How to grow the next generation of occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals was the focus of a recent stakeholder meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) in which the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) was a key participant.

As many OSH professionals near retirement, the field is in need of a new generation to take on the task of protecting worker health and safety. Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels has tasked NACOSH with developing recommendations on how to foster the OSH field and its professionals and how to grow the next generation of OSH professionals.

Last week’s gathering was one of a series of stakeholder meetings that will be devoted to the subject.

A lack of awareness

AIHA Past President Daniel H. Anna, PhD, CIH, CSP, who attended the meeting, said there was a lack of public awareness about the industrial hygiene profession.

"We see the need and we see that the jobs are there, but there are challenges in identifying qualified people," said Anna.

Ann told NACOSH about AIHA's initiatives to promote careers in OSH, which include:

  • a mentorship program
  • the Future Leaders Institute, which aims to develop leaders within the association and the IH profession as a whole
  • AIHA's award-winning IH Professional Pathway program, which provides materials that illustrate the stages of the industrial hygiene career and the knowledge, skills and experience needed at each stage.

Anna also noted the professional and educational support AIHA provides students and professionals in the IH and OSH fields across the country, as well as the American Industrial Hygiene Foundation (AIHF), which has provided more than $1.8 million in scholarships to hundreds of IH students since 1982.

Programs for teens

AIHA Director Cathy Hovde, CIH, CSP highlighted two more initiatives specifically designed for teenagers: Safety Matters, a program jointly introduced by AIHA and NIOSH; and NIOSH's Talking Safety curriculum, which is intended to be used in a classroom or group training setting. She urged other stakeholder organizations participating in the meeting to use these programs as a springboard to further promote the OSH profession.

"If you're an organization or group that's interested in learning more, [these programs are] already put together, ready to go, and pretty easy for you to take and work with in your own organizations," she said.

Anna said the initiative affects all stakeholders.

“It's not just a single association issue; it's an issue that cuts across all of us, all workplaces, and all communities out there."