DANIEL H. ANNA, PhD, CIH, CSP, is president of AIHA and senior industrial hygienist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. He can be reached at (240) 228-1980 or
A Single Vision
In the opening session at AIHce 2015 in Salt Lake City, Alison Levine talked about her team’s expedition to climb Mount Everest. She described the process of repeatedly climbing and descending the same sections of the mountain to allow the opportunity to acclimate to the altitude. She also discussed her failure to reach the summit, and her subsequent successful climb years later. AIHA, as an association, and industrial hygiene, as a profession, have faced our Everest several times in the past 20 years. Our mountain is the need for a single membership-based industrial hygiene professional association in the United States. We were close to the summit once: in June 2009, AIHA and ACGIH released a joint press release that stated, “ACGIH and the American Industrial Hygiene Association announced today plans to develop a closer alliance with one another. This proposed alliance is an opportunity for ACGIH and AIHA to do what each organization does best while cooperating more closely than ever before.” Although the response from members was overwhelmingly positive, the weight of history prevented us from moving toward the future. Perhaps our repeated attempts and shortfalls have simply been our way of acclimatizing to the idea. Maybe we need to take Levine's advice: “Don’t look at that backtracking as losing ground… [it is an] opportunity to regroup and regain strength to be better the next time around.”
If industrial hygiene were a new profession today, we would not establish multiple membership-based professional associations in the U.S.
BACKTRACK AND REGROUP If we’re going to attempt the climb again, we need a compelling reason.
Would we make the climb if it leads to a future where industrial hygiene has a prominent voice in all businesses, influence in promoting science-based regulation, and a sustainable scientific foundation underpinning our efforts to protect worker health? Would we make the climb if it resulted in additional resources to develop the tools needed to better protect worker health around the world?
To me, the clear answer is yes, we would. Given all that has changed over the past seven years, how AIHA and ACGIH might work toward a single membership organization would differ from the 2009 proposal, but the why is more valid than ever. A single membership organization for industrial hygiene would be a major step for our profession. But such a step cannot be driven solely by a president or a Board—it has to be viewed as a benefit by our members and for our profession. LONG-TERM SUSTAINABILITY If industrial hygiene were a new profession today, we would not establish multiple membership-based professional associations in the U.S. And without the overlap associated with maintaining two associations, we would be more effective, strengthen our professional community, and direct more of our precious resources to the protection of worker health worldwide. For example, just a 5 percent reduction in AIHA’s operating budget obtained by reducing overlapping activities would result in a savings of at least $1 million per year.
Imagine the possibilities if there were an additional million dollars per year available to develop and maintain TLVs, increase educational resources, and protect worker health. Consider the long-term sustainability this would bring to the ACGIH brand, TLVs, BEIs, and other signature products. A single association with a strong, efficient infrastructure to focus on what each of us does best, while reducing redundant activities and improving efficiencies, can only lead to better success at meeting our mission. 
How many of us are ready to discuss climbing toward the summit?