Late last year the American Industrial Hygienists Association’s Board of Directors voted to change the name of the group’s annual conference to the Environmental Health & Safety Conference & Expo, beginning with the 2001 meeting in New Orleans. But a group of dissenting members collected more than 300 signatures on a petition in May to force a vote on the name change by the entire membership.

AIHA officials explained that the new name better reflects the crossover work performed by most industrial hygienists, and is also an attempt to boost conference attendance and exhibitor participation, which has been flat in recent years.

But some members complain that the association can’t be all things to all people, and argue that the new name for the conference weakens and dilutes the association’s core mission of promoting industrial hygiene.

There are also suspicions that the conference name change is a backdoor move by those who want to change the association’s name but failed to muster the necessary two-thirds majority in two membership votes in the 1990s.

AIHA officials deny this, saying the conference’s current name does not adequately describe its educational content and exhibitor product mix to potential new attendees, exhibitors, and professional recruiters. Marketing and financial issues cannot be dismissed because the conference is AIHA’s number-one revenue producer, according to the group.

The association plans to ballot members quickly to resolve the dispute and get on with promoting the 2001 meeting.