon flourish. NIOSH has developed a five-band, three-tier process, and is expected to fully validate its approach by the end of the year. And last October, when OSHA invited stakeholders to submit comments on alternatives to setting PELs, the agency indicated interest in learning more about exposure banding. At the Fall Conference, John Mulhausen, PhD, CIH, director of corporate safety and industrial hygiene at 3M, will reflect on the implications of the occupational exposure banding process for the profession. Mulhausen’s presentation will be part of a general session on Monday, October 26, that addresses AIHA’s “big-picture priorities.” SENSOR TECHNOLOGIES The companion presentation to Mulhausen’s discussion of occupational exposure banding will delve into another area of immense potential for industrial hygiene: sensor technologies. Ginger Rothrock, PhD, director of emerging technologies at RTI International, will share her perspectives on the increasingly common use of sensors and the accompanying problem of what to do with all the data they generate. Sensors have long been part of the IH’s standard equipment. Developments in direct-reading instruments offer hope that they could eventually replace the expensive, time-consuming process of submitting samples for laboratory analysis. But the near-ubiquitous presence of sensors in the culture at large presents both challenges and opportunities for the profession. Ordinary citizens armed with smartphone apps are measuring exposures to pollution and feeding this information into large databases. This trend is already affecting the way industrial hygienists perform their jobs, Laszcz-Davis says. “Our challenge is to better understand the data sources, their value and strength, and how we can best use that to enhance the data derived under traditional methodologies.” BIG DATA Nontraditional sources of data will continue to proliferate as more devices, including smartphones as well as common household items like refrigerators and generators, become connected to the Internet. The name given to this potentially transformational phenomenon is the “Internet of Things,” and it will be the focus of a Fall Conference workshop moderated by Robert Brauch of Casella CEL Inc. Brauch, past chair of AIHA’s Noise Committee, will lead attendees through the latest developments in sensors, instrumentation, and apps. In this hands-on, interactive workshop, participants will connect their own devices to an ad-hoc network and learn the possibilities and potential drawbacks of working with the next generation of IH sampling devices. THE IH BUSINESS CASE Much of what industrial hygienists accomplish is defined by business and operational needs. “We all work within living, fluid organizations with distinct cultures, processes, systems, marketing needs, and competing demands,” Laszcz-Davis says. In her view, industrial hygienists who understand these needs are generally more effective than those who don’t because they are more likely to suggest interventions that fit their company’s priorities and ultimately earn the right to dialogue at the table with company decision makers. A two-part professional development course at the Fall Conference on Oct. 25 will address both the financial and non-financial aspects of developing a business case for industrial hygiene interventions. Elyce Biddle of West Virginia University and Georgi Popov of the University of Central Missouri will show participants how to use the AIHA Value Strategy to build a sound business case for obtaining the assets they need to protect workers. EMERGING MARKETS The task of understanding business needs takes on even greater complexity for IHs who work in companies with global supply chains. In many cases, these suppliers are located in countries with less-developed EHS regulations than those in the Western world. One of AIHA’s organizational priorities is to define a universal EHS standard of care that will enhance public and worker health around the world. Three sessions at the Fall Conference will address issues related to supply chains and emerging markets. Vic Toy, MPH, CIH, CSP, and Thea Dunmire, CIH, CSP, will share their insiders’ perspectives on the issues surrounding the development of the International Standards Organization’s global standard for OHS management systems, ISO 45001. On Monday, Oct. 26, Toy will discuss the ways that the new standard will alter the OHS profession. The next day, Dunmire will conduct an interactive workshop where participants can share their views on how to resolve the remaining stumbling blocks facing ISO 45001. And later on Tuesday, a timely presentation from Adrián López-Denis, PhD, will explore the ramifications for IH practice of the recent normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba. López-Denis, a scholar of Latin America at the University of Delaware, will consider how Cuba’s ongoing transformation could affect the safety of its workplaces. His presentation will include a case study of the Cuban port of Mariel, which is likely to become a key hub of distribution of Asian goods to the U.S. The remaking of Mariel’s facilities in anticipation of greater trade activity will result in a complex work environment unlike any other that exists in Cuba. López-Denis will identify some of the workplace safety issues likely to arise. SOLUTIONS AND NETWORKING Much more awaits Fall Conference attendees in Orlando, including fifteen PDCs, technical tours at nearby Disney and CSX Transportation, networking breakfasts, and lunch discussions with select speakers. For more information or to register, visit the Fall Conference website.
SEE THE BIG PICTURE THROUGH "THOUGHT LEADERS" SESSIONS A new “Thought Leaders” track at this year’s Fall Conference will focus on new challenges, new hazards, and new technologies. See the conference website for a list of sessions by track.
The Team That Built the Program
The Fall Conference Planning Team includes the following individuals: • Chris Laszcz-Davis, Chair, MS, CIH, AIHAF • Robert M. Bacci, CIH • Billy Bullock, DHSc, CIH, CSP • Vic D’Amato, CIH, CSP • Gregory A. Day, PhD • Zack Mansdorf, PhD, CSP, QEP • Kim Merritt • Mark Mitchell, CIH, CSP, ROH • Byron Nelson, CIH, QST • Leslie Peterson, CIH • Michael Rosenow, MPH, CIH, CSP The Fall Conference program addresses AIHA’s recently defined content priorities. For more information, see the article “Six Priorities for IH Content Development” in the November Synergist.
ED RUTKOWSKI, is editor in chief of The Synertist. He can be reached at
(703)846-0734 or email@example.com.