Nongovernmental International Occupational Safety and Health Professional Organizations

Authored by: Thomas P. Fuller

Global Occupational Safety and Health Management Handbook

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138626720
eBook ISBN: 9780429056475
Adobe ISBN:




A number of international nongovernmental (NGOs) and professional organizations exist that cover a wide range of subject areas and topics. Many of the organizations’ goals, objectives, and activities overlap substantially. And as a result, there exist many possible areas for collaboration and intersupport between the groups. The members of a national professional organization may automatically belong to an umbrella international organization due to existing arrangements or memorandum of understanding. Or members of one organization may join an international organization independently. Many professionals participate in several organizations and cross-collaborations at the same time.

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Nongovernmental International Occupational Safety and Health Professional Organizations

3.1  Introduction

A number of international nongovernmental (NGOs) and professional organizations exist that cover a wide range of subject areas and topics. Many of the organizations’ goals, objectives, and activities overlap substantially. And as a result, there exist many possible areas for collaboration and intersupport between the groups. The members of a national professional organization may automatically belong to an umbrella international organization due to existing arrangements or memorandum of understanding. Or members of one organization may join an international organization independently. Many professionals participate in several organizations and cross-collaborations at the same time.

This chapter briefly introduces each of the major organizations with activities associated with occupational safety and health (OSH) at the international level. Although many large national organizations have strong international outreach activities and objectives, and large international membership, this chapter only includes those that are truly “international” in nature, by either their name, membership, or charters.

3.2  International Occupational Hygiene Association

The International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA) is a global community of occupational hygienists and professionals who are dedicated to the discipline and application of the inherent principles used to protect workers from hazards to reduce injury and illness (IOHA, 2018). There are 35 member organizations, in 32 countries, that represent more than 20,000 occupational hygiene professionals around the world. IOHA is recognized as an NGO by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

IOHA activities include the development of promotion of occupational hygiene as a professional field of practice and holding international conferences to support the exchange of information and ideas on occupational hygiene theory and practice. The IOHA National Accreditation Recognition (NAR) Committee reviews and approves occupational hygiene credentialing and certification schemes and designates those systems with comparable standards. There are currently 15 recognized certification schemes recognized by the IOHA NAR Committee. With more than 13,000 chartered safety and health practitioners under the NAR program, IOHA has more certified OSH professionals than any other organization (IOHA, 2018).

IOHA membership organizations around the world include the following:

  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
  • American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)
  • Association of Hygienists of Argentina (AHRA)
  • Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH)
  • Belgian Society for Occupational Hygiene
  • Brazilian Association of Occupational Hygienists (Associação Brasileira de Higienistas Ocupacionais [ABHO])
  • British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS)
  • Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienists (CRBOH) (Conseil Canadien d’Agrément des Hygiénistes du Travail [CCAHT])
  • Dutch Occupational Hygiene Society (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Arbeidshygiëne [NVvA])
  • French Occupational Hygienists Society (SOciete Francaise des HYgienites du Travail or French Occupational Hygienists Society)
  • Finnish Occupational Hygiene Society (Suomen Työhygienian Seura [STHS])
  • German Society for Occupational Hygiene (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Arbeitshygiene [DGAH])
  • Hong Kong Institute of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
  • Italian Industrial Hygiene Association
  • Japan Occupational Hygiene Association
  • Japan Association for Working Environment Measurement (JAWE)
  • Korean Industrial Hygiene Association (KIHA)
  • Macedonian Association of Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Health
  • Malaysian Industrial Hygiene Association
  • Mexican Industrial Hygiene Association (Asociación Mexicana de Higiene Industrial [AMHI])
  • New Zealand Occupational Hygiene Society (NZOHS)
  • Norwegian Occupational Hygiene Association (Norsk yrkeshygienisk forening [NYF])
  • Occupational and Environmental Health Society of Singapore
  • Occupational Hygiene Society of Ireland (OHSI)
  • Polish Association of Industrial Hygienists (Polskie Towarzystwo Higienistów rzemysowych [PTHP])
  • Spanish Association of Industrial Hygiene
  • Southern African Institute for Occupational Hygiene—Certification Board (SAIOH-CB)
  • Swedish Association of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (Svensk Yrkes-och Miljöhygienisk Förening [SYMF])
  • Swiss Society for Occupational Hygiene (Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Arbeitshygiene [SGAH] and Société Suisse d’ Hygiène du Travail [SSHT])
  • Taiwan Occupational Hygiene Association (TOHA)
  • Vietnamese Industrial Hygiene Association

3.3  Workplace Health Without Borders

Workplace Health Without Borders (WHWB) was founded in 2011 as a not-for-profit organization to address occupational health and safety issues in the developing world. WHWB engages volunteers with expertise and experience in occupational hygiene to donate time to support projects in economically developing countries to build capacity in OSH through training, research, and outreach projects. WHWB is built on a foundation of collaboration between numerous governmental, academic, and professional organizations (WHWB, 2018). WHWB International was originally founded in Canada. National branches of WHWB have since been created in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

In the past several years, WHWB has delivered OSH training in India, Tanzania, Vietnam, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, and Swaziland. The WHWB facilitated occupational hygiene instrument donations to Botswana, Uruguay, Pakistan, and Tanzania. In addition, personal protective equipment was donated through WHWB to fight the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.

Research activities that have been funded by WHWB have included clay brick kiln exposure studies in Pakistan and Nepal. Figure 3.1 shows a typical brick kiln operation where a study has been completed by WHWB volunteers.

WHWB brick kiln study site in Nepal. (Photograph courtesy of Steve Thygerson.)

Figure 3.1   WHWB brick kiln study site in Nepal. (Photograph courtesy of Steve Thygerson.)

3.4  Occupational Hygiene Training Association

The Occupational Hygiene Training Association (OHTA) was formed to promote improved occupational hygiene practice and build professional occupational hygiene capacity throughout the world by developing and providing associated occupational hygiene training materials. The training materials are developed by volunteers with particular expertise on given subjects and are made available freely to students and training providers (OHTA, 2018a).

OHTA began as an informal collaboration but has grown into an international framework supported by professionals from numerous occupational hygiene professional organizations, including the IOHA. OHTA is registered as a charity in the United Kingdom and operates through the support of volunteers who create training materials and support program activities. Association operating expenses are funded by small levies on training providers based on the number of students taking course examinations. Funds are also received from supporting professional associations, companies, and consultancies in the form of donations.

A main operating principle of OHTA is that materials are available to everyone for free, that even for-profit concerns can gain benefit from the use of the materials, and that they should not be excluded. It is also important that organizations with limited funds have access to the materials, and approved instructors who may also perform as volunteers.

Another goal of OHTA is to make access to the materials and associated training courses as easy as possible. Regional training providers are identified on the OHTA website, and, in addition, numerous national associations and other not-for-profit groups are available as approved trainers to provide courses. The use of volunteers keeps administrative costs to a minimum and increases the availability and accessibility of courses to those individuals and groups with limited financial resources.

OHTA works to be as transparent as possible in the implementation of courses and examinations. While maintaining high standards for course examination and confidentiality, the benefits of attaining the course certifications are held at high levels and are respected within the OH profession. Training quality is maintained for OHTA course by a thorough and rigid training provider review and approval process (OHTA, 2018b).

One of the most valuable aspects of the OHTA model is that it can be used by early occupational hygiene professionals, managers in other fields, and specialists in other related areas to build their knowledge base in occupational hygiene topics. Those in the occupational hygiene field can earn certification credentials that can lead to higher professional levels in occupational hygiene. Students can work on the certifications over time, at their own pace, to attain goals on their terms and timeframe. Courses offered at the “awareness” level introduce managers, supervisors, worker representatives, and employees to basic health risks and hazards typically associated with workplaces and identify ways to control the hazards to provide a safe work environment. Courses at the “foundation” level can be used to support knowledge development in a particular specialty area for professionals such as physicians or nurses. “Intermediate” courses build and expand upon basic concepts to improve technical understanding and provide hands-on and practical information about how to assess exposure, take measurements, and design and assess effectiveness of control measures. “Academic” courses are designed to assist those individuals with the responsibility for designing and delivering OH programs in the workplace. In many cases, these courses, in addition to other qualifications, can be used to support requirements for entry to professional qualification schemes. Lastly, “leadership” level courses provide senior occupational hygienists with information necessary to stay current in the field of occupational hygiene and grow into management and supervisory positions in the field of occupational hygiene (OHTA, 2018c). The OHTA occupational hygiene training and career ladder steps are shown in Figure 3.2.

OHTA training and career ladder.

Figure 3.2   OHTA training and career ladder.

OHTA course materials that can be found online include slide presentations for topic lectures, course syllabi, in-class activities, homework assignments, student manuals, practice examinations, case studies, and laboratory activities. Current courses available through OHTA include the following:

  • Basic principles in occupational hygiene
  • Measurement of hazardous substances
  • Thermal environment
  • Noise—Measurement and its effects
  • Asbestos and other fibers
  • Control of hazardous substances
  • Ergonomics essentials
  • Health effects of hazardous substances

OHTA course examinations allow students to earn certifications in each of the topic subjects. Examinations are administered and graded under strict OHTA program requirements for qualified occupational health professionals. Recipients who have earned six of the above certificates and meet other basic educational and experience requirements can become qualified to sit for IOHA NAR scheme examinations and earn professional certifications, such as Certified Industrial Hygienist from the American Board of Industrial Hygiene.

3.5  Institution of Occupational Safety and Health

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) was founded in 1945 to promote health and safety at work and to support the development of safety professionals working in the field. With more than 47,000 members, this is one of the world’s largest health and safety professional membership organizations (IOSH, 2018).

IOSH activities include ongoing training on health and safety topics by licensed instructors and development of books and e-resources on health and safety topics.

3.6  International Commission on Occupational Health

The International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) is an international nongovernmental professional society founded in 1906 to promote occupational health and safety. There are currently more than 2,000 members from 93 countries. The organization is committed to fostering OSH understanding and capacity around the world. It works to disseminate scientific information through triennial conferences at varying locations around the world. Collaboration on technical projects is achieved through a broad variety of technical committees and working groups (ICOH, 2018). The ICOH is recognized by the United Nations as an NGO and has close working relationships with ILO and the WHO.

3.7  International Network of Safety and Health Professional Organizations

The International Network of Safety and Health Professional Organizations (INSHPO) is an international collaboration among professional organizations with the goal of improving safety and health at work (INSHPO, 2018). The INSHPO conducts meetings to share information and publishes OSH-related materials online as a means to spread awareness of workplace health and safety issues and controls. This organization is not-for-profit, and board members serve without compensation. Current projects include development and dissemination of core competencies for OSH professions, designation or moral codes of conduct, and educational equivalency comparisons.

3.8  European Network Education and Training in Occupational Safety and Health

The European Network Education and Training in Occupational Safety and Health (ENETOSH) was created in 2015 and is funded by the European Commission with the aim to mainstream occupational safety and health into education and training at all levels. It fosters the idea that health and safety are an integral part of life, and it should be incorporated in curricula at all levels of schooling and ongoing continuous professional development (ENTOSH, 2018).

A network of experts in various topical areas of health and safety is called upon to collaborate and create training and educational materials at all phases of an individual’s education and career. Figure 3.3 shows a lifelong progression where OSH training can be mainstreamed into educational and training programs.

Through a variety of collaborations, the goals of the network are to create high-quality educational and training materials for all levels, and then find ways to mainstream these into various learning environments. Much of the work is done through open exchange of information and training materials between members. Examples of good practices are systematically collected and disseminated.

ENETOSH model of lifelong OSH learning. (Adapted from

Figure 3.3   ENETOSH model of lifelong OSH learning. (Adapted from ENTOSH, 2018.)

3.9  European Network of Safety and Health Professional Organizations

The European Network of Safety and Health Professional Organizations (ENSHPO) was established in 2001. The objective of the organization is to bring safety and health professionals from different European organizations together to collaborate on projects and share information. The main objectives of ENSHPO are to create dialogue with national and international authorities, exchange opinions and viewpoints, identify and share good practices, and develop European-wide recognition of OSH professional qualifications and training (ENSHPO, 2018).

The current ENSHPO members are provided in the following list:

  • Spain—Asociacion de Especialistas en Prevencion y Salud Laboral
  • Italy—Associazionne Professionale Italiana Ambiente e Sicurezza
  • Denmark—Danish Association of Occupational Health and Safety Consultants
  • Romania—Romanian Association for Occupational Health and Safety
  • Czech Republic—Occupational Safety and Health and Fire Prevention Chamber of the Czech Republic
  • Cyprus—The Cyprus Safety and Health Association
  • Croatia—Croatian Institute for Health Protection and Safety at Work
  • United Kingdom—Institution of Occupational Safety and Health
  • Romania—Institute of Risk Management and Occupational Health and Safety
  • Malta—Malta Occupational Safety and Health Practitioners Association
  • Russia—National Association of the Centres for Occupational Safety and Health
  • Bulgaria—National Association for Health and Safety at Work
  • The Netherlands—Nederlandse Vereniging voor Veiligheidskunde
  • Belgium—Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
  • Denmark—The Danish Society of Occupational Safety and Health
  • Slovakia—Slovak Association of OSH and Fire Protection
  • Portugal—Sociedade Portuguesa de Seguranca e Higiene Ocupacionais
  • Finland—Tyoturvallisuuskeskus Centre for Occupational Safety
  • Germany—Verband für Sicherheit, Gesundheit und Umweltschutz bei der Arbeit

3.10  International Commission on Radiation Protection

The International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP) is an independent, international organization with more than 200 volunteer members from approximately 30 countries across six continents. These members represent the leading scientists and policy makers in the field of radiological protection. The main goal of the organization is to prevent cancer and other diseases caused by exposure to ionizing radiation and radioactive materials. It was created in 1928 to promote the development of international radiation protection standards.

ICRP is funded through ongoing contributions from organizations with an interest in radiological protection. It maintains formal relations and liaisons with several other international safety organizations including the ILO and the WHO (ICRP, 2018).

ICRP has published more than one hundred reports on all aspects of radiation protection. The International System of Radiological Protection has been developed by ICRP based on (1) the current understanding of the science of radiation exposures and effects, and (2) value judgments. These value judgments account for societal expectations, ethics, and experience gained in application of the system.

3.11  International Radiation Protection Association

The purpose of the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA) is to provide a platform for professionals and experts to exchange information on radiation safety in science, engineering, medicine, and technology. Standards and guidelines are shared to assist in the creation of regulations to protect workers and the environment. IRPA also promotes education and training in the field of radiation safety. The organization maintains relations with several intergovernmental organizations including the WHO and the ILO (IRPA, 2018).

3.12  Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s largest technical professional organization with more than 430,000 members. The organization’s primary goals are education and dissemination of technical information on electronics, computer engineering, and associated disciplines. The IEEE has a significant role in the development of various safety standards associated with electrical fields and equipment, and other technical subjects. IEEE produces technical publications and organizes professional conferences of which the proceedings are often published. Educational programs are a significant part of IEEE activities, and online courses are available for IEEE members (IEEE, 2018).

3.13  International Standards Organization

The International Standards Organization (ISO) is a not-for-profit international organization that was created in 1946, with a membership of 160 national standards bodies working together to share knowledge and create consensus-based voluntary standards of practice on a broad range of topics. ISO has published more than 22,230 International Standards covering numerous industries and technological disciplines. Standards are created to support important social or public health issues with such goals as ensuring safety of operations, products, and services. Standards may also be used to ensure system reliability and product quality. Strategic and management standards can be used to improve productivity, reduce errors, and minimize waste (ISO, 2018).

By developing and sharing good standards of practice, ISO believes it can benefit a wide range of global stakeholders, in addition to contributors and members. ISO products and services help level the playing field in global competition by expanding markets and improving the use of resources. The harmonization of standards of quality, service, and safety helps to ensure all countries are operating equally and transparently. Best practices are designed to ensure sustainability criteria are met to protect the environment, provide social justice, and ensure economic opportunity.

ISO standards are based on the consensus of more than 700 organizations and 100,000 experts. ISO office located in Geneva, Switzerland, is staffed by around 170 employees of the organization who are supported by contributions from members and fees for ISO products and documents. Much of the consensus development work is provided and funded by member organizations, and their members are voluntarily working through more than 230 different technical committees (ISO, 2016).

3.14  Conclusions

The number and scale of the activities in many of the described global OSH organizations is interesting to the extent that the groups work together, collaborate, and as a result seem to build synergy at the international level. Many of the organizations have collaborations with tripartite and government organizations in addition to those with other NGOs. Many of the organizations consciously and specifically have an interest in collaboration, exchange of ideas and information, and capacity building in OSH. Many of the NGOs have particular interests in building capacity and improving working conditions in economically developing countries. The use of volunteers to support research and training in developing countries is a good example; WHWB provides volunteers and network support to provide OHTA training courses at distant developing countries that would not receive such training otherwise. In addition, having the collaborations in place then offers structure and further funding support from national professional organizations and NGOs and the structured organizational ability to apply for other grants and funding from other tripartite and governmental sources.

With thousands of OSH professionals represented by the rosters of the organizations described above, it is difficult to estimate the potential for growth of support and activity in training and research in OSH capacity building. With improved communication and interface, the benefits and outreach could be substantially enhanced and increased. E-learning tools and an online OSH course using OHTA course materials are being developed as a special project of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) through a memorandum of understanding with OHTA. This may be a first step with great potential for reaching larger audiences in the future.


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INSHPO, International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organizations (2018) accessed July 18, 2018 .
IRPA, Homepage, International Radiation Protection Association (2018) accessed July 19, 2018 .
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WHWB, Home, Workplace Health Without Borders (2018) accessed July 17, 2018 .
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