AIHA Honors International Outreach Initiative

Photo: India health and safety training sessions organized by Jagdish Patel (seated third from the left), sponsored by DWOI
India health and safety training sessions organized by Jagdish Patel (seated third from the left), sponsored by DWOI.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) honored the Developing World Outreach Initiative (DWOI) chaired by UC Berkeley alumnus Richard Hirsh, M.P.H. ’86, with its 2012 Social Responsibility Award. Hirsh, associate director of Environmental Health and Safety at Nektar Therapeutics, is a member of COEH’s Advisory Committee and chair of the AIHA International Affairs Committee.

Hirsh launched DWOI in 2006 to address the lack of adequate industrial hygiene resources for workers and workplace health and safety professionals in developing countries. Since its inception, DWOI has successfully matched resources within the Northern California Section of AIHA with universities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across the globe, including the distribution of educational materials in Africa, Asia, and Mexico and the sponsoring of occupational health and safety training in India, China, and Indonesia.

Photo: SKC air sampling equipment donated to the University of Indonesia’s occupational health and safety program, facilitated by DWOI
SKC air sampling equipment donated to the University of Indonesia’s occupational health and safety program, facilitated by DWOI.

UC Berkeley alumna Nina Townsend, M.P.H. ’11, had a goal during her master’s studies to apply her industrial hygiene and Spanish language skills abroad. With mentorship from DWOI and COEH Advisory Committee member Garrett Brown, M.P.H. ’91, Townsend traveled to the Dominican Republic to work on a project led by the Worker Rights Consortium, a non-governmental labor monitoring organization from Washington, D.C. She surveyed a group of Dominican laborers who wanted to improve working conditions at their plant.

“You know on some level that things are worse in other countries,” says Townsend, “but you don’t know how bad they can be until you see it first-hand.” Townsend continues to work internationally in her role as an occupational health and safety specialist for Chevron where, most recently, she taught an industrial hygiene course in the Republic of Angola.

“The AIHA Northern California Section has been really good at outreach to younger members, bringing us in and getting us involved,” says Townsend, who now reviews project grants as a volunteer for DWOI.

Established in 2009, the Social Responsibility Award is presented by AIHA to an individual, entity, group, or organization who works inside organizations to develop and promote practical solutions to social responsibility issues related to industrial hygiene or environmental health and safety issues.

Other recipients of AIHA’s award include the Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network founded by Garrett Brown.

To volunteer with DWOI, visit: http://www.aiha-ncs.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=20.

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