With the new virus strain, AIHA offers practical, science-based guidelines for PPE, engineering controls, enhanced cleaning, distancing and more

by Brianna Crandall — January 13, 2021 — While business owners and consumers closely watch how the new, more readily transmittable variant of Covid-19 develops, the occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) profession is urging business owners, schools and other organizations to continue implementing practical, science-based guidelines developed by AIHA (the American Industrial Hygiene Association).

The expanded Back to Work Safely guidelines, focused on small to mid-size businesses in 26 industry sectors (see list below), provide recommendations on personal protective equipment (PPE), engineering controls (see list below), germicidal ultraviolet radiation, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and personal hygiene and physical distancing. All guidelines are available in both English and Spanish.

The comprehensive guidelines, which have more than 1 million downloads, cover the following industries:

  • Amateur Sports
  • At-Home Service Providers (i.e., contractors)
  • Bars
  • Business Services (i.e., banks, dry cleaners)
  • Childcare Providers
  • Construction Sites
  • Dental Office Settings
  • General Office Settings
  • Gyms and Workout Facilities
  • Hair and Nail Salons
  • Institutions of Higher Education
  • Libraries
  • Museums and Collecting Institutions
  • Outdoor Recreation Activities
  • Physical and Occupational Therapy, Massage Therapy
  • Restaurants
  • Retail
  • Rideshare, Taxi, Limo and Other Passenger Driver-for-Hire
  • Schools K-12
  • Small Manufacturing and Maintenance Shops
  • Small Sports and Entertainment Venues (i.e., mini-golf, arcades)
  • Small Lodging Establishments
  • Street Vendors and Farmers Markets
  • Transit Systems
  • Warehousing/Transportation
  • Worship Services

The latest guidelines include recommendations on engineering controls (ventilation, enhanced filtration and physical barriers), germicidal ultraviolet radiation, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and personal hygiene and physical distancing:

Engineering controls

AIHA and its volunteer committees of industrial hygienists urge employers to implement engineering controls in all indoor workplaces, even those outside of the healthcare industry, to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Engineering controls that may be effective against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes Covid-19 include the following:

  • Physical barriers, enclosures, and guards
  • Automatic door openers and sensors
  • Local exhaust ventilation
  • Enhanced filtration to capture infectious aerosols
  • Devices that inactivate or “kill” infectious organisms
  • Dilution ventilation and increasing outside air delivery

“Using a combination of available technologies, equipment, and time-tested methods to control infectious aerosols is the most reliable way to reduce the risk of disease spread,” says Lindsay Cook, CIH, CSP, AIHA president.

The guidelines, along with links to webinars, posters and a mini brochure on returning to work, are all available on the Back to Work Safely website.

OEHS professionals are classified as “essential workers” by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, and are uniquely qualified to provide the consultation needed to help mitigate risks to worker health, points out AIHA. To locate an OEHS consultant, visit AIHA’s Consultants Listing.

AIHA, along with other leading health organizations, plans to release a Joint Consensus Statement on the Importance of Aerosol Transmission of SARS CoV-2 and Recommendations for Preventing Occupational Exposures shortly.