EHS Management, Special Topics in Safety Management

AIHA Reveals Its First (Ever) Policy Agenda

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) released its first ever public policy agenda this week. The agenda items address both workplace safety and health concerns and the needs of its members.

Safety professionals

elenabs / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

AIHA is an organization of nearly 8,500 safety professionals, many of whom are certified industrial hygienists.

The group’s agenda items are:

  • Big data;
  • Cannabis industry health and safety;
  • Disaster planning, response, and recovery;
  • Hazard banding and the process of setting occupational exposure limits;
  • Hearing protection;
  • Opioids in the workplace;
  • Professional title protection;
  • Sensors;
  • Teen workplace health and safety;
  • Temporary and contract workers;
  • Total worker exposure;
  • Transportation safety;
  • Worker fatigue;
  • Workforce development; and
  • Workplace violence.

Big Push on Big Data, Sensors

Large amounts of data could be transformed into knowledge to better protect workers, according to AIHA. However, such progress depends upon developing methods of standardizing and interpreting data, as well as, technological innovations and training programs.

AIHA called for government funding for research in addition to grants to develop and implement training programs. The group also wants to see government funding to explore possible application of blockchain technology to worker safety and health. Blockchain is the encrypted ledger system that supports the cryptocurrency bitcoin, but it may have other applications.

AIHA also called for significant increases in government funding for research and development of sensors to detect workers’ exposures to biological, chemical, physical, and radiological hazards.

The groups also would like to see data analysis, sensor, and other technologies applied to getting a better sense of workers’ total exposures to safety and health hazards—both on an off the job. While researchers know that both occupational and nonoccupational activities can interact to affect worker health; those interactions are not well understood. AIHA wants Congress to double funding for the Total Worker Health Program at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Increased Training for Vulnerable Workers

AIHA called attention to the safety and health of teen workers and temporary and contract workers. The group wants state and local governments to require a workplace safety curriculum in schools for grades 7 through 12. AIHA also is seeking federal and state grants for teacher training in teen workplace safety.

The group said temporary and contract workers sometimes are placed in hazardous jobs without adequate safety and health training. The group called for increased funding for the Susan Harwood Training Grant program administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Cannabis and Opioid Hazards

AIHA called for action on hazards posed by marijuana and opioids. There are hazards involved in the cultivation, processing, and sale of marijuana, as well as, problems posed by workers in safety-sensitive positions who are impaired by marijuana use. AIHA would like to see:

  • Government-funded research into hazards in the cannabis industry and support for disseminating best practices to employers and workers;
  • Funding for research into better understanding and defining impairment caused by marijuana use; and
  • Drug testing and voluntary prohibition of marijuana use by workers in safety sensitive positions until impairment is better understood.

AIHA also called for efforts to address:

  • Workplace impairment caused by opioid use and misuse;
  • Occupational exposure to opioids; and
  • Occupational injuries, which result in prescriptions for opioid pain relievers that may lead to misuse.

Addressing Known Hazards

Some hazards, such as noise, transportation accidents, and workplace violence, have long been known; but AIHA wants to see greater action focused on them. The group called for:

  • Aligning federal and state hearing protection standards with NIOSH’s recommended exposure level of 85 decibels (dB) as an 8-hour time-weighted average, the existing standard is 90 dB;
  • Funding for awareness and education programs to address driver distraction, fatigue, and impairments; and
  • OSHA stakeholder meetings to assess the need for a federal standard on workplace violence prevention.

AIHA also called for a Congressional commission to examine OSHA’s standard-setting process for occupational exposure limits. The groups advocated the widespread use of control banding or “hazard banding” methods for hazardous substance without a formal occupational exposure limit.

The group also wants greater protections for the Certified Industrial Hygienist and Certified Safety Professional titles, as well as the development of a future safety professional workforce.

The groups would like to see greater participation of its members in disaster planning, response, and recovery to identify and control hazards faced by disaster response and recovery workers, as well as community members.