AIHA, IBEC Host Summit on Protecting Vulnerable Workers A virtual seminar held in January gathered speakers from disparate industries to discuss the challenges of keeping vulnerable workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers included first responders, construction workers, teachers’ advocates, a high school principal, representatives from labor organizations, and other experts. Moderated by OEHS professionals, the sessions addressed emergency response, education, the gig economy, and agriculture and construction.
Keynote speaker James Frederick, the deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, opened the event with a recap of the agency’s efforts to protect workers during the pandemic. Frederick, who spoke two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked OSHA’s vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard, informed attendees that OSHA was withdrawing the ETS as an enforceable regulation but not as a proposed rule. “The controls in the ETS remain vital for protecting workers,” Frederick said. “Every business that takes those steps is potentially saving lives in their workplace and in their community.”
The session on first responders featured speakers from the Los Angeles Police Department and from fire departments in Maryland, Colorado, and New York City. Jeremy Black, an EMS technician in Broomfield, Colorado, said that the pandemic “completely changed the complexion of emergency response” from rapid treatment and triage to a more deliberative approach intended to protect responders and patients from COVID-19. In Los Angeles, according to Sergeant Gordon Helper of the LAPD, COVID-19 has had a severe impact, with more than half the officers in his station having tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic. Other speakers noted that the changes brought about by the pandemic include standard use of personal protective equipment and electrostatic sprayers to decontaminate gear and vehicles.
A common theme emerging from the panel on education was that official COVID-19 guidance, especially early in the pandemic, was inadequate to address the complexity of the challenges facing schools. “Every school district is unique, but every school building within a district is [also] unique,” said Amy Bahruth, an associate director with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The unique circumstances of each school complicated attempts to provide specific health and safety guidance regarding the pandemic. Out of necessity, AFT gave broad recommendations that schools adapted to their local circumstances, Bahruth said.
Potential OEHS approaches to protecting workers in the gig economy include implementing the NIOSH Total Worker Health framework and adjusting the hierarchy of controls for specific workforces, said Corey Boles, a consultant with Cardno ChemRisk. The gig economy includes contractors, consultants, freelancers, and workers for temp agencies and contract companies. On average, these workers are typically younger and may therefore lack training on OHS issues. These workers are usually paid by the task and typically work in construction, professional and business services, ridesharing and meal delivery, retail, and hospitality.
The session on agriculture and construction identified common concerns among these workforces, including language barriers and a lack of trust in government, that complicate efforts to protect workers during the pandemic. Suicides have increased significantly among both groups of workers, who were already suffering from high levels of stress and the consequences of the opioid epidemic. The need for physical distancing during the pandemic has added to these complications by ending practices such as “tailgate talks”—discussions about health and safety issues on construction work sites.
Cosponsored by AIHA and the Integrated Bioscience and Built Environment Consortium, the seminar “Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Workers: Challenges, Solutions and Invisible Barriers” was funded by a grant from CDC/NIOSH.
Continuing Education Committee Applications Due Soon AIHA is accepting applications for positions on the Continuing Education Committee. The CEC’s mission is to ensure quality educational opportunities that broaden knowledge, enhance technical competencies, and furnish industrial hygienists with practical tools and skills. The committee provides one of the levels of technical peer review of AIHA’s professional development courses, or PDCs. CEC members are also asked to audit new educational offerings, which provides an opportunity for them to earn CM hours at no cost.
Selection of new CEC members will be completed in the spring, and terms will begin with AIHce EXP 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
CEC applications are due by March 16. The application is available on AIHA’s website. For more information, email Erin Breece, CEC staff liaison, or visit the committee webpage.
Committee Updates Standardized Equipment Specification Sheet Program Document By Patrick Owens An updated version of the publication “Reporting Specifications for Electronic Real-Time Gas and Vapor Detection Equipment” was released by the AIHA Real-Time Detection Systems Committee in January. Originally published in 2016, the document was created as part of AIHA’s Standardized Equipment Specification Sheet (SESS) program, which is intended to facilitate communication between instrument manufacturers or marketers and occupational and environmental health and safety professionals. When the program was first developed, real-time detection equipment specification sheets differed between manufacturers in their content, definition of terms, and methods used to develop specifications. The SESS program seeks to provide a common language, enabling end users to better understand instruments’ capabilities and limitations.
The publication includes a manual that describes how the SESS program should be used as well as templates for instrument and sensor specification sheets. The updated version of the document reflects changes related to both the program manual and the instrument specification sheet. The program manual now reflects a reference to a new AIHA technical framework titled “Guidance on Use of Direct Reading Instruments,” and the instrument specification sheet newly recommends that manufacturers provide information about wireless capabilities and compatibilities (Android or iPhone, for example) when filling out the SESS. The updated document is available for download from the Real-Time Detection Systems Committee page on AIHA’s website.
The specification sheets for instruments and sensors cover a broad range of topics. Not all the specifications listed on the SESS may apply to every instrument, and manufacturers and marketers may not know some of the information requested on the sheets. Even so, the Real-Time Detection Systems Committee encourages industrial hygienists and OEHS professionals to ask suppliers to complete the SESS for instruments and sensors they are using or considering purchasing. The tool is intended to provide IHs and OEHS professionals with the best available information on instruments and sensors.
For more information about the SESS program, read the article “Purchasing the Best Instrument” from the June/July 2017 issue of The Synergist.
Patrick Owens, CIH, CSP, is a member of AIHA’s Real-Time Detection Systems Committee.
Get Involved with the Conference Program Committee AIHA seeks applicants for membership in the Conference Program Committee (CPC), which is responsible for reviewing and selecting education sessions for AIHce EXP. The CPC’s goals include developing an innovative program for AIHce EXP that meets the educational needs of the profession and providing long-range planning for continuous improvement of the technical quality of the annual conference. The committee is intended to be representative of the AIHA membership and the AIHce EXP audience and bring subject matter expertise and the conference attendee's perspective to the deliberations over which session proposals to choose.
More information about the CPC and how to apply is available from AIHA’s website. Applications are due by April 11.
In Memoriam AIHA member Henry (Hank) P. Shotwell IV, CIH, PhD, passed away on Jan. 14 at the age of 77. Hank was a longtime, dedicated New Jersey section (NJAIHA) member and served the section in a number of positions over the span of four decades. At the time of his passing, Hank was a semi-retired senior health and safety consultant with HP Shotwell. NJAIHA members sent a remembrance to The Synergist, which can be viewed in full on AIHA’s website.
Input Needed on Emerging Risks AIHA is conducting a survey to explore members’ perspectives on emerging risks across industry categories. Please consider taking a few minutes to describe three to five emerging risks that are affecting the occupational and environmental health and safety industry and why these risks are an issue. The survey will be available until March 30.
New COVID-19 Video Series Published A new series of videos published by AIHA addresses topics such as creating an effective employee protection plan for the prevention of COVID-19, the proper care and usage of masks, and how and when to use N95 respirators. This educational initiative was funded by a cooperative agreement grant AIHA was awarded from CDC/NIOSH. AIHA is collaborating with the Integrated Bioscience and Built Environment Consortium on this initiative. View the videos on YouTube.

Dates and Deadlines March 9 Free Synergist Webinar sponsored by VelocityEHS: “Planning and Deploying a Large-Scale Ergonomics Process Year by Year.”
March 16 Deadline to apply for a position on AIHA’s Continuing Education Committee.
April 11 Deadline to apply for membership in the Conference Program Committee.
April 19–22 CIHA 2022: 9th International Industrial Hygiene Conference (Virtual).
May 23–25 AIHce EXP 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
For a complete list of events, visit AIHA's website.