R&D at AIHA 
At AIHA, one of the ways we direct the association’s money is through a tool we call Invested Reserves Above Target. IRAT is essentially an R&D fund for important new projects and initiatives. Some of our most successful programs, such as the Product Stewardship Society, got their start from IRAT money. Since this month marks both the beginning of the budgeting process at AIHA and the first standalone annual conference of the Product Stewardship Society, it’s a good time to reflect on IRAT’s role in helping AIHA achieve its goals.

IRAT EXPLAINED Although AIHA has strong reserves from investment income, we never use this income to balance our budget. According to AIHA’s IRAT policy, we strive to maintain reserves equal to 50 percent of annually budgeted expenses. A portion of any investment income above that 50 percent target can be used for special projects that benefit our members and the association. The amount of IRAT funds therefore varies each year according to our budgeted expenses and the performance of our investments. In 2011, AIHA’s market research indicated that an opportunity existed for AIHA to provide needed education and resources for the growing profession of product stewardship. The AIHA Board of Directors approved initial IRAT funding to create the Product Stewardship Society, launch www.product, and hire a consultant to conduct additional market research. In 2012, a three-year IRAT provided funding for the Society to create a conference. From its start as a collection of related sessions at AIHce EXP, the Product Stewardship conference has grown rapidly. This month, for the first time, the conference is being held separately from another AIHA event. That achievement is just one indication of the Society’s impressive growth over a few short years.  The Product Stewardship Society has brought new professionals, new organizations, and new vendors into AIHA’s sphere. Because of the Society’s success, it is now part of AIHA’s operational budget.
The Product Stewardship Society has brought new professionals, new organizations, and new vendors into AIHA’s sphere. 
KATHLEEN S. MURPHY, CIH, is AIHA president and director of Global Regulatory Affairs at Sherwin Williams in Cleveland, Ohio.

I don’t have space to discuss all of AIHA’s current IRAT projects, but I’d like to mention a couple of programs that, like the Product Stewardship Society, have potential to open new revenue streams for AIHA. One provides funding for AIHA Proficiency Analytical Testing Programs, LLC, to test the technical feasibility of creating a new proficiency testing program for worker exposure to hazards in the cannabis industry and of adding a new analyte class for gravimetric dust to the existing Industrial Hygiene Proficiency Analytical Testing program. The cannabis industry IRAT would focus on hazards such as heavy metals and pesticides in plant material; it’s important to explore the potential for this program while legalization of cannabis is still expanding. The expansion of IHPAT for gravimetric analysis would provide a needed proficiency testing service for labs using NIOSH method 0500, Particulates Not Otherwise Regulated, Total, and 0600, Particulates Not Otherwise Regulated, Respirable. The Board also approved an IRAT request by AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs, LLC, to explore the possibility of accrediting sampling activities. Working with an outside contractor, AIHA-LAP will conduct a survey of AIHA members about their sampling practices to determine whether accreditation could play a role in improving confidence in accredited test results; and conduct research to better understand the role of sampling in analytical testing and how to accredit this activity (either as a field of testing or as a standalone activity). The ultimate goal of this project is to identify approaches for sampling accreditation that can be deployed in both the short and long terms. COMMITMENT TO R&D Many companies are rightly proud of their commitment to R&D. IRAT is AIHA’s tool for “putting money back into the organization.” It has given AIHA’s Board and staff a way to reach new audiences and increase the benefits of AIHA membership. If you have any questions about IRAT or AIHA’s budget, please don’t hesitate to contact me.