After years of debating a name change for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and its annual conference, AIHA''s president has declared the issue dead -- at least for now.
Steven Levine, Ph.D., CIH, says association leaders have decided that it is time to move on to other, more-pressing matters than what to call AIHA and the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (AIHce), scheduled for June 2-7 in New Orleans.
The AIHA board of directors has worked in the past few years to tackle media and public perception problems about the industrial hygiene profession, Levine says. A name change for the association and the conference seemed to be a logical step to deal with that problem. What seemed logical, however, turned into controversy.
"The profession is divided between those who think that the practice of EHS should be called industrial hygiene and those who feel that industrial hygiene is a dated, anachronistic name that does not describe to the general public what we do," he says.
Attempts to change the name of AIHA or its conference have been met with resistance because many of its members want to maintain an industrial hygiene identity.
The latest controversy occurred last year during AIHCE when the association announced it was changing the 2001 conference to the Environmental, Health and Safety Conference and Exposition. Negative reaction was swift from many members, including Larry Birkner, MBA, CIH, CSP, vice president and technical director of McIntyre Birkner & Associates, an EHS consulting firm in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The membership became irritated with the name change because it was too general and left out industrial hygiene. Birkner says there would have been less backlash if the name had included industrial or occupational hygiene.
Levine admits that the name-change detractors have a point. The difficulty with that argument, however, is that the possible combination of names is quite long.
"We probably screwed up by not having IH or OH in there," he says. "But then, is it industrial or occupational and hygiene or health that you put in the name? For each of those four words, there''s someone willing to throw themselves on the sword to preserve that word."
A group of members petitioned AIHA for a full member vote on the conference name change. Of nearly 4,000 returned ballots, nearly 60 percent voted to retain the AIHce name.
Whether or not the conference name ever changes, Levine says, clearly the membership has an interest in widespread EHS issues. He points to last year''s keynote speakers. One talked about safety, one about the environment and two about occupational health and industrial hygiene. Attendance for all four speakers was close to 100 percent.
Even with the EHS emphasis, Levine says, the membership has spoken, and the leadership has listened. "At this point, the board feels that they''ve spent so much time on this issue that, for efficiency of the governance process of the AIHA, we shouldn''t bother with it anymore," he says. "The board is not considering any more name changes."
Instead, the leadership has turned its attention to other matters. For example, AIHA is heavily involved in American National Standards Institute (ANSI) processes, including serving as secretariat for the development of ANSI standard Z10 on occupational health and safety systems.
AIHA also is looking for a new executive director because Gordon Banks is retiring at the end of the year. The transition is taking an "enormous amount of time," Levine says.
While the debate on what to call AIHA and its conference may be dead for now, the underlying issue of the association and the profession it represents must be resolved eventually, says Hank Lick, Ph.D., CIH, CSP, president-elect of AIHA. "We really don''t know what we want to be when we grow up. Do we stay as a pure industrial hygiene organization? This is where we need to know more about what the members are thinking."
by Todd Nighswonger