Changing the Paradigm of Health in the Post-Pandemic Workplace
Recall what happened after September 11, 2001: that horrific day ushered in transformational changes that became “the new normal.” At airports we saw enhanced security checkpoints and restrictions on unticketed individuals wanting to greet their loved ones at the gate. Similarly, in governmental and commercial office buildings, stadiums, and other public venues, we saw the proliferation of metal detectors and other measures designed to help keep us safe. At the time, these changes may have felt strange, but we became readily accustomed to them.
So, what will the new normal feel like after we get through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic? Will “vaccine passports” become the norm? If so, for how long? What about enhancements for building HVAC systems or more rigorous cleaning and disinfection protocols—will they be forgotten or deemed unessential? Nobody knows the answers, but the likelihood is that many aspects of how we live and work will never be the same.
The pandemic has directed much-needed attention to the importance of public health in general. Within this realm, the OEHS professional has assumed a behind-the-scenes role in safeguarding worker health and well-being. As societal paradigms shift, I am optimistic about AIHA’s influence on national policy as the association stimulates CDC and OSHA to make changes that support our mission and vision.
In late January, AIHA was awarded a $500,000 grant from CDC. Because of our success in rolling out an impressive list of COVID-19 guidance documents, including our well-regarded Back to Work Safely initiative, NIOSH helped AIHA secure this funding for a project that will develop new public educational tools targeted at schools, daycares, and medical and long-term care facilities. In addition, CDC tasked us to address the needs of disadvantaged workers in construction and agricultural settings. We will also update our publication “The Role of the Industrial Hygienist in a Pandemic.”
These products will feature guidance by AIHA members with contributions from educators and public health academics and will be intended to educate the public beyond the pandemic. We believe these tools will not only prepare people to stay healthy but will help shift mindsets, debunk myths, and further advance the expertise of the OEHS profession.
Over the coming months, I will keep you up to date through this blog on the development of these game-changing tools.
It is very clear from this article and by two recent articles in the Synergist that the AIHA is fast forward thinking to a post-SARS-CoV-2 world. We are not out of the pandemic yet. As of today, the US still has 3.4x the case rate of the international average (cases/100K population, source: WHO). Just a month ago, that rate was 5.8. With vaccine rollouts, we will may see more dramatic changes, but one never knows with this tricky virus and anthropogenic responses to it. This kind of forward thinking is hallmark of our profession, entirely appropriate in the anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of occupational hazards. We have not yet seen the presidentially promised Emergency Temporary Standard but part of forward thinking will need to include considering permanent legislative and regulatory changes, including the recognition of aerosol transmission, and the uses of engineering, workplace design, administrative controls, and PPE. The PPE dynamic must also including working to eliminate disposables in favor of the more effective and comfortable newer and more technologically advanced units. This article and others indicate that we are on the right track, and may well be ahead of the thinking of other allied professional bodies. Working together with our allies as equal partners will enhance the protection of workers' health and safety.By Laurence on April 1, 2021 8:17pm