January 20, 2022 / Roger Lewis, Robert Strode, Ina Xhani, Kevin H. Dunn, Eric Glassford, and Jennifer Tyrawski

The Role of the Industrial Hygienist in a Pandemic: A Roadmap for COVID-19 and Beyond

This post was originally published on the NIOSH Science Blog on January 11, 2022. It has been republished with permission.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, NIOSH and AIHA have been developing guidance to help protect workers across all industries. AIHA has more than 80 years of experience protecting the health and safety of workers and their communities and has been at the forefront of efforts to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19. Early in the COVID-19 response effort, NIOSH established a cooperative agreement with AIHA to increase the national capacity for occupational technical assistance to employers, workers, and public health officials for workplaces.

As part of the cooperative agreement, AIHA updated the guidance document, The Role of the Industrial Hygienist in a Pandemic. It was originally published in 2006 by the AIHA Biosafety and Environmental Microbiology Committee to address the then-recent SARS-CoV-1 outbreak. AIHA originally based the guidance on possibilities and assumptions about preparing for pandemics. The new edition incorporates real-world lessons from the H5N1 avian flu, the H1N1 swine flu, and the SARS-CoV-2 pandemics. It also includes new information and resources and connects pandemic response strategies to the NIOSH-supported Total Exposure Health and Total Worker Health frameworks. In addition to providing funding support via the cooperative agreement, NIOSH reviewed the content to ensure it aligned with current CDC guidance and research.

What’s New in the Second Edition?

The second edition provides significant new information on inhalation and airborne pathways and controls and provides a glossary of terms and definitions. Many of the original sections have also been expanded, particularly those focusing on controls. For example, the section on exposure assessment introduces the source-pathway-receptor paradigm. This paradigm is an alternative framework for controlling infectious disease transmission to the standard hierarchy of controls.

Other updated sections cover:

  • control and exposure banding
  • sensor technology and instruments
  • analytics and tracking
  • shutdown and reopening
  • special considerations for workers with pre-existing conditions and industries with unique challenges

Each major section also includes lessons learned, where examples of related experiences and information gained during the past and current pandemics are described.

Who Should Use the Guide?

Although the primary audience is industrial hygienists, the guide can also be useful to other occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professionals, such as healthcare workers and infection preventionists, and non-OEHS professionals, like architects, mechanical engineers, and ventilation specialists. Non-industrial hygienists should be able to apply aspects of the information provided in the guide to their individual practices and workplaces. For example, the pathway controls section can be useful to any professional involved with designing, building, or modifying existing architectural and mechanical systems to control how infectious agents are transmitted.

The second edition of The Role of the Industrial Hygienist in a Pandemic (PDF) can be downloaded for free on AIHA’s website.

Roger Lewis, Robert Strode, Ina Xhani, Kevin H. Dunn, Eric Glassford, and Jennifer Tyrawski

Roger D. Lewis, PhD, CIH, is a professor emeritus of environmental and occupational health at Saint Louis University College of Public Health and Social Justice.

Robert D. Strode, MS, CIH, is an associate scientist at Chemistry & Industrial Hygiene Inc.

Ina Xhani is a communications specialist with AIHA.

Kevin H. Dunn, ScD, CIH, is research mechanical engineer with the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.

Eric Glassford, MS, CIH, is an industrial hygienist with the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.

Jennifer Tyrawski, PhD, is a health communications specialist in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.


There are no submissions.

Add a Comment