COVID-19: Perspective of an IH
Sponsored by SKC
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are dealing with changes and challenges to our health, lifestyle, and economy. It is interesting (and scary) to think how large and fast an impact a microorganism such as SARs-CoV-2 can have on society. In a very short time, these questions have become our mantra:
- How can we protect ourselves?
- When will this be over?
- Will we ever get back to “normal”?
But at the start of this pandemic, the first question I asked myself was, “What will be my role as an industrial hygienist?” Here were my thoughts when considering the answer.
As we know, industrial hygienists anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control workplace conditions to enhance the health and safety of people at work in their communities. In addition, we are educators, which includes making sure that everyone is aware of the importance of the IH’s expertise, tools, and processes that will help to control hazards, including infectious diseases.
Our job is complex. It requires a lot of research and effort to find the best tools for protecting workers and their respective communities from hazards. In addition, during this pandemic, I find that I need to be constantly aware of evolving news and guidelines and to pivot when parameters change (an almost daily occurrence). IHs are also human—we also have ourselves and our families to care for and protect. In this pandemic, protecting ourselves can involve working from home, a situation that brings additional challenges.
When the COVID-19 outbreak started, I encouraged my company’s management to discuss the situation and develop an action plan. Among the many resources at my disposal—guidelines from CDC, WHO, OSHA, and ACGIH—I found the AIHA publication The Role of the Industrial Hygienist in a Pandemic to be most helpful in answering my questions about shaping a successful emergency management action plan. It was rewarding to put my expertise into action and help so many people. While information and guidelines seemingly change by the minute, I enjoy finding the most current, reliable information and applying it to protect people in my workplace.
While protecting people in the workplace is our main objective, I’m also grateful for the opportunity to help other IHs. Recently, through a free webinar, I shared my experience in making my company safe and pandemic-ready, and my knowledge of air sampling equipment and media for viruses, to help other IHs, companies, and labs. I have been part of our company initiatives to help workers in need, including making fit-testing solutions available to ensure the protection of frontline COVID-19 workers.
During this pandemic, our company has adopted the motto “SKC Strong.” It keeps us mindful of helping as much as we can to keep workers safe and healthy. As industrial hygienists, we have the unique capability to make a change for the well-being of our workers and communities. We can do this together—we can remain “IH Strong” and succeed!