BGC Brings Back the CIH (Retired)

Editor’s note: The case study in this article is fictitious and is intended to highlight ethical issues in the practice of industrial hygiene. Any resemblance to real people or organizations is coincidental. Please send your responses to The Synergist. Responses may be printed in a future issue as space permits.

Synergist readers know about the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) credential, and a large percentage are CIH diplomates themselves. Most are proud to use their CIH credential as part of their professional signature. But when they retire, they have been asked to surrender their certification and not use the CIH designation. In response to requests from diplomates, the Board for Global EHS Credentialing (BGC) is reestablishing a related designation that had been eliminated in 2011: the CIH (Retired). Former CIH diplomates will now be able to use the CIH (Retired) status to stay involved with the IH profession at the end of their career.

CIH VS. CIH (RETIRED) People can only call themselves CIHs when they have satisfied all education, experience, and other eligibility requirements established by the BGC, and passed the Comprehensive Practice Examination. They must also participate in the certification maintenance program to continue practicing under this credential. The new CIH (Retired) status, however, isn’t a credential, so people who hold it will not need to complete maintenance requirements. Holders will continue to receive all BGC communications and will be able to participate on several BGC leadership teams. However, a CIH (Retired) would not be able to use the new designation to indicate continued competence as a certified professional.  When the designation is included in any professional communication, it must be accompanied by a disclaimer that the user is no longer a CIH, regardless of the nature of the activity the former CIH plans to participate in. The following hypothetical scenario illustrates potential ethical complications related to use of the CIH (Retired) designation. IS THIS MISUSE? Aimee had a long, successful career as an industrial hygienist. After graduating college and joining a consulting firm, she sat for the CIH exam as soon as she was eligible. Aimee was proud of her CIH accreditation and was sure to maintain her credentials. She also often participated in professional activities, including several conference presentations and leadership roles in AIHA committees. But late in her career, Aimee’s company was sold, and she decided not to move to the new owner’s base of operations several states away. Being financially secure, Aimee chose to devote her remaining active years to volunteering at organizations promoting public health. She surrendered her certification, although she still had four years before she would need to recertify. She opted for the CIH (Retired) option instead because she wanted to acknowledge her time as a certified professional.  Aimee decided to volunteer at a nonprofit that had advertised for an IH’s services, thinking she could save them some money. They brought her on knowing that she was no longer certified. After helping them with several internal IH issues, the organization asked her to prepare some reports for their stakeholders. Aimee enthusiastically agreed and prepared a well-researched report on the value of healthy buildings. She included her CIH (Retired) status in her byline, so that readers would know she spoke from a place of knowledge and experience. For discussion: Did Aimee misuse her CIH (Retired) designation? What if she had simply retained her CIH credential, but chosen not to maintain it? 
ALAN LEIBOWITZ, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, is the president of EHS Systems Solutions LLC, chair of the Joint Industrial Hygiene Ethics Education Committee, current BGC vice chair, and a past Board member of AIHA.
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Credential Misuse and Abuse  Under the terms of the previous CIH (Retired) status, retired diplomates could not use it in any professional capacity. Most former diplomates honored that restriction, but some did not. In some cases, the terms were misused inadvertently or innocently. In others, the former diplomates were deliberately abusing it for purposes of professional gain. In both situations, ABIH, BGC’s predecessor, incurred unexpected legal costs to stop the term’s misuse and abuse. The new retired status will allow former CIH diplomates in good standing to continue to contribute to their profession. While misuse of the new CIH (Retired) status is still a possibility, as it is with active CIH status, the BGC board is putting technological mechanisms in place to make it easier for active, voluntary surrendered, and retired diplomates to accurately and appropriately identify their status to their peers and the public.