NIOSH-AIHA cooperative agreement facilitates updates to pandemic guidance

NIOSH-AIHA cooperative agreement facilitates updates to pandemic guidance

January 18, 2022

As part of a cooperative agreement with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the American Industrial Hygiene Association has updated the guidance document "The Role of Industrial Hygienist In a Pandemic," to include lessons learned from the H5N1 avian flu, the H1N1 swine flu, and the SARS-COV-2 pandemics. The document can be downloaded for free from the AIHA website:

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, NIOSH and AIHA have been developing guidance to help protect workers across all industries. AIHA has more than 80 years of experience protecting the health and safety of workers and their communities and has been at the forefront of efforts to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19. Early in the COVID-19 response effort, NIOSH established a cooperative agreement with AIHA to increase the national capacity for occupational technical assistance to employers, workers, and public health officials for workplaces.

The pandemic guidance document was originally published in 2006 by the AIHA Biosafety and Environmental Microbiology Committee to address the then-recent SARS-CoV-1 outbreak. AIHA originally based the guidance on possibilities and assumptions about preparing for pandemics. The new edition includes new information and resources and connects pandemic response strategies to the NIOSH-supported Total Exposure Health and Total Worker Health® frameworks. In addition to providing funding support via the cooperative agreement, NIOSH reviewed the content to ensure it aligned with current CDC guidance and research.

The second edition provides significant new information on inhalation and airborne pathways and controls and provides a glossary of terms and definitions. Many of the original sections have also been expanded, particularly those focusing on controls. For example, the section on exposure assessment introduces the source-pathway-receptor paradigm. This paradigm is an alternative framework for controlling infectious disease transmission to the standard hierarchy of controls.

Other updated sections cover
* control and exposure banding
* sensor technology and instruments
* analytics and tracking
* shutdown and reopening
* special considerations for workers with pre-existing conditions and industries with unique challenges.

Each major section also includes lessons learned, where examples of related experiences and information gained during the past and current pandemics are described.

Although the primary audience is industrial hygienists, the guide can also be useful to other occupational, environmental health and safety (OEHS) professions, such as healthcare workers and infection preventionists, and non-OEHS professionals, like architects, mechanical engineers, and ventilation specialists. These other, non-industrial hygienists should be able to apply aspects of the information provided in the guide to their individual practices and workplaces. For example, the pathway controls section can be useful to any professional involved with designing, building, or modifying existing architectural and mechanical systems to control how infectious agents are transmitted.

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