Conference Introduces New 'Breakthrough Thinking' Track, Prize

How can industrial hygienists begin to use some of the energy, inspiration, and creative thinking described in Dr. Peter Diamandis' opening session and apply it to longstanding challenges faced by the profession? This year’s new "Breakthrough Thinking" track is designed to take on several occupational and environmental health and safety challenges and work through possible scenarios that can lead to progress and positive change. Organizers warn that these are not the typical AIHce sessions and urge attendees to bring an open mind, positive energy, fresh ideas, and solution-oriented thinking. Any individual attendees and/or their team stand to be the winner of AIHce's version of the X PRIZE, offered this year for the first time. The track is composed of two special sessions, each of which will be devoted to a particular Breakthrough Thinking challenge.

The first, presented in a three-hour session on Monday, June 1, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., will focus on the U.S. IH regulatory environment. The session's challenge is for attendees to come up with innovative alternatives to the U.S. regulatory approach that could create breakthroughs in worker health and safety. Organizers note that the greatest opportunity for breakthrough innovation is in illness prevention, especially long-term physical and chemical exposure. They add that focal areas with breakthrough potential include standard-setting, enforcement (inspections and penalty structure), compliance assistance, and collaborative activities. The winning solution will be the one most effective in achieving worker health; most efficient in developing and administering coherent regulations and practices; most transparent and accountable to workers, employers, and society; and most capable of leveraging AIHA's capacities as catalyst, convener, and leader, according to the session's guiding principles

The second challenge, presented Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in a session titled "The Practice of Global Occupational Hygiene," will focus on how the worldwide demand for competent occupational hygiene professionals might best be addressed, particularly in developing countries where the rate of industrialization and risk to the population outpaces the supply of OH professionals. Organizers say the focal areas with breakthrough potential include creating demand and awareness for global occupational health through a socioeconomic framework; internationally recognized qualifications and competency standards for professional practice; and platforms and methods for global training, mentoring, and recruitment. The winning solution, according to the session's guiding principles, will be the one that most effectively shows how to improve worker health and safety globally; includes global recognition of core competency requirements; has universally accessible and locally adapted options for training; provides short-term solutions to address a long-term and systematic challenge; and leverages AIHA's capacities as catalyst, convener, and leader.

The format for both sessions will include a room set in rounds to accommodate team formation. A panel of experts--including former OSHA chief John Henshaw in Monday's session and British Petroleum’s R. Alesbury in Wednesday’s--will kick off the sessions with a quick overview of the opportunities and will consult with teams during the sessions. A professional facilitator will then coach the teams through a series of innovative processes and practices. AIHce organizers say there will not be space in the room for “observers.”

The winning team will achieve recognition within AIHA channels as well as an expenses-paid trip for the winning team’s representative to present its breakthrough opportunity to the AIHA Board of Directors at their July 2009 strategic planning session in Denver. For more information on the new track and the individual sessions, click here.

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