AIHA expands, updates COVID-19 guidelines

AIHA (formerly known as the American Industrial Hygiene Association) has expanded its collection of guidelines for businesses reopening during the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The group also continues to update existing industry-specific guidance.

AIHA added guidelines for 18 new sectors, including higher education and K-12 schools, dental offices, bars, and sports. The group so far has produced 26 industry-specific guidelines.

AIHA urged business owners and school leaders to implement practical science-based guidelines as cases of COVID-19 spike across the country and schools and businesses brace for the coming winter months.

The group also suggested that guidelines from federal and state agencies are either impractical or unhelpful for business and school leaders.

“Many of the recommendations being released by federal and state government agencies and other organizations are idealistic yet lack common-sense recommendations,” AIHA’s CEO Lawrence Sloan said in a statement.

“The bottom line is that guidelines need to be understandable and feasible for businesses to adopt them,” according to Sloan. “Strategies such as increasing the number of air exchanges per hour, installing portable HEPA filters in high-occupancy rooms, and increasing the volume of outside versus recirculated air are relatively simple measures that can be implemented by building managers and operations staff.”

“AIHA’s guidance documents are practical and reflect the extensive knowledge and experience in the field of exposure science,” Sloan added.

The guidelines provide practical information for employers on engineering controls such as ventilation, enhanced filtration and physical barriers, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and personal hygiene and physical distancing.

Revised construction, manufacturing, warehousing guidelines

AIHA’s guidelines for the construction, manufacturing, and warehousing and logistics industries now are in their fourth versions, as occupational and environmental health and safety experts have learned more about COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Construction industry employers should, at minimum, follow the Interim Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to AIHA. The interim guidance recommends conducting screenings at the beginning of each day that include temperature checks and symptom assessments, along with employee health monitoring throughout the workday. The guidelines also suggest the use of cloth face coverings, social distancing, and cleaning and disinfection.

AIHA’s construction industry guidelines also suggest establishing flexible sick leave policies that include not requiring a COVID-19 test result from a healthcare provider and allowing employees to stay home to take care of a sick family member.

The group also recommends limiting the number of visitors to a jobsite and the increased use of virtual technology for project tracking to reduce site visits from support such as engineers. AIHA also suggests avoiding in-person meetings and spacing passengers on buses or vans used to transport workers to a jobsite.

AIHA has the following suggestions for manufacturing facilities and maintenance and repair shops:

  • Staggering work shifts, if possible, to isolate and compartmentalize employees, enabling the protection of others if a breakout occurs by limiting the number of people who are exposed at shift change;
  • Considering a 4-day workweek to limit employees’ exposure to 4 days instead of 5, allowing for 72 hours of downtime at a facility, as the SARS-CoV-2 virus can stay active up to 3 days on surfaces;
  • Completing a task-based review or mapping of work areas to determine best strategies for physical distancing of at least 6 feet and ensuring employees have cloth or disposable face coverings as necessary; and
  • Identifying all high-touch surfaces and ensuring they are cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis and between shifts.

The guidelines for warehousing and logistics also recommend conducting task and work space reviews and identifying high-touch surfaces for frequent cleaning and disinfection. All guidelines caution employers not to allow employees to share tools or devices.

AIHA is an organization of environmental and occupational health and safety professionals, about half of whom are certified industrial hygienists.

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