Linda Rae Murray, MD, MPH, sparked the passions of those attending the Tuesday general session at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (AIHce) presentation covering the challenges facing industrial hygienists and occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professionals.

Murray, the chief medical officer of primary care and community health at the Ambulatory and Community Health Network of Cook County in Chicago, shared expertise and insight regarding the impact of social, economic, and political changes on worker health and safety, including the graying of the profession, funding issues government agencies are facing, healthcare challenges, special needs of immigrants, the decline of labor unions, and more.

The field of industrial hygiene extends beyond the workplace — it extends into the community, Murray said. “We as a field must not only think about the four walls of the factory or the office. We have to look beyond that and understand that when we come together to address the critical issues of our society that we, in fact, are solving problems of occupational health and safety.”

Murray said that understanding the roots of the industrial hygiene profession was key to facing the challenges of today and tomorrow.

“If we really understand the traditions of our field and particularly the traditions of industrial hygienists, I think we will be in a good place to really tackle the overwhelming problems we face today.”

She challenged the audience with thought-provoking ideas on current issues such as immigration, the changing workforce and healthcare. “The fact that we live in a nation, the only industrialized nation, where healthcare is not a human right should disgust all of us as health professionals.”

She said IH pros need to look beyond the science of industrial hygiene and consider the social context of work. “Understanding not just what chemical is in the workplace but understanding the entire context of work is critical.”

Source: AIHA