March 31, 2022 / Ed Rutkowski

From the Archives: Readings to Prepare for Upcoming Webinars

AIHA University recently released its 2022 webinar schedule, featuring topics familiar to readers of The Synergist. In this post, I’ve identified articles in the digital Synergist that will serve as interesting background reading for planned AIHAU webinars on ventilation, ergonomics, hydrocarbon exposure in the oil and gas industry, and Big Data.


A Ventilation Checklist: Helping Control Airborne Disease Transmission in Non-Healthcare Facilities

By D. Jeff Burton

In the February 2020 issue, Burton, a ventilation expert and frequent Synergist contributor, presented suggestions for using ventilation to support the control of airborne disease transmission. A 14-item checklist addresses heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system fan settings, provision of outdoor air, filter ratings, use of free-standing fans, and other issues.

Readers interested in learning more about ventilation specifically as it relates to COVID-19 should consider attending the AIHA University webinar “Assessing Ventilation for COVID-19 Mitigation and Beyond: Proactively Identify Ventilation Vulnerabilities,” which will review the basics of assessing ventilation at the occupant level. Participants will learn how to identify ventilation vulnerabilities.


Exercising Judgment with Office Furniture: Are “Active Workstations” the Solution to Excessive Sitting?

By Penney M. Stanch, Marjorie Werrell, Albert Moore, and Stephen W. Hemperly

Written before the COVID-19 pandemic, this article from the January 2020 issue weighs in on the trend toward “active workstations” in office environments. Such workstations attempt to combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle through under-desk cycles, treadmill desks, exercise balls in place of chairs, and other unconventional equipment. As more workers return to the office after months of pandemic-imposed inactivity, it’s possible that OEHS professionals may soon be asked to analyze the benefits and drawbacks of office furniture that looks like it belongs in a gym.

In June, an AIHA University webinar will discuss how pandemic isolation has exacerbated the problems of sedentary living and what this might mean for OEHS professionals. Register for “The Effects of the Pandemic on Physical Activity and Strategies to Prevent MSDs” to prepare for the probability of increased musculoskeletal injuries as workers return to job sites.

Oil and Gas

Refining Hydrocarbon Exposure Assessment Strategy: Assessing Occupational Exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds in the Oil and Gas Industry

By Robert Lieckfield Jr.

This article from the September 2020 issue explains the difficulties of the traditional approach to assessing exposures to hydrocarbons in the oil and gas industry. Under this approach, analytical laboratories report distillate fractions as “total hydrocarbons” or THCs. Unfortunately, this practice often confuses laboratory customers, not least because THC values do not actually represent the true “total” mass of hydrocarbons present in a sample. Another complication is that each lab has its own protocol for quantifying THCs. As Lieckfield explains, an alternative to THCs is a method that includes the traditional chemicals found in the petroleum industry—hexane, benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene—plus three distillate fractions defined as light, middle, and heavy.

Lieckfield’s article may be interesting background for those considering attending the AIHA University webinar “Engineering Techniques to Mitigate Chemical Exposure for O&G Chemical Laboratories,” which will be held in July. The webinar focuses on control methods to protect lab workers in the oil and gas industry from hydrocarbon exposures.

Big Data

Industrial Hygiene Data Standardization: Past Lessons, Present Challenges, and Future Directions

By Taylor M. Shockey, Matthew M. Dahm, Steven J. Wurzelbacher, and John Baker

With few exceptions, the kinds of data that OEHS professionals collect vary from one professional to another. This article from the December 2020 issue details the virtues of standardizing OEHS data, which include greater consistency, less likelihood of errors, more efficient analyses, greater potential for benchmarking, and more opportunities for data aggregation. Standardization has been a goal of OEHS professionals for decades, but the advent of direct-reading instruments and sensor technology, and the exponential increase in data they facilitate, has contributed to a sense of urgency.

This summer, the AIHA University webinar “Cleaning Out Your Data Closet” will share practical tips for improving the quality of OEHS data that professionals retain. Participants will learn how to analyze the data they’ve accumulated, identify tools that can combine data files into a standardized format, and discuss the value—and risks—of data aggregation.

Ed Rutkowski

Ed Rutkowski is editor-in-chief of The Synergist.


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