April 16, 2020 / Mark Ames

The Essential Industrial Hygienist

To diminish the spread of COVID-19, the federal government and states across the nation have issued guidance and executive orders limiting which businesses may continue operating, and which workers may continue working during the pandemic, by defining some workers and businesses as part of the “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.” While industrial hygienists are likely included in these orders and guidance, as they protect the health and safety of workers, their families, and communities, it’s not always clear if they do—and violating the policies may result in steep fines or even jail time. The resulting ambiguity could have the unintended consequence of reducing workplace health and safety at a time when the nation is intensely focused on protecting the health of workers and the public.

In response to the need for greater clarity and enhanced attention on industrial hygiene, AIHA is working with the federal government and states, urging them to update their guidance and executive orders, or issue statements specifying that industrial hygienists may continue their work to protect workers and their communities during this pandemic.

Based upon the feedback AIHA has received from policymakers, much of the ambiguity in the orders and guidance stems from a lack of awareness of industrial hygiene and the roles that IHs play in society. Accordingly, AIHA has directed policymakers to the association’s award-winning campaigns that have raised awareness of industrial hygiene by showcasing the voices and stories of our members. Our activities to educate policymakers about the roles that IHs play and why they should be clearly included as part of the essential workforce continue. However, work remains to be done, and we need your help now, perhaps more than ever.

Are you interested in working on this project? One of the best ways you can help right now is to send me a statement or testimonial that describes what would happen if you were unable to continue working during the COVID-19 crisis because your profession was inadvertently excluded in executive orders and related guidance. If you’d like to help, please contact me.

Mark Ames

Mark Ames is AIHA’s director of government relations.


RE: Freight Railroad Industrial Hygiene - Critical for our Nations Supply Chain

This is fantastic information Billy, thanks so much! Your work in the transportation industry is covered under the federal government's Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, which can be found at https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce. I'll keep your response in a file I maintain for follow up with policymakers. Thanks again!

By Mark Ames, Director, Government Relations, AIHA on April 17, 2020 11:38am
Freight Railroad Industrial Hygiene - Critical for our Nations Supply Chain

As an IH working in the transportation industry, we are critical in the effort to keep America's supply chain moving. Class I Freight Railroads move a significant percentage of raw materials needed to manufacture products including PPE for healthcare workers, disinfectants, and drugs. We also move the finished products to markets, these include, but are not limited to: paper products, gowns, respirators, surgical mask, cleaners and disinfectants. In addition, we move chemicals necessary for water treatment, as well as fuel for automobiles and powerplants. Lastly, we are the major source of transportation for much of the Nations food supplies! Ensuring that our workers stay healthy and have a safe work environment falls on the 20 or so Industrial Hygienist that work for the 7 Class I Railroads (BNSF, CN, CP, CSX, KCS, NS and UP) in North America. We work daily to evaluate our workplaces, train workers, and implement controls and processes to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all our employees. During a pandemic, our work becomes even more critical and expands from a worker focus to include protecting the public. We play an active role in the development of protocols for preventing the spread of the virus among our working population, as well as reducing potential contact with customers and community citizens in close proximity to our operations. Maintaining a healthy workforce is vital to ensuring a steady and reliable supply of goods to the Government and consumers during normal times. It becomes even more critical during natural disasters and pandemics. Industrial Hygienist play a key role in the day-to-day operation of the railroads and must remain active in the process during emergencies like the one we are facing now.

By Billy Bullock, DHSc, CIH, CSP, FAIHA on April 17, 2020 10:31am

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