DONNA S. HEIDEL, CIH, FAIHA, is principal industrial hygienist at Amazon.
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What We’ve Accomplished through CDC Grants
I’m pleased to announce that AIHA has received another grant from CDC to help protect workers and the public from infectious diseases. As with the initial grant of $500,000 that we received in early 2021, this new grant of $100,000—plus an additional $10,000 grant that will be delivered next year—acknowledges our vital contributions to combating COVID-19 and preparing society for future pandemics. This good news provides an opportunity to review what AIHA has accomplished with the initial funding and preview the knowledge products we plan to develop moving forward.
FROM BACK TO WORK SAFELY TO COMMIT TO CARE In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, AIHA decided to take a leadership role in developing non-technical, practical guidance for small business owners and managers who sought to reopen their businesses as lockdowns expired. This was the origin of Back to Work Safely, an initiative that involved a team of volunteers who quickly assembled industry-specific guidelines for protecting workers and customers from COVID-19. With an assist from the Twitter account of the entrepreneur Mark Cuban—see the September 2020 issue of the digital Synergist for the full story—AIHA’s Back to Work Safely documents reached an audience of millions. NIOSH took note of our success and lobbied for a CDC grant on our behalf.
AIHA plans to create additional knowledge products on ventilation filtration, germicidal ultraviolet disinfection, vaccines, and employee testing protocols.
A condition of the CDC grants is that the money must be used to produce freely accessible materials. With the initial grant of half a million dollars, AIHA partnered with the Integrated Bioscience and Built Environment Consortium (IBEC) on four projects: •Project 1 included two deliverables. The first was an update of the AIHA publication The Role of the Industrial Hygienist in a Pandemic, which incorporates lessons from the H5N1 avian flu, H1N1 swine flu, and COVID-19. The new edition of this book can be downloaded from the Pandemics Resource Center, and a Spanish translation is available as a PDF. The second deliverable, the COVID-19 Exposure Assessment Tool, was featured in last month’s Synergist. Designed for OEHS professionals, the CEAT is an interactive PDF that calculates the relative risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 based on several variables entered by the user. Other materials created under this project include videos that explain the value of OEHS professionals to businesses.
•Project 2 focused on respiratory protection both for workers with high risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and those with lower risk. Among the materials generated for this project are video snippets in multiple languages on risk assessment, face coverings, and respirators.
•Project 3 focused on tools based on the Back to Work Safely guidance documents.
•Project 4 is a webcast that aired in January 2022 on the pandemic-related challenges and needs of different worker populations including first responders, educators, gig workers, and construction workers. A recording of the webcast is available online.
All the public-facing materials developed for these projects are housed on the Commit to C.A.R.E. website, which AIHA and IBEC launched in 2021 to inform the public about the spread of airborne viruses and make the science easier to understand.
NEW PROJECTS With the new CDC funding received this year, AIHA plans to create additional knowledge products on ventilation filtration, germicidal ultraviolet disinfection, vaccines, and employee testing protocols. These public-facing materials will be added to commit2care.org in early 2023. In addition, we plan to convert our Back to Work Safely guidance documents into a “Healthier Workplaces” e-book with updated guidance that is generally applicable to any airborne-transmitted disease. The e-book should be available in mid-2023.
The impressive work that AIHA has generated in response to the pandemic positions OEHS professionals as vital to the protection of health against infectious diseases. CDC’s recognition of our expertise is immensely gratifying, and I look forward to future projects that attain even greater visibility for our members—and greater protection for the workers who rely on us.