What’s Happening in Our Industry

Since AIHA’s founding in 1939, dramatic changes have occurred to transform the science and application of occupational health and safety. With that in mind, 2020 is the ideal time to look at some of the ways our industrial hygiene industry, and even its name, has metamorphized in recent years.

AN EVOLVING PROFESSION For some time now, the industrial hygiene profession has expanded into areas unimagined by the progenitors of our profession. The term “industrial hygiene” quite frankly no longer reflects everything we do. Coupled with this, we are now seeing more safety professionals, EHS generalists, and “technician-level” practitioners assume core responsibilities formerly managed by the traditional IH. There are many reasons for this, due in no small part to corporations cutting budgets and eliminating in-house IH staff. In addition, increasingly we are seeing formerly named “industrial hygiene” programs shifting to “occupational health” (or other derivations, such as “occupational health and safety” and “environmental and occupational health”) in both undergraduate and graduate courses of study.  The term “occupational health and safety” is a more inclusive term that can act as an umbrella for all those practicing traditional IH and its adjacent fields. As more audiences recognize, and, better yet, understand the imperative of industrial hygiene, using a term that is more widely—and more easily—understood can only be a boon for us. Let me be clear: OHS is intended to be an outward-facing term. If you want to call yourself an industrial hygienist, you absolutely should. Personally, I feel that it’s time that IHs get proper credit for all the work we do. Again, evolving to the term OHS will help people understand the role we play as scientists and professionals, and grant us the credit we’ve long deserved. This in turn will stimulate demand for OHS scientists in the years to come.  
In the 80th year of AIHA, we are more dedicated than ever to advancing the profession.
KATHLEEN S. MURPHY, CIH, is AIHA president and director of Global Regulatory Affairs at Sherwin Williams in Cleveland, Ohio.

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LOOKING FORWARD Our 80th anniversary has encouraged me to reflect on both the past and future of AIHA. We’ve moved from an association solely dedicated to IHs to one that is more inclusive, modern, and forward-looking. I am more mindful than ever of the need to recruit students (as well as mid-career professionals who may be disenfranchised by their current career path) into our ranks.  A pivot in how we refer to ourselves to external audiences is intended to align ourselves with ongoing trends in the marketplace, not to “strip away” the IH name and distinction we’ve worked so hard to earn and maintain. In the end, an IH is an IH, but “OHS” is meant to help articulate our purpose and role in society, especially to STEM-minded students, corporations, and so many others who may not be familiar with the value of this profession. Over the past three-plus years, we have been undertaking strategic initiatives to address this evolution of the profession and to succinctly capture what our members do to advance health and safety in workplaces. In the coming months you’ll be hearing a lot more about the market research and messaging we’ve been conducting and vetting with many concerned AIHA volunteers. 
OUR VISION In the 80th year of AIHA, we are more dedicated than ever to advancing the profession. And we are working to make sure that the pipeline of people joining the IH/OHS profession is full and poised to help us achieve the association’s vision: a world where all workers are healthy and safe.