The 2018 IOHA Conference was held in September in Washington, DC. Although, in many ways, the focus of this conference was the educational sessions that professionals could attend and receive continuing education credit for, the hallmark of this conference was perhaps the expo hall from which attendees could observe new research, trends, and technology, as well as network with other professionals in their field. When in discussion with attendees of the conference, I learned that the IOHA conference is generally a place for those who have a position in their field that would allow them to make waves in the occupational hygiene profession, for they are able to alter company practices that would allow their company to adapt and embrace new research, trends and technology.
With this in mind, when Roger Alesbury took the stage to receive his IOHA Lifetime Achievement Award, he also took the opportunity to speak to these professionals with an eye towards changing the Occupational Hygiene field for
the better. In his keynote address, Alesbury explained that 2 million lives are lost a year due to work-related injuries, and that occupational hygiene practices are the key to diminishing the risks associated with this statistic.
Alesbury went on to explain that the challenges for the Occupational Hygiene profession, or the Industrial Hygiene profession as its called in the US, include:
• A poor understanding within the workplace of Occupational Hygiene and its purpose
• A limited culture around promoting worker health protection
• Limited resources
• A finite supply
• Limited demand from employers
Alesbury explained further that, in order to address these challenges, occupational hygienists must first understand how to create demand for their profession. He focused then on the idea of understanding how to address an employers needs and priorities, and then proceeding to cast an offer in terms of the business benefit for the employer, and not, perhaps, with a focus around the needs of the employees. In order to make a change in the industry, Alesbury explained that you must first create a demand for the field itself within the eyes of the employer. By building a business relationship with the employer, the occupational hygienist is able to learn from that employer what is troubling him or her in the workplace, and then proceed to make an offer that will specifically solve that
After the keynote address was made, many attendees moved inside the expo hall where numerous booths from different companies presented new technology and research that would help occupational hygienists by providing them with just the right tool to solve that employer’s problem in the workplace. For Peter Briscoe, the CEO of Nanozen, IOHA was not only a place for new research and technology, but also a place where the companies inside the expo hall could find “sales leads and international strategic connections that IOHA can help you make.” On a similar note, William Walsh of SGS Galson explained that, “The IOHA Conference is important for SGS Galson in order for us to stay connected internationally.”
In this way, networking on an international stage can be key to gaining the knowledge and connections that will allow professionals to make the changes that Roger Alesbury spoke about in his keynote. Victorio Angelo-Escudero of 3M mirrored this point when he stated that the IOHA Conference is specifically valuable for him due to “the opportunity to network with the Latin American community so that we can share our experiences in the industry, and work more closely together in the future.” These connections are key in order for professionals in the industry to support each other as they together towards a more progressively safe and healthy environment for professionals in the workplace.
By Alana Hippensteele, Assistant Editor of American Cleaning & Hygiene Magazine.