AGC Oregon-Columbia Chapter’s Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) Barb Epstien recently presented at the virtual American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo (AIHce EXP 2020). AIHce is the annual conference of the AIHA—the premier association for occupational health and safety (OHS) science professionals. Considering the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic, AIHA (like many other professional organizations, including AGC of America) weighed various options for holding the conference and decided to move forward with a virtual conference and expo. This normally in-person event is usually attended by about 4,200–4,500 industrial hygienists and safety, environmental, and risk management professionals. This year, 3,400 people attended the virtual event, which included nearly 100 educational sessions and other virtual learning platforms and discussion opportunities.
Her position at AGC provides Barb a unique perspective on emerging health and safety issues faced by the construction industry. Safety often gets a lot of attention on construction sites, but as an industrial hygienist, Barb’s focus is on increasing awareness and efforts to reduce health hazards that are also common in construction, such as silica and noise. Her AIHce presentation provided an overview of the AIHA publication, Focus Four for Health. (You can learn more about this guidance document in an AGC Oregon-Columbia Chapter blog post, which also links to the booklet). In her presentation, Barb also briefly addressed some of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic that continue to evolve, and some best practices that some contractors are doing to meet those challenges.
Since joining the AGC Oregon-Columbia Chapter’s safety services team, her own awareness of two key issues faced by the construction industry—the opioid epidemic, and mental health and suicide—has grown, and she recently joined the Oregon Construction Industry Suicide Prevention Task Force. She felt it was important to include these critical issues her conference presentation as well.
Her session was well-attended, with more than 450 attendees on record as having participated. Many thoughtful questions and comments were discussed in the “Chat” box during the virtual presentation. Her presentation was included in the conference highlights covered by AIHA’s monthly magazine and e-newsletter, The Synergist. To learn more about her presentation, that write-up can be found here.