STEVEN LACEY, PHD, CIH, CSP, is AIHA president and chair of Environmental Health Science at the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He can be reached at (317) 274-3120 or
The IH/OH Pipeline
At the Fall Conference in October, six panelists engaged in a debate about whether the IH/OH profession needs to rebrand. Many arguments were raised for and against; you can read more about them elsewhere in this issue. Much of the discussion centered on whether the name “industrial hygiene” is a hindrance to attracting new practitioners to the profession. My purpose here isn’t to take a side. Instead, I’d like to address the larger issue of capacity: how do we ensure that enough young people choose IH/OH to fill the shoes of our retiring colleagues?

TAKING ACTION Over the years, the capacity problem has received a lot of attention. As one example, in 2011 a NIOSH-commissioned report, the National Assessment of the Occupational Safety and Health Workforce, indicated that while employers planned to hire at least 25,000 OHS professionals by 2016, American universities were expected to graduate only about 12,000 qualified individuals.
In response to this trend, AIHA isn’t just sitting on its hands and worrying. Here are a few things we’re actively doing:
NACOSH Workgroup. AIHA is one of several associations participating in the “OSH Pipeline Workgroup” of OSHA’s National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH). Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels tasked NACOSH to organize this effort. Participating organizations share knowledge about the ways they’re attempting to “fill the pipeline” with OSH practitioners, the challenges and successes they’ve experienced, and suggestions for how OSHA and NIOSH can help.
Safety Matters. This joint AIHA-NIOSH program teaches young people about workplace safety and health. In addition to informing kids about their right to stay healthy and safe on the job, Safety Matters introduces them to what IH/OH professionals do. Increasing awareness of our profession among young people can only help us close the capacity gap.
No matter what we call ourselves, we need to take the lead in promoting our profession.
IH Professional Pathway. This program aligns AIHA resources with IH/OH career stages and is a crucial driver of awareness. The materials produced for this program include comic book-type characters who depict the everyday heroism of IH/OH professionals packaged into various mediums (comic books, video, trading cards, and so on). AIHA members can tap into these free outreach tools to promote our profession among young people in their local areas. As a testament to the quality of the program, the IH Professional Pathway won a Gold Award in the 2016 Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP) MarCom Awards.
#IamIH. At the Fall Conference, AIHA launched the “#IamIH” membership campaign, which is intended to remind members about the great work we do as IH/OH professionals, give the public a behind-the-scenes look at IH/OH, and inspire future generations to learn more about getting into the profession. As part of the launch, pictures of several Fall Conference attendees holding signs that read “#IamIH” have been circulated on social media. Much more is to come.
AIHF. The American Industrial Hygiene Foundation is our longest-running program for supporting students of IH/OH. Over the last three decades the Foundation has supported 625 students with more than $1.8 million in scholarships. Please consider making a donation. NO DEBATE The rebranding debate made clear that, no matter what we call ourselves, we need to take the lead in promoting our profession. Fortunately, each of us can do something to help fix the capacity problem: donate to the Foundation, present Safety Matters at a local school, distribute the Professional Pathway materials, and share the pride in your work by spreading the word about #IamIH via social media. To solve the pipeline problem, we need all hands on deck.