June 6, 2023 / Kay Bechtold

The Monthly Weekly: Ventilation, Infection Control, and Emergencies

By Kay Bechtold

Editor’s note:The Monthly Weekly is an occasional feature that reviews the previous month’s news coverage from The Synergist Weekly newsletter.

Ventilation, infection control, and emergency incidents are the topics of the most-read news articles from The Synergist Weekly e-newsletter over the past month. CDC, ASHRAE, and ASTM International are among the agencies and organizations addressing timely issues including ventilation and infectious disease prevention as well as responding to emergencies such as February’s train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

Though the COVID-19 national public health emergency ended in the U.S. on May 11, CDC—like the industrial hygiene and occupational and environmental health and safety professional community—recognizes the importance of good ventilation in maintaining healthy indoor environments and protecting building occupants from respiratory infections, including COVID-19. ASHRAE is fast-tracking a standard focused on the control of infectious aerosols. And the ongoing cleanup of the site of the East Palestine train derailment and related monitoring have sparked efforts regarding air sampling of emergency incidents.

Here, SynergistNOW summarizes news coverage of recent efforts to address concerns in these areas.

Building ventilation guidance. New CDC recommendations for improving ventilation in buildings urge owners and operators to aim for at least 5 air changes per hour in occupied spaces and to upgrade filters to those rated MERV-13 or higher. CDC’s guidance outlines basic strategies—such as regularly changing filters in HVAC systems and ensuring that filters fit properly in the filter racks—as well as “enhanced strategies” for improving buildings’ ventilation, filtration, and air treatment systems.

Controls for infectious aerosols. On May 15, ASHRAE announced it had completed its first draft of ASHRAE Standard 241P, Control of Infectious Aerosols. According to ASHRAE, Standard 241P will ensure healthy indoor air quality by establishing minimum requirements for measures related to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, influenza, and other airborne diseases.

Infection control plans. OSHA has updated its handbook on safety and health information for small businesses to include new chapters on infection control plans, ergonomics, young workers, and workplace violence. The new sections of the Small Business Safety and Health Handbook are checklists that employers can use to ensure hazards are being controlled and regulatory requirements are being met with respect to each topic.

Air sampling of emergency incidents. ASTM International has formed a task group that will consider creating standards for air sampling of emergency incidents. The task group will define air sampling considerations and develop new ASTM guides and methods that could be used in a scenario such as the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, that occurred in February.

Pandemic planning. A new topic page published by NIOSH collects resources intended to help healthcare settings plan for infectious disease outbreaks or pandemics. The agency provides information regarding strategies to conserve supplies of personal protective equipment in healthcare facilities during shortages, ventilation headboards, and the use of high-efficiency particulate air filtration systems to create expedient patient isolation rooms.

The latest industry news from The Synergist is available on AIHA’s website and in The Synergist Weekly e-newsletter, which is delivered to members every Thursday. Please share feedback about our news coverage in the comments here or send an email to The Synergist.

Related Reading

The Synergist: “ASTM Standards for Air Quality” (May 2023).

The Synergist: “Bridging the Gaps: IHs Can Connect Ventilation Engineering, IAQ, and Infection Control” (April 2023).

The Synergist: “Preparing for the Next Pandemic: IHs Are Needed Now More Than Ever” (June/July 2022).

The Synergist: “Taking Command of Emergency Response: A Primer on the National Incident Management and Incident Command Systems” (April 2021).

The Synergist: “Trains and Hazmat Incidents” (April 2023).

Kay Bechtold

Kay Bechtold is managing editor of The Synergist.


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