Make an Impact

What a pleasure to have served as AIHA president this past year—thank you for that. At AIHce 2017, we will welcome our incoming president, Deborah Nelson, PhD, CIH. As I step aside into the role of past president, now seems an appropriate time to make a few requests of the membership.

Advance AIHA’s strategic priorities. Changing demographics, unprecedented global migration, and shifting service and manufacturing trends will continue to change the face of the work force. Sensor technology and data science will make us re-think how we characterize exposure and assess risk. The business value of IH will be increasingly judged by how our efforts contribute to navigating enterprise risk management. For these and AIHA’s other priorities, we look to our members to help create and deliver the knowledge that IHs need both today and 5 to 10 years from now. Ask your technical committees and local sections how you can help move these strategic priorities forward.
Don’t make IH difficult to explain, because it’s not. There are many tired jokes out there—from “industrial handwashing” to “dental hygiene.” Yes, “hygiene” is an antiquated term, but it has an important history. AIHA’s new CEO, Larry Sloan, is leading a team of members to help us better communicate what we do to the rest of the world. In the meantime, just tell people that you “help keep people from getting sick or killed at work.”
Give time. Most U.S. workers will never have the benefit of an IH looking out for their health. What might a domestic nonprofit IH operation look like? What if successful consultancies gave five percent of their time to pro bono work for small and medium-sized businesses?
Donate money. The American Industrial Hygiene Foundation (AIHF) has been supporting IH students for more than three decades, and its work is more important than ever. Consistency in giving is more important than the amount. Ask your local section, “How can we triple our impact with AIHF?”
Aim to make an impact: mentor a new IH, become a math and science tutor, or coach someone to sit for the CIH exam.
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
Pay close attention to national policy. The Department of Labor, EPA, and the Department of Health and Human Services face some of the deepest cuts in the president’s proposed budget, and the Chemical Safety Board is slated for elimination. Setting partisan rhetoric aside, this will affect the way you do your work and the health and well-being of the people we are charged to protect. It may also affect your value to your organization. AIHA is committed to providing guidance on new policy and policy changes that impact worker health and our profession. Let’s always be willing to have a conversation on tough issues. AIHA’s director of government relations, Mark Ames, stands ready to help.
Create a sustainable pipeline of professionals. More than 60 percent of AIHA members are over 50 years old, and as the economy continues to recover, those eligible for retirement will do just that. Meanwhile, there is a STEM student crisis: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks U.S. students 25th out of 70 countries in science and 40th in mathematics. Central to a long-term strategy of protecting worker health is having competent professionals available to do the work. Aim to make an impact: mentor a new IH, become a math and science tutor, or coach someone to sit for the CIH exam.
Target upstream prevention. Talking to young people about hazard awareness before they get their first high school job just makes sense. We recently launched a nationwide initiative on teen worker health and safety in partnership with NIOSH. Please visit the Safety Matters Center to get the materials you need to deliver the AIHA/NIOSH module to students at a nearby school. If you’re interested in working on state legislation to make information regarding workplace safety training available to your school districts, contact Mark Ames at
Again, thank you for all of your good work on behalf of AIHA and our profession. See you in Seattle.