OEHS in the Valley of the Sun
Phoenix Set to Host AIHce EXP 2023
In the eighty-plus-year history of the AIHA annual conference, the event has never been held in Phoenix, Arizona. That will change next month, when thousands of OEHS professionals travel to the fifth most populous city in the United States for AIHce EXP 2023 (joined by a substantial virtual audience). On this page, The Synergist presents its annual preview of AIHce’s educational sessions, focusing on a few that stood out to staff. All sessions listed were included as part of the conference agenda as of early March. All times listed are Phoenix local time. Refer to the conference website for schedule changes and up-to-date information about educational sessions. For the virtual program, refer to the virtual conference agenda.
Opening Keynote: Optimizing Human Performance Through Technology May 22, 8:00–9:30 a.m. Ask the Expert With the Opening Keynote Speaker May 22, 10:00–11:00 a.m. The recent fanfare surrounding ChatGPT, a program trained via machine learning (ML) that can “write” seemingly natural English sentences, betrayed both excitement and trepidation regarding the role of technology in society. Would such tools be used to educate users or spread disinformation? For AIHce keynoter Poppy Crum, the chief scientist at Dolby Laboratories and an adjunct professor at Stanford University, the promise of ML-trained technologies far outweighs their drawbacks. Crum has written about “empathetic technology,” a term for devices that can sense an individual’s internal state and act on this information. Possible examples include devices that recognize the linguistic cues signalling the early stages of Alzheimer’s and alert an individual’s family or caregivers, and devices that monitor people who are hard of hearing for signs that the volume in a space needs to be adjusted. While we will need to get used to the idea that such technologies can “know” us perhaps better than we know ourselves, our lives, Crum argues, will be the better for it. After her address, Crum will answer questions from AIHce attendees at an “ask the expert” session.
Adjusting Your Company’s PPE Program for Female Workers May 22, 10:00–11:00 a.m. Women make up nearly half the work force in the U.S., but they are still underrepresented in many industries that regularly require personal protective equipment. This session, moderated and hosted by Diana Peroni and Katie Stryker, the chair and co-chair of AIHA’s Women in IH volunteer group, will focus on ways that personal protective equipment programs can be adjusted to be more inclusive of women. As Peroni and Stryker described in a recent Synergist article, different types of PPE present different challenges for women, and OEHS professionals should be prepared to determine whether their company’s PPE program needs to be enhanced to accommodate all employees. RELATED: Read “Don’t Just ‘Shrink It and Pink It’: Common PPE Challenges for Women.”
Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture: Unintended Consequences? The Story Behind the Lingering Health Impact of the Rubber Industry May 22, 3:15–4:15 p.m. This year’s Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecturer, Yanick Rice Lamb, was honored for her three-part series on the health effects of working in the rubber factories of her native Akron, Ohio, where workers were exposed to asbestos and benzene, among other hazards. These exposures continue to affect workers, their families, and their communities long after the factories disappeared. Lamb’s reporting on the rubber industry is available on the Center for Public Integrity website. The Sinclair Lecture is always one of the most popular sessions at AIHce, so arrive early to claim your seat.
The Past, Present, and Future of ESG and OEHS May 23, 10:00–11:00 a.m. ESG, which stands for environmental, social, and governance, is a major trend in the corporate world, offering new visibility for OEHS as companies strive to improve their ESG rankings. Becoming conversant with ESG is already a necessity for OEHS professionals; as Zack Mansdorf observed in a recent Synergist article, “the person responsible for sustainability and ESG will likely be the one who decides your work activities and budget. The more you can contribute to these areas, the more value you will provide.” This session explores the history of ESG, discusses its likely future impact on OEHS, and sheds light on current ESG practices and metrics. RELATED: Read “OHS Is Moving Up on Wall Street” and “Ethics and ESG Ratings.”

Alarm Set Points White paper and an Applied Case Study May 23, 10:00–11:00 a.m. While direct-reading instruments and real-time detection systems offer immediate feedback about exposures and are therefore valuable for monitoring purposes, using them effectively requires significant planning. One crucial component of RTDS implementation is aligning alarms with specific actions so all stakeholders know what to do when the instrument detects a substance of interest. This topic is the subject of a new AIHA white paper (PDF) by members of the AIHA Real-Time Detection Systems Committee. In this session, a real-world case study will demonstrate application of the principles discussed in the white paper. RELATED: Read “Cause for Alarm: Addressing the Alarm-Setting Process in Real-Time Detection Systems Implementation.”
Improving Indoor Air Quality and Decarbonizing the Built Environment May 23, 2:00–3:00 p.m. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped inform the general public about the benefits of good IAQ, seemingly setting the stage for OEHS professionals to make substantial progress toward better health across the board. Yet the decades-long fixation on energy costs by building owners, operators, and managers threatens to stall progress by continuing to prioritize the efficiency of ventilation systems over the control of contaminants. In this session, the authors of a recent Synergist article explain how new HVAC technologies can improve IAQ without compromising energy efficiency. RELATED: Read “Decarbonization and Indoor Air Quality Improvements: Are They Compatible?” in The Synergist.
A New Normal of Hot and Smoky May 23, 3:15–4:15 p.m. This session explores strategies for mitigating the effects of heat and wildfire smoke in two disparate industries: healthcare and film and television production. The boom in film and TV production in British Columbia has made the province the third-largest production center in North America just as temperatures and wildfires have been on the rise. As the presenters will explain, approaching these exposures from an occupational perspective has been problematic. They will also discuss wildfire smoke mitigation strategies for long-term care facilities in Idaho to improve IAQ. RELATED: Read “Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses: How to Reduce Heat Burden from PPE and Other Factors.”
A Case for Improved Health and Safety Support in the Entertainment Industry May 23, 4:30–5:30 p.m. The tragic death of the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the move Rust has been the subject of many media reports and may result in the jailing of the actor Alec Baldwin, who was handling the gun that went off during production, fatally wounding Hutchins. As the presenters in this session will explain, many aspects of the entertainment industry that attract little attention—such as the prevalence of gig workers and the frequency of long work days—indicate the need for greater support from the OEHS profession. The normalization of such practices has significant ramifications for the health and safety of workers in this industry.
Improving Exposure Judgments May 24, 8:00–9:00 a.m. Thanks to several initiatives spearheaded by AIHA Past President John Mulhausen, the OEHS community has developed a greater awareness of research showing that exposure judgments are often inaccurate and biased low. At AIHce, two of the authors who have contributed to that research, Susan Arnold and Mark Stenzel, will present practical suggestions for improving exposure judgments, including the use of statistical methods for reviewing sampling results and models that inform assessments. RELATED: Read “Judgment Day: How Accurate Are Industrial Hygienists’ Qualitative Exposure Assessments?” in The Synergist.
Occupational, Environmental, Health, and Safety Considerations in Data Centers May 24, 1:00–2:00 p.m. According to TechJury, the U.S. has more than 2,700 data centers. These sometimes-mammoth buildings—the average size worldwide is 100,000 square feet—require a great deal of engineering and planning to maintain an environment ideal for computer machinery. Such an environment isn’t always conducive to the health and safety of the people who work there; hazards can include high-voltage electrical panels, flammable materials, fuel storage, and work at heights. This session discusses common hazards in data centers, the challenges with implementing traditional controls, and practical protective measures.
How AI, ML, and Big Data Can Apply to the Profession May 24, 2:15–3:15 p.m. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and Big Data are making their mark on OEHS. This presentation will focus on how these trends affect industrial hygiene and ergonomics in particular. Attendees will learn about the the limitations of AI, ML, and Big Data technologies, and the role OEHS professionals play in implementing them. RELATED: Read “How Machine Learning Can Improve Worker Health Research: An FAQ” on SynergistNOW and “Predictive Purposes: Will Big Data Change Industrial Hygiene?” in The Synergist.
Closing Keynote: The Future of Occupational Safety and Health May 24, 3:30–4:45 p.m. Freydi Lajvardi is an Iranian immigrant and science teacher whose leadership of a successful high school underwater robotics team comprising disadvantaged Latino students was depicted in the documentary Underwater Dreams, the IMAX film Dream Big, and the motion picture Spare Parts, in which Lajvadi was portrayed by the actor George Lopez. Now the president, CEO, and director of STEM initiatives for the Si Se Puede Foundation, which provides educational opportunities for underserved populations, Lajvardi draws on his experiences to show how diversity is a source of strength. RELATED: Read “Building a STEM Career Pathway Through Mentorship.”
AKCP: “Safety and Health in the Data Center for Employees” (March 2022).
Forbes Insights: “AI That Understands Your Body Language” (February 2019).
Keppler Speakers: “Fredi Lajvardi.”
Si Se Puede Foundation: “Faridodin ‘Fredi’ Lajvardi.”
TechJury: “15 Crucial Data Center Statistics to Know in 2023” (February 2023).