About AIHA And Healthier Workplaces
Healthier Workplaces is an evergreen resource center to help employers, employees, and general consumers alike learn how to protect themselves from the ongoing health and safety risks they face—including ways to avoid disease and airborne illness, as well how to prepare for and respond to natural disasters and health risks like mold.
Healthier Workplaces extends the Back to Work Safely program, which was launched by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) in 2020 to help businesses navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is AIHA?
The American Industrial Hygiene Association has served those who work in occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) since 1939. AIHA’s mission is to empower those who apply scientific knowledge to protect all workers from occupational hazards, and the association has more than 8,000 members. You can learn more about AIHA and become a member at www.aiha.org.
How Did AIHA Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic?
In February 2020, AIHA created its Coronavirus outbreak resource center—using grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—to provide resources and interesting information for OEHS professionals and workers across industries. AIHA staff updated the resource center throughout the early years of the pandemic with the latest public health resources for industrial hygienists, occupational safety and health scientists, public health officials, and others working to support front-line workers and personnel fighting the pandemic.
What Was Back to Work Safely?
As communities began to reopen and resume in-person business during the COVID-19 pandemic, AIHA saw a clear and urgent need to help small businesses understand how to protect the health of their employees and customers. AIHA created Back to Work Safely guidelines for 27 industries and work environments, answering common questions about disinfection protocols, ways to enable social distancing, and recommended personal protective equipment.
The Back to Work Safely guidance documents have been downloaded more than 4 million times and featured in and on leading new outlets including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and USA Today.
How Does Back to Work Safely Relate to Healthier Workplaces?
Healthier Workplaces includes two resources centers: resources by workplace, and consumer health and safety resources.
The resources by the workplace provide employees and employers with specific guidance based on their working environment, including updated Back to Work Safely guidance documents and third-party resources.
The consumer health and safety resources explain how you can prepare for and handle crises and ongoing health risks that might affect you, your family, and your community, including best practices for addressing natural disasters, wildfires, and mold.
AIHA will update this website with more resources and topics as we find new ways to overcome the health and safety risks of everyday life.
Value of OEHS Professionals
Hiring an occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) expert provides you with a competitive edge by reducing the direct and indirect costs caused by workplace hazards – including equipment damage, lawsuits, medical expenses and more. Reduces operational and financial risks for your organization and improves the public image.
Companies that invest in OEHS professionals:
- organizational costs
- worker compensation premiums
- health-related costs
- fines or penalties
- legal issues
- energy use
- employee absenteeism and turnover rate
- time to market
- operational efficiency
- reputation of your company
- quality and efficiency
- raw material substitution with less toxic materials
- impact on capital costs
- mergers and acquisitions due diligence
- employee morale
- customer retention
Occupational and environmental health and safety issues are an inherent part of business operations and therefore OEHS-related investments often have an impact on many aspects of a process or service. They return tremendous long-term benefits, well beyond the scope of the immediate application.
OEHS professionals can be found making a strong impact in a wide range of industries from manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, services, chemical to first responders, gas and oil, transportation, construction and more.
AIHA Behind the Profession
AIHA empowers its members by developing highly-regarded education for them to invest in their lifelong learning and professional development so that they can continuously improve their practice and more effectively protect your employees, keeping your business running safely, smoothly, and efficiently.
A study commissioned by the AIHA and conducted by ORC Worldwide, entitled The Value of the Industrial Hygiene Profession study, found that the most significant occupational and environmental health and safety contributions did not come from traditional sources including lower worker compensation premiums, reduced fines and penalties and health-related costs. The impact OEHS professionals provide had a much more significant impact on overall business processes including:
- Reduction of waste
- Raw material substitution
- Energy reduction
- Improved quality & efficiency
- Impact on capital costs
- Mergers and acquisitions due diligence
- Proactively improving processes to prevent occupational illnesses rather than retroactively reducing health-related costs or worker compensation premiums
Examples of OEHS professionals at work include:
- Eliminating lead from a raw material stream saved tens of thousands of dollars and kept a facility from closing.
- Substituting a less toxic material for a chromate primer saved an aircraft company a significant amount of money in processing costs and significantly improved productive capacity.
- Continuing to keep employees healthy and safe with proper PPE and back to work guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure operational effectiveness.
- Installing engineering controls to control exposure to nano particles at a small company resulted in a ten-fold increase in production capacity.
- At one site, substitution of a carcinogenic process chemical with a less toxic one improved the quality of the product, required less re-work to produce quality products, and thereby freed up resources that resulted in increased production capacity. The increased capacity resulted in additional sales since the plant was already working at full capacity and their output was already “sold out” for the next several years. The changes made in order to reduce health risk at that facility will produce a continuing revenue stream of several million dollars each year for years to come.
- OEHS professionals contributed substantial value by enabling a process that was key to maintaining critical production capacity to keep it running. The ability of the site OEHS professional to develop a heat stress protection program for workers conducting repairs on a critical piece of equipment ensured that there was no shutdown of the process, which would have caused a multi-million dollar loss. Had the unit shutdown, other units would have been shutdown as well. A total shutdown for 10 days would have cost approximately $15 million.
- OEHS professionals’ involvement was critical to a key process for an entire industry that allows oil refineries to process lower-grade crude oil, and subsequently results in millions of dollars of profit each year. By providing an essential function to a highly profitable process, OEHS professionals contributed tremendous value. Without their expertise in managing the radiation detector program, the delayed coking process could not have happened, and the company would have lost $81,250,000 of annual profit.
If you are interested in speaking with an occupational health and safety consultant in your area, please visit AIHA's Consultants Directory.
AIHA In The News
Learn more about AIHA and its public awareness campaigns through the below news articles and stories:
Commit to C.A.R.E.
NSC, Others Join AIHA’s Commit to C.A.R.E. (EHS Daily Advisor)
Workplace Health Scientists Urge Employers: Regardless of Supreme Court Ruling on Vax Mandates Employers and Employees Can Take Critical Steps to Reduce the Risk of COVID-19 in the Workplace
AIHA Calls on Health Organizations to Endorse New Public Education Initiative Aimed at Preparing Buildings against the Spread of COVID-19 and Other Airborne Diseases (Industrial Hygiene in the Workplace)
Back to Work Safely
Implementing Updated COVID-19 Guidelines for Getting Back to Work Safely (Construction Safety Magazine)
Safety Advice on Commuting to the Office—And Reducing Your Risks Once You’re There (Wall Street Journal)
How safe is it to go back to the office? (Irish Times)
I Had My First Hair Appointment Post-Quarantine—Here’s What It Was Like (Reader's Digest)