Christine Lorenzo: A Q&A with the President of AIHA

Christine Lorenzo: A Q&A with the President of AIHA

On the eve of the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo, the president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association reveals her challenges, triumphs and what the future holds for the organization she's helmed for the past year.

Christine A.D. Lorenzo, CIH, is wrapping up her year of service as president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), a non-profit organization founded in 1939 and devoted to achieving and maintaining the highest professional standards for its 10,000 members, more than half of whom are certified industrial hygienists. In her day job, Lorenzo is a safety and occupational health manager for federal and state operations for OSHA. EHS Today caught up with her in April, and asked her about the last year.

EHS Today: What have been some the challenges/successes for AIHA in the past year?

Christine Lorenzo: Our main challenges as an organization are shared by so many, so we are fortunate to have shared experiences to draw from. World demographics are shifting, which impacts everyone. In AIHA's case, it impacts membership, product and service needs. In the areas of social media, technology, changing education needs vis-à-vis content and platform delivery, in combination with the faster and faster pace at which everything around us is changing … all of this creates challenges to identify and meet member and customer needs.

I am proud to say that we have risen to the occasion in many ways. Just a few successes for us include:

The Content Portfolio Management Team is charged with developing AIHA's content priorities for the next one to three years. This group is guiding our Bodies of Knowledge projects, one of which will be launched at AIHce 2015, and will continue to play a central role in setting our research and education agenda.

The Strategic Direction Task Force is developing our next strategic plan through a more member-centric process than AIHA has used in the past. To inform the task force's work, AIHA invited members and other stakeholders to take an online survey that asked for information about their professional challenges.

The Standards Advisory Panel provides recommendations to the AIHA Guideline Foundation's board of directors for prioritizing AIHA's activities related to standards development. The panel gathers input from volunteer groups, AIHA standards representatives, staff and other stakeholders. The panel also oversees the activities of AIHA's representatives to standards-setting bodies.

Members of the Stewardship and Sustainability Committee were part of the team that developed the programming for Stewardship 2015, the conference of the Product Stewardship Society, which will be co-located with AIHce 2015 in Salt Lake City.

The Outreach Project Team comprises members of the Fellows SIG, the Student and Early Career Professionals Committee and the Local Section Council, who are working in tandem to raise the visibility of IH and the profession at the K-12 and college/university levels.

The Career Stages Task Force is developing recommendations for AIHA to use its resources to better support members at various stages of their careers. The task force has identified the specific stages for different career paths, and AIHA is working to align its products, services, web site and other content areas with these stages.

International Efforts are largely underway at AIHA. We have held successful conferences and education programs across Asia and continue in these efforts.

EHS Today: What are some of the challenges facing industrial hygiene professionals?

Christine Lorenzo: Medical surveillance, exposure and risk assessment, reporting, data collection, communication, return on investment – are just a few of what typically is expected of us. We are fortunate that many of us share a genuine commitment to caring about people and the environment.

With as much that we juggle, it can be challenging to ensure all workers – no matter what role they have – are able to return home healthy and safe to their families and friends. Candidly, it can also be challenging to differentiate the value of industrial hygiene from other HS&E responsibilities. While IH skills overlap in these areas, our genuine value and contribution are in the areas of anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control in protecting and enhancing the health and safety of people at work and in their communities.

EHS Today: What are some of the challenges facing the larger EHS community?

Christine Lorenzo: Robust EHS management leadership and support, ensuring a systematic and strategic approach (contrasted with checklist approach) to identifying and preventing problems, fostering a strong EHS culture and sense of community throughout the entire workforce, an innovative approach to change management, obtaining and maintaining the breadth of knowledge needed to stay current and credible, and balance – just to name a few. Fortunately, the IH and EHS communities are thriving, vibrant communities, full of committed and dedicated professionals.

EHS Today: In your opinion, are there certain aspects of industrial hygiene that are ignored or are not given enough weight by employers?

Christine Lorenzo: It's difficult to see occupational exposures, let alone the complexities of multiple exposures occurring both in and out of the workplace. It's even more difficult to see the long-term ramifications of not giving occupational exposures enough attention, especially in terms of quality of life and overall health, which ultimately impacts performance and the bottom line. Companies that understand the power of prevention understand that the initial costs of bringing sound industrial hygiene principles into process design, now and every time, far outweighs the long-term burden on the bottom line.

EHS Today: What can you tell our readers about the upcoming American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo?

Christine Lorenzo: AIHce is the largest technical and scientific conference for IH and HS&E professionals. Data shows we are historically the best value and that we have the greatest depth and breadth of education and training opportunity. We are enormously proud of these facts and we work very hard to preserve, protect and forward them.

That said, we have some exciting new social components that have been added this year. For example, we are going to open AIHce with a welcoming party on a large, outdoor plaza in downtown Salt Lake City. With the breathtaking Wasatch mountain range as backdrop and beautiful city skyline, AIHce attendees will have an opportunity to connect with current and new friends, and relax as we prepare to start a busy week. Additionally, we plan to close the week with a Mark of Excellence breakfast to recognize and thank members and volunteers for their efforts, and to recognize those who have earned the prestigious association awards.

Finally, we will welcome delegates from all over the world at AIHce this year, including China, India, Europe, the Middle East and more.

In all, very exciting and I can't wait to experience all the energy and excitement.

EHS Today: In your career, of what are you most proud?

Christine Lorenzo: I am most proud of being a good listener, and promoting confidence, hope, optimism and resilience when working with others, both professionally, to advance worker health and safety, and personally, in terms of personal achievement. As a collaborator, I am most proud of being able to see a bigger goal, having the ability to see the steps towards achieving that goal and the foresight to know with whom I need to partner/collaborate to obtain that goal.

EHS Today: What would you do over if you could?

Christine Lorenzo: I would have loved the opportunity to connect more with our current and future leaders during my travels this year.

EHS Today: Do you have any advice for young industrial hygienists who are starting out in their careers?

Christine Lorenzo: Studies have shown that our profession is a great match for what young leaders are seeking in a career: altruism – the ability to feel like one is truly making a difference; diversity – the ability to engage in a variety of activities throughout a given work week; and balance – work cannot be too difficult or time-consuming. These are the characteristics in a profession that are attractive to young professionals. Industrial hygiene is a great career for students and young professionals because it involves helping people and truly making a difference in the community. There are so many opportunities for young professionals to get involved, especially at AIHA, such as various committees, volunteer groups, and local sections.

Words of wisdom: Be sure to make the most of any experience, whether it is a networking event, conference or project on a job, by being engaged, present and always willing to learn more. Don't be afraid to ask questions and fully immerse yourself in the profession. Having a mentor would also be beneficial to help you as you move up the IH career path.

 

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