They Call It Safety and Health for a Reason
The Many Collaborations of AIHA and ASSP
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Thirty-five years ago, I wrote a paper for my industrial hygiene course at Old Dominion University with the same title as this article. The premise was that the fields of industrial hygiene and safety are inextricably linked, yet the truth is that most OEHS professionals practice one or the other. Yes, many of us are dual-certified and can function on both sides of the line. But we can do better with a more thorough integration of industrial hygiene and safety.
In the realm of occupational health and safety, two prominent organizations stand out for their dedicated efforts in ensuring the well-being of workers and the community at large: AIHA and the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP). While both organizations share a common goal of promoting workplace safety and health, their unique focuses and approaches create an intriguing dynamic and offer many opportunities for interaction and collaboration.
Established in 1939, AIHA is renowned for its commitment to advancing the science and practice of industrial hygiene. With a focus on anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace hazards and confirming the effectiveness of controls, AIHA plays a pivotal role in protecting workers and the general public by addressing various occupational health risks. AIHA has about 7,000 national members and another 1,500 who belong only to local sections.
ASSP, founded in 1911, is the world’s oldest professional safety organization, dedicated to promoting the expertise, leadership, and commitment of safety professionals in preventing workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. With a broad spectrum of members representing diverse industries, ASSP emphasizes the importance of comprehensive safety management systems and practices. ASSP currently has over 35,000 members.
Despite their distinct emphases, AIHA and ASSP recognize the interconnectedness of industrial hygiene and safety disciplines. The collaboration between these organizations is instrumental in fostering a holistic approach to workplace health and safety. This collaboration happens on both the national and local levels and in at least five functional areas: education, research and innovation, development of standards and guidelines, professional development, and networking.
NATIONAL COLLABORATION The AIHA and ASSP CEOs and staff have open communication with their counterparts. While each organization is beholden to its membership, staff and volunteers routinely discuss common goals and initiatives. This collaboration has been formalized in a memorandum of understanding. The current MOU was signed in July 2020 and remains in effect. The two leadership teams meet annually to review progress and identify deliverables for the coming year. The MOU indicates that the two organizations will consider cooperating in: • areas of mutual interest and activity • areas of professional practice • sharing best practices across the occupational safety and health spectrum • activities of mutual interest • training and continuing education • promoting cooperation, reciprocal activities, and mutually beneficial initiatives • developing voluntary national consensus standards and exploring regulatory and legislative issues of common interest • establishing respective liaisons to facilitate communication between the organizations
According to Larry Sloan, AIHA’s CEO, AIHA and ASSP currently collaborate in the following ways:
Advocacy. ASSP and AIHA regularly coordinate comments in response to regulatory and legislative requests.
Local engagement. ASSP chapters have close working relationships with AIHA local sections in various parts of the country, including southern California, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix, among others.
ASSP standards. AIHA appoints liaisons to selected ASSP technical standards committees. These liaisons provide input to the committees and report back to AIHA on the status of the standards. Most recently, AIHA and ASSP are exploring the creation of new standards guidance documents that would help IH professionals better understand and implement ANSI standards.
Commit2Care.org. Commit to C.A.R.E.—the acronym stands for community, awareness, responsibility, and equity—is a public awareness campaign that disseminates science-based information about infectious diseases and how to reduce their spread in the workplace. ASSP is a nonpaying sponsor of Commit to C.A.R.E. and distributes information to ASSP members.
ASSP WISE and AIHA WIH. The ASSP Women in Safety Excellence Common Interest Group has partnered in the past with AIHA’s Women in IH group. The two communities will explore further opportunities in the future.
Intersociety Forum. The ASSP and AIHA CEOs are de facto leaders of this coalition of twenty-plus OEHS societies.
ABET accreditation. AIHA and ASSP have exchanged best practices on how to recruit volunteers to evaluate academic programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
AIHA and ASSP provide comprehensive educational opportunities that address the multifaceted nature of occupational health and safety challenges.
In addition, there is a long history of collaboration between the AIHA Safety Committee and the ASSP IH Practice Specialty Group (IHPSG). The mission of the AIHA Safety Committee is to support AIHA’s goal of protecting worker health by providing a forum for health, safety, and environmental professionals to exchange information and engage in programs in all areas of safety including, but not limited to, engineering, management, and administration. The IHPSG is a community for ASSP members looking for technical knowledge and expertise related to industrial hygiene issues in the workplace. Each group has a representative on the other’s leadership team. The two groups have worked together on several articles and webinars and are currently developing a plain-language guide for ANSI standard Z490, Accepted Practices for E-Learning in Safety, Health and Environmental Training. Another area of synergy between AIHA and ASSP lies in educational initiatives. Both organizations offer a wide range of training programs, certifications, and resources designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of professionals in the field. By leveraging their respective expertise, AIHA and ASSP provide comprehensive educational opportunities that address the multifaceted nature of occupational health and safety challenges. Members of both organizations freely attend or speak at each other’s events. Although similar in scope, the AIHA and ASSP conferences have different flavors. AIHA Connect is more research- and case study-based, while the ASSP conference is more program- and management-oriented. Both have crossover tracks that serve the two professional populations. Both offer opportunities for certification maintenance (CM) points and continuance of certification (CoC) points for the respective credentials offered by the Board for Global EHS Credentialing and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. As mentioned in the MOU, AIHA and ASSP frequently collaborate on advocacy efforts aimed at shaping policies and regulations that promote safer workplaces. Through their combined influence and expertise, these organizations advocate for evidence-based practices and standards that prioritize the health and well-being of workers. By speaking with a unified voice, AIHA and ASSP amplify their impact on legislative and regulatory initiatives at the national and international levels. ASSP engages in a consensus process that brings together diverse viewpoints to ensure that standards reflect the latest industry developments and recognized best practices. AIHA and ASSP are currently working independently on formal responses to OSHA’s proposal to replace the fire brigades standard. And earlier this year, the AIHA and ASSP presidents held a virtual town hall in conjunction with the routine AIHA Fellows call. Several ASSP Fellows were on the line as well to learn how our organizations are working together. This first-time event was well received, and both organizations plan to continue these collaborations. As secretariat for 11 ANSI standards and administrator of the U.S. technical advisory groups for two international standards, ASSP is a leading standards-development organization. ASSP coordinates with the AIHA Standards Advisory Panel to ensure AIHA is represented on the standard committees that are most relevant to AIHA members. AIHA members currently serve on six of the 11 standards and one of the international standards that ASSP manages. Further, AIHA maintains representation on another eighteen standards committees, 25 in all. Similarly, ASSP maintains representation on a number of other standards committees. The partnership between AIHA and ASSP also extends to research and innovation. Both organizations support and conduct research initiatives aimed at advancing the science of occupational health and safety. By sharing knowledge, resources, and best practices, AIHA and ASSP contribute to the development of innovative solutions that address emerging workplace hazards and challenges. In summary, the interaction between AIHA and ASSP exemplifies the power of collaboration in advancing the field of occupational health and safety. By leveraging their complementary strengths and expertise, AIHA and ASSP work together to promote safer and healthier workplaces for all. Through education, advocacy, research, and professional development, these organizations continue to drive positive change and foster a culture of safety and well-being in workplaces across the globe. LOCAL COLLABORATION Local chapters play a crucial role in the interaction between AIHA and ASSP. These local bodies serve as the backbone of both organizations, providing a platform for professionals to connect, collaborate, and exchange knowledge at the grassroots level. AIHA local sections are typically statewide entities, while most ASSP chapters are based on cities or metropolitan areas. These local groups vary significantly in number of members, budget, and resources. AIHA’s local sections and ASSP’s chapters are integral components of their respective networks, offering members opportunities for professional development, networking, and community engagement. Through a variety of activities such as meetings, seminars, workshops, and volunteer initiatives, chapters and local sections facilitate meaningful interactions among professionals from diverse backgrounds and industries. The local organizational units serve as hubs for joint initiatives and partnerships between AIHA and ASSP members. Collaborative events, such as joint conferences, training sessions, and advocacy campaigns, allow professionals to leverage their collective expertise and resources to address common workplace health and safety challenges more effectively. Following are some examples of this interaction: Phoenix summit. The Phoenix, Arizona, chapters of AIHA and ASSP collaborate annually to host a Health and Safety Summit in the Phoenix area. To appeal to the widest possible audience, the chapters collaborated on topics, speakers, vendors, and other aspects of the event. Four education tracks are offered with a wide variety of speakers and topics. Lehigh Valley joint meetings. Members of AIHA’s Lehigh Valley Local Section and ASSP’s Lehigh Valley chapter in Pennsylvania organized joint meetings, attended a local ice hockey game, and participated in year-end holiday parties. Notices of upcoming events are sent to members of both organizations. Ohio Valley collaborations. The Ohio Valley Local Section in Cincinnati jointly hosted a conference meeting with the Southwest Ohio ASSP chapter and holds periodic joint lunch or evening meetings, usually once a year. Each organization shares meeting schedules and announcements with the other entity’s leadership to pass on to members. Many Ohio Valley Local Section members are also members of ASSP. Local chapters play a vital role in promoting the mission and objectives of AIHA and ASSP within their communities. By organizing outreach programs, educational events, and public awareness campaigns, chapters raise awareness about the importance of occupational health and safety and advocate for best practices in workplaces, schools, and other institutions. Furthermore, local chapters serve as incubators for emerging professionals and future leaders in the field of occupational health and safety. Through mentorship programs, scholarships, and career development initiatives, chapters and local sections provide valuable support and guidance to students and early-career professionals as they navigate their career paths and pursue excellence in their chosen fields. COLLABORATION BEGETS COMPETITION While collaboration and synergy between AIHA and ASSP are prevalent, it’s essential to acknowledge that a degree of competition exists between the two organizations. This competition primarily stems from overlapping interests and objectives in the occupational health and safety landscape. Both AIHA and ASSP strive to be leaders in promoting workplace safety and health, which can sometimes lead to competition for membership, recognition, and influence within the industry. Professionals in the field may face the decision of which organization to join or become involved with, depending on their specific interests, career goals, and professional affiliations. Competition between AIHA and ASSP may manifest in areas such as educational offerings, certification programs, and advocacy efforts. During my career, I have had to choose between attendance at either the AIHA or ASSP conference. There is usually not enough money in an employer’s training budget to fund attendance to both. It is likely that individuals also have to choose between the local meetings of ASSP and AIHA. I have attended more AIHA national conferences but more ASSP local meetings. For me, the national conferences were for professional development while the local meetings were for networking and business development. Healthy competition between AIHA and ASSP can ultimately benefit the profession and the individuals it serves. Competition can drive innovation, encourage excellence, and spur both organizations to continuously improve their offerings and initiatives to better meet the needs of their members and the broader community. Both organizations continuously strive to enhance their offerings to attract and retain members, leading to innovation and improvement in their respective programs and services. Since this article is written for The Synergist, most readers will be local section members and participants. If you are, or aspire to be, a local section leader, I encourage you to reach out to the ASSP chapters in your geographic area and plan something together. I also urge you to attend an ASSP chapter meeting. You will learn about the daily grind of safety management; in turn, you will be a welcome resource for many ASSP members. Finally, I recommend that you avoid siloing your career in industrial hygiene. The ability to manage a safety program and conduct thorough occupational health evaluations is a sought-after skillset. Further, on any given day there are many more safety jobs available than industrial hygiene jobs. While competition between AIHA and ASSP exists, it is balanced by collaboration and mutual respect for each other’s contributions to the field of occupational health and safety. By leveraging their respective strengths and working together where possible, AIHA and ASSP continue to drive positive change and promote safer and healthier workplaces for all. MATTHEW PARKER, MS, CIH, CSP, ARM, is a past president of AIHA’s Florida Local Section, past chair of the AIHA Safety Committee, past ASSP area director for the Georgia/northern Florida area, and past president of ASSP chapters in Augusta, Georgia; Atlanta, Georgia; and Pensacola, Florida. Acknowledgments: Sheila Gwizdak, Joseph Gentile, and Cynthia Eghbalnia contributed information in this article about local collaborations between AIHA and ASSP. Send feedback to The Synergist.

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AIHA: “Agreement Between the American Society of Safety Professionals and American Industrial Hygiene Association.”