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AIHA Defines Roles of Industrial Hygienists within National Response Plan

New York, Feb 08, 2006

The need for clearly defined roles within a national response plan to emergency situations has been underscored in the past year by hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the continued threat of terrorism, and recently voiced concerns that the public was misled about the risk of air contamination following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), in cooperation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), has released a white paper defining the role of industrial hygienists in identifying, managing, and controlling risks associated with emergency situations.

Based on cooperative findings, the white paper, Industrial Hygienist’s Role and Responsibilities in Emergency Preparedness and Response, is designed to help emergency planners and community leaders understand the role of industrial hygienists in assisting local, government, and private response agencies manage domestic incidents. Outlining their responsibilities at the pre-planning, emergency response, and consequence management phases of an incident, AIHA presented a number of key recommendations identifying guidelines and measures needed to protect incident responders. These recommendations, which directly rely on the expertise of industrial hygienists, include initiatives to:

    • develop assessment methods, guidelines, and standards to assist in hazard monitoring among multiple agencies;
    • develop minimum standards for safety and health training for all responders involved in disaster response operations;
    • improve long-term surveillance of responder’s health following a major response;
    • develop guidelines for selecting protective equipment;
    • build an integrated safety function into an incident command system;
    • provide on-site safety training

Responsibilities of industrial hygienists include minimizing and controlling risks to incident responders by identifying possible emergencies and hazards, coordinating response plans, and acting as technical liaisons to medical specialists, response personnel, and the media to address public concerns such as the safety of air quality and drinking water. Responsible for developing effective and safe work practices for responders, industrial hygienists must determine the appropriate protective equipment and decontamination procedures applicable to any type of disaster, and train responders in the use of such measures.

“Industrial hygienists play a significant role in protecting the lives of our nation’s response personnel and support staff,” said AIHA president Roy Buchan. “Their technical expertise in health, safety, and environmental health issues can save lives and protect communities during hazardous chemical, biological, or radiological releases, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks.”

A member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), AIHA is an international association devoted to serving the needs of occupational and environmental health professionals practicing industrial hygiene in industry, government, labor, academic institutions, and independent organizations. AIHA works in conjunction with the American Board of Industrial Hygiene to promote certification of industrial hygienists.

For more information about AIHA activities, visit

To read the white paper, click here.

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