Industrial Hygienists to Get Involved in the Event of a Pandemic

pandemic-guideline-cover:Layout 1.qxdThe American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) published guidelines on their website pertaining to industrial hygiene in the event of a pandemic. These recommendations can be used in conjunction with their 2006 Publication, The Role of the Industrial Hygienist in a Pandemic.

Workplace Access and Security

* Restrict and monitor workplace access.
* Establish criteria for refusal of access to unfit workers and criteria for return-to-work.
* Implement telework capabilities where feasible.
* Develop infrastructure to manage meetings by conference call or videoconferencing—when meetings are necessary, keep a separation of at least 6 feet from colleagues and ensure there is adequate ventilation.
* Reduce or eliminate noncritical social interactions.
* Encourage job rotation or staggered shifts to reduce workplace capacity as well as worker exposure risks related to traveling on public transit during peak times.
* Segregate/isolate critical work clusters.
* Reduce or eliminate work in low-ventilated areas.
* Minimize the use of shared facilities for eating and smoking by staggering meals and breaks or designating multiple sites.
* Reduce or eliminate work travel to high-risk regions and encourage workers who are traveling to stay away in the event of a local outbreak.
* Initiate a snow day practice or “reverse quarantine” for nonessential workers.

Labor Relations

* Identify critical production needs and reduce nonessential production.
* Compile priority requirements for key workers with respect to personal protective equipment and training.
* Engage management and workers/union parties in discussions on safe work practices, grievance procedures, and contingencies available for work force, supply chain and production.
* Maintain effective communications between all workplace parties.
* Address dispute resolution regarding health and safety/safe work issues.
* Identify and mitigate unique exposure risks posed by multiple jobs and shifts by part-time or occasional workers.

Communications

* Establish call-in hotline.
* Create up-to-the-minute web splash page.
* Launch dedicated “grapevine.”

Germ Control

* Develop a sick leave policy that does not penalize sick employees and encourages them to stay home—recognize that employees with ill family members may need to stay home to care for them.
* Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene—provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and disposable towels (for employees to clean their work surfaces).
* Encourage employees to wash hands frequently and avoid touching nose, mouth, and eyes—germs can live for two hours or more on surfaces.
* Encourage employees to cover their coughs and sneezes.
* Provide employees with up-to-date education and training on flu risk factors, protective behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors (proper cough etiquette and care of personal protective equipment).
* Keep work surfaces, telephones, computer equipment and other frequently touched surfaces and office equipment clean.
* Discourage employees from using phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment that are not their own.
* Promote healthy lifestyles that include plenty of sleep, physical activity, good nutrition, stress management, drinking plenty of fluids, and smoking cessation.
* Cover mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough either with a tissue or upper sleeves then clean your hands.
* Clean hands often, and when possible, wash with soap and warm water, rub vigorously together and scrub all surfaces for 15 to 20 seconds.
* When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers, rubbing hands until dry.

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