Building a Dream: AIHA’s Government Relations Initiatives
BY DEBORAH IMEL NELSON, AIHA® PRESIDENT We have a grand vision at AIHA—the elimination of workplace illness. To turn this vision into reality, we’ll need to influence public policy, for example, to provide the protections needed to minimize exposure to workplace hazards. Developing relationships with policy makers and establishing public policy priorities may not yield immediate results, but it’s the only way to achieve long-term payoffs—which is why I’m excited about the direction that AIHA is moving in the public policy arena.

At the turn of the last century, I served as an AAAS Science and Engineering Fellow at EPA. AAAS has an excellent orientation program, largely designed to introduce new Fellows to the importance of science in developing and establishing public policy.
I believe we have a responsibility to use our science to influence public policy to protect workplace and community health and safety.
is president of AIHA. She can be reached at (720) 587-7500 or via

Whether assigned to an office in the executive branch or in a Congressional or Senatorial office, I believe we all completed the fellowship program with a deeper appreciation of the role that science plays in setting public policy for the benefit of all Americans, in protecting health and environment, and in growing the national economy through research and development.
As the leading occupational and environmental health and safety organization, AIHA not only has an opportunity, but I believe we have a responsibility, to use our science to influence public policy to protect workplace and community health and safety. In the October
, AIHA’s Government Relations Director Mark Ames and I described a visit to Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, during which we discussed, among other topics, the importance of the silica standard. This month I’d like to share with you some new AIHA government relations initiatives. The Board of Directors recently approved a slate of public policy priorities, and the establishment of a permanent government relations working group.
AIHA has frequent opportunities to provide comments on proposed legislation, communicate with public policy makers, or prepare press releases. In developing public policy priorities for AIHA, Mark has held in-depth conversations with policymakers, Local Sections, volunteer groups, AIHA leadership, and staff, and he has reviewed our member surveys, bodies of knowledge, fact sheets, guidance documents, position statements, and white papers. In deciding whether to include a topic as a public policy priority, four criteria were considered: effect on worker health or safety, impact on AIHA, newsworthiness, and bandwidth required. (See AIHA's
for details.) The topics that met these criteria were sorted into three categories: hazards (such as beryllium, silica, and first responder exposure to opioids), assessments (including hazard banding, sensors, and teen workplace safety), and profession (IH Professional Pathways and title protection).
As resources permit, specific goals will be developed for each topic, based on feedback from experts, staff, volunteers, and policymakers. The plans for accomplishing the goals, and the priorities themselves, will be continuously evaluated to maximize efficacy and efficiency, and to ensure they reflect AIHA’s character.
The Board has also approved the “graduation” of the Government Relations Beta Group to a more formal structure, the ACTIONS (AIHA Coalition of Technical Influencers On New Solutions) Working Group, to succeed the Beta Group. All 300-plus members of the Beta Group will be given the opportunity to join the ACTIONS Working Group.
ACTIONS will work with AIHA’s other volunteer groups to implement our public policy goals and propose new goals and activities, and to help develop specific language for legislation and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels.
We have some ambitious goals for our government relations initiatives, and we need you to help make it all happen. If you’re interested in any of these activities,
email Mark Ames
for more information.