AIHA Issues Updated Guide on Role of OEHS Professionals in a Pandemic

The second edition also highlights some areas of crossover between OEHS and non-OEHS professions.

AIHA, the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) in the workplace and community, has released the second edition of its guidance document The Role of the Industrial Hygienist in a Pandemic (PDF). Originally published in 2006 by the AIHA Biosafety and Environmental Microbiology Committee to address the then-recent SARS outbreak, the guide has been updated to incorporate information relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. Senior editors Roger D. Lewis, PhD, CIH, FAIHA, and Robert D. Strode, MS, CIH, FAIHA, headed the project, which received support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new edition adds information on inhalation and airborne pathways and controls, provides a lexicon of terms and definitions, and connects pandemic response strategies to the NIOSH-supported Total Exposure Health and Total Worker Health frameworks. Other updated sections cover exposure assessment, control and exposure banding, sensor technology and instruments, analytics and tracking, shutdown and reopening, and special considerations for workers with pre-existing conditions and industries with unique challenges.

In addition to providing guidance for OEHS professionals (also known as industrial hygienists) engaged with ongoing COVID-19 response efforts, the senior editors intend for the new edition to be useful in responding to other, future pandemics. “The guide can be used for any pandemic agent,” said Strode. “This was considered throughout the document, especially in the exposure assessment and the controls sections using the source, pathway control paradigm.”

The second edition also highlights some areas of crossover between OEHS and non-OEHS professions. “The COVID-19 pandemic has required OEHS and non-OEHS professionals to come together to address the new and complex issues that have been brought forth,” said Lawrence D. Sloan, AIHA CEO. Therefore, while the information contained in this guide is primarily intended for an audience of career OEHS professionals, Sloan said that it “provides resources, information, and tools to advise and assist general workers, healthcare workers, and management to protect workers in the case of a pandemic,” as well.

The second edition of The Role of the Industrial Hygienist in a Pandemic can be downloaded as a free PDF document on AIHA’s website.

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