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Naming the Profession
The December 2016 issue of The Synergist had a small piece on what we should call ourselves [see the sidebar] that concluded with the question, “Do you think the profession should rebrand?” Having been in the profession for 55 years and still kicking, my unequivocal answer to that question is yes! The term “industrial” is not at all descriptive of our customer base. It fails to include the growing service sector, government, academia, military, etc. “Occupational” comes much closer.
Although the term “hygiene” is, according to the dictionary and Greek mythology, an accurate descriptor, it falls woefully short on many fronts, not the least of which is it engenders a negative connotation when associated with either “industrial” or “occupational.” We need to rebrand to better define and communicate what we do and who we serve; to improve our brand recognition and brand identity—that is, more appropriately reflect the critical and important work we do; and to be more attractive to the best and the brightest students.
To this day, I am not sure my grown children or my growing grandchildren actually have the foggiest idea what “industrial hygiene” is. I do not use the term “industrial hygiene”; instead I use “occupational health,” and they know what that is. That is all that really needs to be said about why we need to rebrand our wonderful profession.
Rick Fulwiler
I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the discussion as I enjoyed the recent Synergist article on the rebranding question. A brief qualifier and disclosure: I am a forty-two-year veteran of the profession, a CIH and CSP, and an AIHA Fellow. I have a wide range of employment experience as a NIOSH investigator and in several industries, including steel mill, shipyard, aerospace, academia, private consulting, and currently gas and electric utility.
I don’t think the term “hygiene” is up for discussion as it remains the one singular word in the universe that best describes what we do to maintain health and prevent the spread of disease. The rest of the world may think it is outdated, quaint, and just “20th Century,” but it is still the best word.
As for the term “industrial”: unquestionably the word is outdated and needs to be replaced. Why? I have personally been “down-sized, right-sized, and capsized” from American industry, and I feel that “industrial” has abandoned me and gone offshore. Face it: we are a nation of “occupations” and not a nation of “industrials.”
I have had to rebrand myself several times over my career as an “industrial hygienist” to the point that I prefer to be called a “safety and health advisor” or—if I had my true secret wish—“hygiene artist.” Get with it and rebrand the profession so the next generation will get beyond the word fence of “industrial.” Yes, I respect the past, from which I have received my training and life’s work, but I must also regard the future for those to whom our profession is bequeathed. Move on to “occupational hygiene”!
Terry D. Thedell, PhD, CIH, CSP, FAIHA