COVID-19, Personnel Safety

AIHA and NSC Provide Reopening Resources for Employers

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and National Safety Council (NSC) both released guidelines and resources for employers reopening workplaces as state COVID-19 stay-at-home orders begin to expire. AIHA collected guidelines for several industries on its newly launched https://www.backtoworksafely.org/ website. NSC published a reopening framework based on recommendations of the Safe Actions for Employee Returns (SAFER) task force the group launched April 23.

Workplace health and safety concept

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The SAFER task force started with 48 members and has added another 18, including the International Safety Equipment Association, National Association of Realtors, and food services and facilities management group, Sodexo. The SAFER group includes experts from Fortune 500 companies, leading safety organizations, nonprofits, government agencies, and public health organizations. The task force includes AIHA and the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP).

For more on the SAFER task force, listen to our EHS on Tap podcast with Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the NSC.

AIHA Resources

Resources on AIHA’s site include guidelines for at-home service providers, construction, general office settings, gyms and workout facilities, hair and nail salons, retail stores, restaurants, and limousine, rideshare, and taxi services.

Other AIHA resources include factsheets on building re-entry and the proper use of respirators for healthcare workers and first responders and guidelines for workplace cleaning for COVID-19. The association warned that buildings that sat unused or with low occupancy may contain indoor environmental hazards like Legionella bacteria or mold.

AIHA encouraged employers to use enhanced cleaning and disinfection methods along with other risk mitigation measures rather than waiting for a confirmed workplace case of COVID-19 before responding. AIHA also encourage employers to establish a team of environmental service technicians trained in the proper use and limitations of PPE, personal hygiene protocols, and the mixing and application of approved cleaning and disinfecting agents.

Employers should identify and purchase EPA-registered disinfectants that meet the criteria for use against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to AIHA. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, first identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019, causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease.

NSC’s Framework

NSC warned in its SAFER framework that employers will need to address six key areas in reopening:

  • Physical environments, such as buildings, facilities, and operations, as well as, new physical distancing protocols;
  • Medical health considerations like screening employees for cases of COVID-19 and implementing hygiene and infection control practices;
  • Stress, emotional, and mental health considerations that may require reliance on Employee Assistance Programs;
  • Employment, legal, and human resources considerations, including plans for reintegrating employees who have recovered from COVID-19 and resolving liability issues surrounding work at home flexibility and return to work;
  • Communicating new policies such as revised entrance procedures; and
  • External considerations involving clients, customers, vendors, and state and local government agencies.

NSC warned employers they may need to adapt to future restrictions, including cities, counties and states that reimpose stay-at-home orders or issue other restrictions on operations. Employers also should be mindful of risks to older employees and employees with chronic health conditions.

“This SAFER framework provides a solid structure for the business community to reference to ensure that safety considerations are at the forefront of their response to the pandemic,” said NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in a council statement.

Be sure to listen to our EHS on Tap interview with Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the NSC, for more information on the SAFER task force and details on how you can help!