The Future of Industrial Hygiene

May 1, 2007
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INTRO

Fifteen years flies by, just watch kids grow. Back in 1992, about one in five members of the American Industrial Hygiene Association were consultants (22 percent to be exact). AIHA had just moved its headquarters from Akron, Ohio to Fairfax, Va., and just signed on its 10,000th member. A year earlier, members voted down a name change to the American Industrial and Environmental Health Association.

The more things change, the more often they don’t. In ’92, incoming AIHA President Henry J. Muranko talked to ISHN about “an effort at trimming corporate staffs,” consultants growing to become “30 percent or 50 percent” of AIHA membership, and declared, “We’re part of the global environmental movement.”

A headline in ISHN’s May, 1992, issue proclaimed, “Industrial Hygiene Wants Respect.”

AIHA now has 11,600 members. In the group’s 2006 annual report, Executive Director Steven Davis said, “Just as the AIHA membership has been on a slow decline in recent years, so too has the IH community in general.” A 2005 AIHA study showed 36 percent of member consultants came to consulting after having their previous job trimmed.

So what do the next 15 years hold for the IH profession? With the help of AIHA’s Melissa Hurley, we contacted IHs young and old for their predictions. And this really isn’t just about industrial hygiene — you can substitute environmental health and safety (EHS) almost anywhere you find an IH reference. You have to look no further than our first response…

— Dave Johnson, Editor


1) Global Cyber-Fox.news – Has the FUTURE OF INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE Passed?

Fairfax, VA _AIHA_ACGIH_ASSE.org _May 15, 2022
Today, the world’s largest association of industrial hygiene and safety professionals, the AIHA-ACGIH-ASSE Association, is announcing the cancellation of their triennial conference in Las Vegas, NV slated to be held June 4 – 9, 2022.

Although a stellar line-up of industry, government, and international IH and safety professionals were invited to present success stories, learnings and latest developments, conference registrations have been so trivial to cause the event to be cancelled.

Since the 2019 conference, the AIHA-ACGIH-ASSE has experienced modest membership growth in India, China, Brazil, and Indonesia; however, this growth has been overwhelmed by the precipitous decline in U.S., Western and Eastern Europe, and Japanese memberships since 2015.

This has placed an enormous financial burden on the association. Heated debates have been on-going for the past two years on whether to maintain the headquarters in Fairfax, VA or relocate to Hong Kong; closer to the vast majority of the association’s members.

— as imagined by James E. Leemann, Ph.D.

2) iHealthPod® and other achievements

When AIHA and ACGIH celebrated their demisesquicentennial anniversaries and ASSE celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2014, 2013 and 2011 respectively, historic achievements had already been accomplished in the industrial hygiene and safety fields. Some of the more significant accomplishments included:

• Completing the horrendous task of establishing TLVs and/or PELs for essentially ever known chemical in commerce.

• Both personal and ambient sampling instrumentation and measurement methods becoming fully automated with immediate corrective action feedback via Apple’s iHealthPod® (a personal hand-held communication device) and/or to company servers through SIPv8.1 (Satellite Internet Protocol Version 8.1). In addition to communicating personal health information, the iHealthPod® is designed to deliver process procedures, training videos, employee announcements, benefit plan updates and numerous employee-related information.

• The invention of the BioMed Implant® that monitors employees through an subcutaneous-injected microscopic capsule and transmits via satellite uplink over 50 vital signs and monitors all workplace exposures (i.e., chemical, stress, noise, ergonomic, etc.) by way of human receptor sites on a continuous basis from anywhere in the world to company databanks.

• The release of MedVista®, an automated and fully integrated safety and health software, designed to manage a zettabyte of safety and health data and information and provide instant feedback analyses of potential systemic problems. MedVista® receives BioMed Implant® data through satellite GreenTooth® technology along with other pertinent operational data and transmits analytical results to each employee’s iHealthPod®.

— as imagined by James E. Leemann, Ph.D.

3) The ruling SUSTAINABLE ECOLOGY PARTY

The overall decline in the AIHA-ACGIH-ASSE’s membership and the apparent cutback in IH and safety positions most plausibly began with the exodus of U.S.-based Fortune 500 manufacturing operations to foreign countries, mainly located in Africa, around 2015.

In the following year, the U.S. Agency for a Sustainable Society (ASS) convinced the Sustainable Ecology Party, currently the majority political party in the House and Senate, to pass a veto-proof amendment to the 2012 Clear and Clean Sky Law to immediately reduce any chemicals that may cause greenhouse gas emissions or climate change by 75 percent.

In response to manufacturing leaving the U.S. and this Congressional action, the AIHA-ACGIH-ASSE has launched the Global Sustainable Occupational Health Initiative. This Initiative targets the occupational health of employees regardless of how or where they are employed. A key underlining feature of the Initiative calls for IH and safety professionals to be aligned with their company’s business goals so that the preventative occupational health measures for their company can be implemented in such a way to achieve the company’s goals.

— by James E. Leemann, Ph.D.

4) Yes, CERTIFICATION for dirty bomb clean-up

Even though the “War on Terrorism” was won in 2020, smaller terrorist cell factions continue to disrupt commerce, work and community life throughout the world with biological weapons and dirty bombs.

The AIHA-ACGIH-ASSE has contracted with Tactical Security, Inc., an international bio-terror/dirty bomb security group, to develop and present materials and courses designed to train and educate IH and safety professionals on how to deal with post-biological and dirty bomb incidents. Plans are underway to establish a certification program for IH and safety professionals specializing in this area.

— by James E. Leemann, Ph.D.

5) London calling

In 2022 the typical professional industrial hygienist will be bilingual and working in a foreign country for a multinational firm, reporting back to headquarters in New York or London. Hopefully I will still be around to help find people to do the job. Languages might be Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin or some other dialect of China or India.

It’s unlikely that large-scale concentrations of noise and dusts, fumes and vapors will go away from the workplace, but the location of these hazards will have migrated out of the U.S. to a cheaper and more numerous labor force overseas.

This will create a cadre of worldly practitioners challenged by unmistakable hazards and an untrained workforce. We can export our technical skills to protect workers in countries that presently do not value human life as much as we do.

— by Dan Brockman, professional recruiter

6) RETIRING in droves

I just finished teaching part of a CIH exam review course and spoke with Lynn O’Donnell of the American Board of Industrial Hygiene prior to the course. She indicated to me that in 2006, 175 CIHs either retired, died, or did not renew their certification — and only 158 were granted certification. This problem will only become worse as the baby boomers start to retire in droves.

I have been having discussions with a colleague who is active in the International Occupational Hygiene Association that center around an educational initiative designed to get more practitioners into the field as quickly as possible where they are needed.

Most are needed in developing countries. I believe this is “where the action is.”

The kind of work I see IHs performing is similar in many ways to what we have always done, just in different parts of the world. Many of these developing areas are 10 to 15 years behind the U.S. as it relates to EHS, but through globalization, they are catching up quickly from an economic perspective.

Many of these folks are second and third tier suppliers to major U.S. brands. The brands are pressured by NGOs to get these suppliers to “clean up their acts.” The questions is how to do so quickly and efficiently given the paucity of IH resources in these areas of the world.

— by Mark Katchen, CIH, MS, MBA, Managing Principal for The Phylmar Group, and Vice Chair of the AIHA’s International Affairs Committee

7) An increasingly DESPERATE WORLD

The 21st century will be about energy and environment. Fifteen years from now we will be in a post-crisis boom cycle (as described by Strauss and Howe in their book

“The Fourth Turning”) that I think will be fueled by breakthroughs in energy technology and desperation to protect the failing global environment: on land, in the air and the seas.

What will happen will change the way all work is done, the way people travel and the way industry and people interact. The increasingly desperate world will realize that environmentalism in the sense of cleaning immense global-scale pollution of air, land, water, and the oceans and preventing further industrial and consumer pollution will no longer be viewed as a zero sum game between industry and jobs and cheap goods.

This will result in environmental protection and cleanup as a robust industry creating jobs and vast revenues around the world.

A broad global insistence on environmental protection will require many people to know how to measure substances in a wide array of extreme places (mountains, oceans, upper atmosphere, etc.) using ever-more extreme technology (such as satellite monitoring technology) with integrity and accuracy. This means using IH-style skills to conceive of and implement strategies for monitoring whole regions, and even the planet, not just the workplace.

— by Gary Rosenblum, Risk Manager, City of Palm Desert, CA

8) Can’t use humans as GUINEA PIGS

The greater part of my work these days is on prevention of illness and injury, independent of regulatory requirements. Such as with nanotechnology. I’ve led an ORC Task Force on nanotechnology, along with Ann Brockhaus and Scott Madar, that has put together a compendium of safe practices for working with nano materials in a number of settings.

(You can access it by visiting our web site: http://www.orc-dc.com).

At this point, almost nothing is known about the vast majority of nano materials in the way of health, safety and environmental effects, so it is nearly impossible to regulate nanotechnology from an occupational safety and health point of view.

We cannot in good conscience use human beings as guinea pigs or lab mice, but this is what we are in fact doing when we expose people to materials of unknown risk and wait to observe the effects.

We must use the ethical values that we believe in as IH professionals to find our way through the maze. These ethics should compel us to put protecting worker health at the top of our list above any other priorities, and this is where I try to focus my efforts.

— by Dee Woodhull, CIH, ORC Worldwide

9) Get out there and SELL

In thinking about 15 years into the future, I hope that IHs will find themselves working primarily on projects in which they are anticipating hazards and seeing that they are designed out of the process through selection of low-risk materials and safe processes.

Wouldn’t it be great if all engineers and process designers, as well as anyone else who employs people at work would first seek out an IH to make sure that no health hazards were created during the design of a job?

This likely would expand the potential to increase IH employment and ensure not only the survival, but the flourishing of the profession. We just have to get busy and sell the concept.

— by Dee Woodhull, CIH, CSP, ORC Worldwide

10) What if GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE or natural earth processes reduce arable land, water availability, unleash new diseases (pandemic), insect pestilence and change borders and industries working with them?

Perhaps, IHs with their risk assessment and other skills will be part of the comprehensive team, maybe leading it in some cases, in efforts to mitigate and adjust to negative consequences.

Perhaps IHs help organizations attain sustainable development via management systems and other tools so we satisfy ever-growing needs with no negative occupational or environmental health impact and perhaps, avoid these negative consequences.

Perhaps, IHs will be involved with risk assessment of new genetic crops and workers in farming and new genetic/biotech food production processes to offset loss of arable land or water changes (flood or drought) via climate change.

— John Meagher, CIH, independent consultant

11) What if abundant, economically viable and SUSTAINABLE ENERGY SOURCES are developed (solar, geothermal, nanotech-based photoelectric, wind, wave, fuel cell, biomass), including viable non-polluting use of fossil fuel (100% CO2 sequestration) and the U.S, China, India and other nations adopt them?

Perhaps, IHs will be involved with recycling efforts and waste into resource industries.

Perhaps they would be employed in the new industries that both manufacture and use these energy technologies to ensure the safety of workers up and down the distributed energy production chain.

Perhaps endless energy could make underwater construction, lunar colonies and cities in extreme environments underground, building upwards or in Arctic and Antarctic regions possible, offering IH professionals new workplaces in which to practice and ensure worker safety.

Perhaps clean energy abundance causes standards of living increase in developing world and according to the Kuznetz curve (no relation to Howard) as affluence goes up pollution goes down, and demand for IH increases wherever these energy technologies are implemented.

— John Meagher, CIH, independent consultant

12) “My future as an IH is BRIGHT”

In the year 2022 I see myself in an academic setting continuing to train future environmental and occupational health professionals, conducting applied IH research, and providing IH consulting services to industry.

I believe that formal incorporation of various aspects of safety, environmental health, product stewardship and corporate social responsibility into the practice of industrial hygiene make sense due to the training and skills that IHs possess. It is also necessary in order to ensure the marketability of IH practitioners in the future.

I also anticipate building strong relationships with members of the occupational medicine community. In my experience there is a significant disconnect between occupational physicians and industrial hygienists. I anticipate conducting research projects to evaluate the relationship between occupational physicians and industrial hygienists as well as on methods through which these two groups of professionals can be brought closer together.

My future as an IH is bright, and I look forward to working diligently to make it brighter.

— Hernando R. Perez, PhD, MPH, CIH (Age, 33), Assistant Professor of Public Health, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health

13) Asbestos FOREVER?

I began performing asbestos-related consulting work approximately 15 years ago. My first boss told me that all the asbestos would be gone in three-to-five years. He mentioned that I should plan on rounding out my IH experience rather than focusing too heavily on asbestos. It’s now 15 years later and I’m glad I took his advice by becoming a CIH and earning a Master’s Degree in Public Health.

I continue to perform as much asbestos-related work as I ever have with no end in sight. As buildings age and reach the end of their useful lives, asbestos-related consulting work will eventually wane (at least in the United States). I don’t anticipate performing as much asbestos-related work in 15 years but I predict it will continue to remain a staple of the IH diet. We may even begin to see worldwide asbestos bans and international regulations being promulgated ensuring asbestos-related consulting work for years to come.

As the globe continues to flatten, the demand for IH-related work will steadily increase throughout the world. I would not be surprised to find myself somewhere in China sampling for hexavalent chromium in the year 2022.

— David C. Roskelley, MSPH, CIH, CSP, (Partner), R & R Environmental, Inc.

14) DESPERATELY SEEKING competent IHs

India and China will continue to grow for next 20 years. We will be desperately seeking competent industrial hygiene professionals. We will have to have institutions and infrastructure that can provide trained professionals and also support services such as accredited analytical laboratories.

Our students are now working in industries and academia. We are not able to keep up with the demand. The key for us will be to ensure quality of education remains at par with that of the many U.S. institutions.

— by Maharshi Mehta, CIH, CSP, President, Int’l Safety Systems, Inc.

15) Dozens of questions…

• What will be the primary source of energy (petroleum, solar, other)?

• What materials and processes will be available to make new stuff?

• Will we be fully invested in clean and “green” processes?

• Will new materials and processes have become inexpensive enough to make them the first choice for manufacturers?

• Will there be affordable new ways to clean the air and water?

• Will weather patterns have changed sufficiently to influence the politics of environmental politics?

• Will we have found new mining techniques?

• How much of today’s building infrastructure will be retained and how much demolition and reconstruction will be taking place?

• To what extent will the world be following the European Precautionary Principle or will for-profit industrialists still be allowed to make the rules?

• Will remote diagnostic capabilities (for human health and for air/water/food quality) have continued to advance?

— by Richard H. Smith, MS, President, Flexible Medical Systems, LLC

16) Nano, nano, nano

Nanophotovoltaic systems are allowing us to get more than 40 percent of our energy from sunlight. People are even talking about creating “disassemblers” that can take apart pretty much anything (old tires, oil spills, Pampers, brown fields) and turn them into raw materials to make consumer products. Soon, we might be able to use plain old air and water pollution as the primary source of most of what we use and be able to recycle everything.

— by Richard H. Smith, MS, President, Flexible Medical Systems, LLC

17) Traditional problems = traditional IH

There will continue to be a need for traditional IH as long as business schools do a poor job of preparing business majors for proactively addressing loss sources in whatever industry they choose — whether it be construction, traditional manufacturing or emerging growth areas such as nanotechnology, or biotechnology.

Most often, IHs are utilized after a problem has been created, I’d like to think that this might shift to a more proactive consultation role in process design.

— by Zandra Walton, CIH, Managing Consultant, Loss Prevention & Industrial Hygiene, Liberty Northwest Insurance Corp.

18) GREEN GUIDANCE

I think there will be a strengthening of the environmental movement which will also reduce the public’s appetite for exposure to hazardous chemicals emanating from industry. There will be additional pressure for companies to go “green” to the extent possible. IHs need to position ourselves to be the ones sought out to provide guidance.

— by Zandra Walton, CIH, Managing Consultant, Loss Prevention & Industrial Hygiene, Liberty Northwest Insurance Corp.

19) Hello, can you see me?

Most IHs feel an obligation to make a difference in the world, to solve problems, take actions, and promote change. I think that in the future there will be more opportunities for us to use our expertise to affect broader social problems. But, this will not occur if we do not do a better job of training ourselves in communication skills so that those in companies who are forced to change will know that we are the ones they should be seeking.

— by Zandra Walton, CIH, Managing Consultant, Loss Prevention & Industrial Hygiene, Liberty Northwest Insurance Corp.

20) A “geezer” gazes…

Here’s what I see 10-15 years out:

• Manufacturing: Very little in the U.S., most off shore and particularly in the Far East. This will lead to the continued diminution of the visibility of IHs in the U.S.

• Globalization: IH will be much more global dealing with everything from mundane and basic issues in developing countries to sophisticated issues e.g. nanotechnology in countries that will mature in this period.

• Harmonization: A buzz word that will start to become a reality but still with a long way to go.

• Corporate Social Responsibility: This will continue to grow as a critical issue for businesses.

• NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations): These will become much more influential and fill the void left by formal regulatory initiatives.

• Regulatory Interventions: This is simply too political to predict in the U.S. but it will have a significant presence abroad. NGOs (see above) may be the driving force.

• Health Care & Presenteeism: These will be major opportunity areas for IHs should they choose to grasp it.

• Emergency Preparedness & Response: This will not “go away.” It will be of ever-increasing importance and a major opportunity area for IH to make major contributions and gain recognition should they once again choose to take a visible role.

• The Identity of Industrial Hygiene: It will continue to erode possibly to oblivion given the integration of IH, Safety and Environment into EHS. There will be many more multi-functional professionals and damn few IHs per se.

…and that is how I see it.

— by Dr. Richard D. Fulwiler, CIH, CSHM, President, Technology Leadership Associates

21) Goodbye to CLASSIC IH

Many IHs (more likely the majority of us) will not be doing mostly classic industrial hygiene in the future. Most of us will be doing a combination of IH, safety, environmental work, and other non-EHS-type professional work.

Why is this?

Many large- to medium-size companies (the ones that can afford our services) will have addressed, and have in place, the management systems and processes to deal with IH and safety-related issues.

EHS issues will no longer be a functional process that is directed and owned solely by EHS professionals. Strong EHS professionals will be resources for the business to help determine strategic direction of programs and policies, and most probably will not always be doing the actual work.

— by Aaron Chen, MPH, CIH, Clean & Disinfect Global Product Steward/Sr. Industrial Hygienist, DuPont Co.

22) What about RISK MITIGATION?

IHs presently have very unique technical and social skills that can be used for more than just industrial hygiene. One area that I propose IHs should consider for the future is business/product risk management.

This type of work will require detailed examination of the issues that could increase risk. It will also require being able to anticipate, recognize, evaluate and control all risks internal and external to the company. Engaging the many business functions will assure risks have been reduced or mitigated to acceptable levels. Negotiation and influence skills will be very important.

— by Aaron Chen, MPH, CIH, Clean & Disinfect Global Product Steward/Sr. Industrial Hygienist, DuPont Co.

23) The WIDE-ANGLE view

I think a lot of IHs, justifiably proud of their special knowledge and skills, are resistant to the notion that the future belongs to the generalists. I think there is a worry that their special IH identity will be lost.

But look at the issues IHs are responsible for addressing: emerging infectious disease preparedness, workplace violence prevention, work/life issues and their effect on a company’s safety profile (for example, fatigue caused by caring for an elderly and ill parent), and employee health and wellness and its relationship to employee productivity.

I’ve been a member of AIHA for some time, though I am not an IH. But I think my current portfolio of responsibilities represents the range of issues IHs can engage in: healthcare cost containment, global workforce health management, global harmonization of standards, psychosocial issues and their impact on workplace safety and health, pandemic preparedness, and developments with workplace wellness programs.

We should in think in much broader terms what it means to be an IH.

— by Ann Brockhaus, MPH, ORC Worldwide

24) Case study

As the world turns… so does a business model

Like much of the safety and health profession, ORC’s safety and health business was founded on and grew in response to the Occupational Safety and Health Act and its implementation. For 20 years after the passage of the act, the U.S. manufacturing sector’s safety and health needs and challenges were driven by OSHA’s influence through standards-setting and enforcement.

Around 1992, several ORC member companies who were on the leading edge of establishing operations in Europe and Asia expressed a desire to form an ORC network that focused on safety and health issues “overseas.” Needless to say, this group — ORC’s International Safety and Health Forum — grew rapidly and began to ask ORC to provide increasing information about regulatory developments and about safety and health resources in these regions.

The landscape quakes

At about the same time, several historic shifts in the health and safety landscape simultaneously converged to dramatically influence ORC’s business model. First, the leaders among ORC’s member companies embraced a management systems approach to improving safety and health performance, and the “old” compliance focus became subsumed under this new umbrella.

Second, the downsizing and “leaning” of U.S. businesses responding to global competition began to trickle down to company safety and health functions. This called for new approaches both to demonstrating the business value of those function, and increasing their efficiency.

Third, just as OSHA shifted its focus away from its traditional command and control orientation, the European Union was aggressively adopting new safety, health and environmental policies and directives that were increasingly influencing the expanding European operations of ORC members.

Finally, the globalization of U.S. businesses exploded, and the focus of senior corporate safety and health leaders has shifted dramatically to the challenge of establishing and managing effective safety and health programs with new workforces in countries — principally but not exclusively in the Asia Pacific region — with safety and health cultures and norms often far different from those in the U.S.

All this has meant a radical shift in ORC’s service orientation in the span of less than a decade. ORC members want strategies to integrate their EHS functions with the rest of the business; a broader set of metrics that align with other business metrics to demonstrate the business value of EHS; and they want the ability to manage global operations through management system improvements to assure compliance with expanding global standards and internal corporate standards that assure consistent protection of workers.

ORC has responded with its EHS Executive Business Issues Forum, its EU and Asia Pacific EHS Forums, and tools to improve and measure EHS performance around the globe. And oh, by the way, we can still help you get an interpretation of one of OSHA’s safety and health standards,

— by Frank White, Executive Vice President, ORC Worldwide

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