Better Service for Local Sections

Our local sections are very important to the growth of both our association and our profession. Our first local section, the Michigan Industrial Hygiene Society (MIHS), predates AIHA and played a huge role in the association’s formation. Today, we rely on members of local sections to participate in AIHA volunteer groups and national advisory groups, and to provide assistance in local government affairs. Most previous and current AIHA Board members have been local section members. Our local sections’ participation provides the grassroots support needed for our association and profession to be successful.

THE REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES In 1995, AIHA Board members were assigned as coordinators for the local sections based on geographic regions. This system was intended to build a strong relationship between AIHA national and the individual local sections. Being a Board coordinator was one of my first assignments as an AIHA director. Since I had recently served as the past-president of MIHS, I felt I would be very successful in this role. But to my surprise, I was not able to reach my local section officers after numerous attempts. The best opportunity to meet these officers occurred during our annual Leadership Workshop. Then as now, this workshop was successful in training leaders of local sections and reinforcing the connection with AIHA national. 
Our local sections’ participation provides the grassroots support needed for our association and profession to be successful.
CYNTHIA A. OSTROWSKI, CIH, is AIHA president and owner of CAO Consulting near Detroit, Mich. She can be reached via email.

In 2010, the AIHA Board replaced the Board coordinators with local section regional representatives. The intent of the LSRR program was to establish a closer working relationship between the Board and the local sections. However, surveys of local section members, discussions at Leadership Workshop, and feedback obtained through the recent Local Section Summit have indicated that the system is not functioning as intended. The same communication issues I experienced as a Board coordinator still exist under the LSRR program, and it’s clear that change is necessary. A NEW STRUCTURE As we’ve been doing for other AIHA programs and services, the Board recently agreed it was time to reevaluate the local sections governance structure. A Local Sections Task Force was created in October to discuss how we could address deficiencies and improve the process. The Board issued a call for volunteers to participate on the task force, and five members were selected. The task force included the incoming chair and past chair of the Local Sections Council, current and past LSRRs, current AIHA Board liaisons, and one early-career professional who is a local section officer. Following a full-day meeting, the task force recommended the following modifications, all of which were approved by the AIHA Board in November:  1. Since local section members tend to go directly to AIHA staff for assistance, AIHA CEO Larry Sloan has agreed to allocate additional administrative staffing support.  2. The LSRR program will be replaced by dedicated AIHA staff, who will provide direct and enhanced communication between local sections and AIHA national; increased visits to local sections by the AIHA CEO, government relations director (Mark Ames), Board members, and distinguished speakers; and enhanced training for local section officers through quarterly webinars, our annual Leadership Workshop, and the annual meeting at AIHce.  I sincerely thank all the LSRRs who have served over the past eight years. These changes are no reflection on the capabilities of these hardworking volunteers. The Board agrees with the Local Sections Task Force that staff are more familiar with the complexities of our local sections and can serve more efficiently than volunteers who rotate every three years. In addition, AIHA now offers a robust online community platform (Catalyst) that will assist our local sections. Our goal has been and always will be to ensure that local sections are successful. We believe these changes will streamline communications, drive further staff efficiencies, and deliver superior service to our local sections.