Connect in Columbus
AIHA’s Annual Conference Poised to Deliver on New Brand
When AIHA Connect opens in Columbus, Ohio, next month, it will mark the first time in decades that the premier conference for OEHS professionals will be held under a name other than the retired “AIHce.” The new brand gives attendees a sense of what to expect: a dynamic experience that facilitates connections with colleagues and new ideas. The preview on these pages focuses on a few education sessions that stood out to staff. All sessions listed were included as part of the conference agenda as of early March, and all times listed are Eastern. Refer to the AIHA Connect website for schedule changes and up-to-date information.
Opening General Session: The Power of Peculiar Thinking: Problem-Solving Through Creativity and Ingenuity May 20, 8:00–9:30 a.m. Ask the Expert with the Opening Keynote Speaker, Dr. Samuel Ramsey May 20, 10:00–11:00 a.m. Among his many talents, Samuel Ramsey is an expert science communicator. Watch his three-minute video explaining his doctoral dissertation on YouTube, and you’ll be struck by his charismatic delivery and his knack for conveying complex scientific ideas in plain language. His thesis—that the parasitic mite responsible for the decline of honeybees around the world feeds not on hemolymph, a fluid analogous to blood in vertebrates, but on a specific organ—has now replaced what had been entomological orthodoxy for half a century.
Ramsey attributes his breakthrough to what he calls “peculiar thinking,” or reasoning influenced by the qualities that make people unique. Although difference is an aspect of his inspiring personal story—he is one of only a few African Americans to have earned a PhD in entomology—Ramsey stresses that diversity encompasses more than race, gender, and sexuality. As he recently told SynergistNOW, “Learning how to lean into our peculiarity is something that I want to make sure that everyone leaves the keynote with.”
Following his address, Ramsey will answer questions from attendees at an “ask the expert” session.
Introduction to the Industrial Hygiene Data Standard May 20, 11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The collection of IH data is central to the profession, yet historically there has been little consensus about what data to collect. The need for standardization is the driving force behind the AIHA Data Standards Working Group. This presentation will describe the benefits of adopting a new standard for IH recordkeeping and discuss its relevance to predictive analytics.
Related: Read “Industrial Hygiene Data Standardization: Past Lessons, Present Challenges, and Future Directions.”
The Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture - The Silicosis Epidemic May 20, 3:15–4:15 p.m. Silica Exposure for Engineered Stone Countertop Fabricators May 21, 11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. A perennial conference favorite, the Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture will be delivered this year by Jim Morris, a journalist with Public Health Watch, whose investigation of silicosis among California fabricators of engineered-stone countertops prompted the state to issue an emergency rule to protect workers. The silicosis cluster in California is mirrored in other parts of the world, eliciting a variety of regulatory responses; in Australia, a ban on engineered stone will go into effect this summer. The May 21 session will provide insight into the industrial hygiene aspects of the crisis including fabrication practices that may result in elevated inhalation exposures and monitoring technologies that could aid exposure assessments.
Related: Two installments of “By the Numbers” in The Synergist address silicosis in stone workers. Read “Silica Overexposures Among Stone Workers” and “Silicosis Among Stoneworkers in Queensland, Australia.”
Fellows SIG Debate: Banning the Use of Chemicals in the United States May 21, 8:00–9:00 a.m. AIHA’s Fellows Special Interest Group continues its annual debate series in which participants argue opposite sides of a current issue affecting the profession, with an audience vote to decide the winner. This year’s topic is especially timely considering EPA’s 2022 proposal to ban chrysotile asbestos. The rule has yet to be finalized.
Related: Read “Asbestos Restrictions: The International Picture.”
Research Roundup Risk Assessment and Management 2 May 21, 10:00–11:00 a.m. Increasingly, EPA is requesting workplace exposure data as part of the agency’s chemical risk evaluations, which are required by the Toxic Substances Control Act. OEHS professionals have raised concerns that IH data, which typically reflect only the highest worker exposures, may not be appropriate for EPA’s purposes. The presentations in this session discuss EPA’s needs for defining “conditions of use” and “occupational exposure scenarios” under TSCA and will present a case study showing how OEHS professionals can usefully respond to an EPA “test order.”
Related: Read “Many Paths, One Goal: Exploring Different Approaches to Occupational Risk Assessment.”
SPARKTalks: Putting the Worker in Total Worker Health May 21, 10:00–11:00 a.m. SPARKtalks are among the most popular sessions at the conference. These casual, personal presentations typically revolve around a theme. This year, presenters will share perspectives on the NIOSH Total Worker Health initiative, including stories about women in mining, Latinos in construction, gig workers, and others.
Related: Read “Worker Well-Being in the Great Resignation.”
A New ANSI/ASSP Construction Heat Stress Standard May 21, 11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. In February, the American Society of Safety Professionals announced the first voluntary national consensus standard on heat stress in construction and demolition operations. The standard identifies engineering and administrative controls that can ensure workers receive proper rest, water breaks, and shade. This session will discuss procedures to manage heat stress hazards and the selection of controls to reduce heat stress in both outdoor and indoor work environments.
Related: Read “Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses: How to Reduce Heat Burden from PPE and Other Factors.”
AI and OEHS Ethics May 21, 11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and Bard can “write” plausible-sounding sentences. But these technologies are based not on a general understanding of the world but on predicting the next word in a sentence, and their output can’t be taken at face value. This session will explore the ethical concerns of using AI in OEHS, suggest ways to mitigate its risks, and discuss real-world examples of AI’s value and potential dangers.
Related: Read “AI in OEHS: Ethics of the Future.”
The East Palestine, Ohio Train Derailment May 21, 11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The February 2023 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train outside of East Palestine, Ohio, led to the burning of hazardous chemicals and the evacuation of 2,000 residents. Concerned about the risk of an explosion, responders initiated a controlled venting and burning of more than 115,500 gallons of vinyl chloride. Residents and responders subsequently reported concerns about potential health effects. At AIHA Connect, two former members of the Ohio Environmental Health Association board of directors will describe the health effects and potential environmental impact of the event and discuss the partnerships that facilitated an effective response.
Occupational Exposure Banding Advanced Topics May 22, 8:00–9:00 a.m. The NIOSH occupational exposure banding process allows users to assign chemicals to one of five occupational exposure bands, or OEBs. This session focuses on chemicals with attributes that fall into different bands or for which no toxicology data are available. The presenter, a toxicologist, will help attendees learn how to evaluate data-poor chemicals, benchmark assessments to confirm controls, and clearly communicate the reasons for a banding decision.
Related: Read “Banding Together: Making the Case for Occupational Exposure Bands.”
Stories Told by Trailblazing Women in OEHS May 22, 10:30–11:30 a.m. Each presenter at this session will talk about the experiences of women who are OEHS professionals in male-dominated industries. Among the topics discussed will be imposter syndrome, dealing with dominant personalities, and the challenges and advantages of having women in positions of leadership.
Related: Read “The Data on DEI: Numbers Reveal the Workplace Experiences of Women and Minority Groups” and “Taking on Imposter Syndrome.”
ASHRAE Standard 241: IH Control of Infectious Aerosols May 22, 1:00–2:00 p.m. ASHRAE developed its standard 241, Control of Infectious Aerosols, in record time: a mere seven months passed between the formation of a committee in December 2022 and publication of the final standard in June 2023. The standard establishes minimum requirements for reducing the risk of disease transmission in buildings. This session will review the provisions of standard 241 and discuss how to assess, plan, and implement infection risk reduction measures in existing buildings.
Related: Read “A Ventilation Checklist: Helping Control Airborne Disease Transmission in Non-Healthcare Facilities.”
Closing General Session: The Neuroscience of Innovation—and How to Develop New Insights May 22, 3:30–4:45 p.m. The psychologist Helena Boschi, who will speak at the closing general session, has worked with businesses for more than 25 years in the areas of organizational change, leadership development, and intercultural communication. In 2018, Boschi published Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Our Brain to Get the Best Out of Ourselves and Others, which explains the workings of the human brain and provides suggestions for increasing productivity and happiness. At AIHA Connect, Dr. Boschi will offer insights into how we can become truly innovative by moving beyond our own narrow perspective and being open to new ideas.
Related: Read “How to Engage and Influence People: Tips from Neuro-Linguistic Programming.”
American Society of Safety Professionals: “ASSP Publishes First Standard on Heat Stress in Construction” (February 2024).
Leading Authorities Inc.: “Helena Boschi: World-Renowned Applied Neuroscience Psychologist.”

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “Varroa destructor Feeds Primarily on Honey Bee Fat Body Tissue and Not Hemolymph” (January 2019).
SynergistNOW: “Embracing Your ‘Peculiarity’ as a Scientist and Communicator” (January 2024).
University of Maryland Graduate School: “2017 UMD Three Minute Thesis Winner Samuel Ramsey” (video, October 2017).