May 19, 2022

AIHA Publicizes Recommendations for National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan

On April 14, AIHA submitted comments to the White House that contained recommendations intended to strengthen the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, which provides a roadmap for addressing COVID-19 in the United States.

Following the industrial hygiene hierarchy of controls, AIHA’s comments stress the significance of engineering controls for COVID-19. The association recommends the optimization of mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems; fresh air ventilation methods; and air filtration and cleaning devices to help reduce the spread of viral particles. While recognizing that the use of personal protective equipment “is the least desirable method for controlling any hazard,” AIHA acknowledges that the use of personal protective equipment is often necessary in emergency situations. AIHA’s recommendations regarding PPE aim to improve the function of the Strategic National Stockpile, such as through the addition of elastomeric respirators.

AIHA’s recommendations also cover improved hazard communication and coordination through the assistance of the IH professional community and provisions to address equity and mental health. The section in the White House plan that covers communicating risk and public health guidance to immunocompromised people should be “expanded to cover all potentially vulnerable and underserved groups,” AIHA states. AIHA also calls for the plan’s section on mental health support for healthcare workers to mention treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and include language on providing quality mental health support, training, and awareness programs.

Other recommendations include the addition of provisions on workplace psychological safety culture, protecting critical infrastructure workers from psychological hazards, mitigating psychosocial hazards associated with future job loss or unemployment, expanding the definition of diversity in the workforce, and improving remote work infrastructure. AIHA’s final recommendations deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, including recognition of the disproportionate burden on working women who belong to minority groups and have children, expanding paid parental time off, and addressing domestic and interpersonal violence.

AIHA’s comments (PDF) are addressed to Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator. For more information, email Mark Ames, AIHA’s director of government relations. The National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan can be found on the White House website.