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Recent discussions about the possibility of contracting the virus through our eyes are beginning to buzz. Scientists are still studying the virus for the answer, but here’s what experts have to say about the likelihood of eye-contraction and if goggles are necessary.

After virologist and epidemiologist Dr. Joseph Fair recently got ill with COVID-19, he believes he contracted it through his eyes. Fair told NBC that he had been on a crowded flight two weeks earlier, and though he wore a mask and gloves and wiped down his seat, he didn’t have any protection over his eyes.

“You can still get this virus through your eyes, and epidemiologically, it’s the best guess I have of probably how I got it,” Fair said. He said his symptoms started three or four days later, though his four tests for the virus were negative.”

But is this true? Was this a fluke situation? How possible is it to contract the virus through your eyes? Should we be wearing goggles, too? One NPR article notes that the idea that you can contract a virus through your eyes is not new, but it has not been as talked about as other risks of infection through the nose and mouth.

What does the CDC have to say? Well, the CDC says that the nose and mouth are the main avenues by which someone catches the virus, but “it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.”

Dr. Abraar Karan, a physician at Harvard Medical School, explains why. “Any sort of open mucosa [mucous membrane] is a chance for a droplet to land there and get into your body,” she said. But while it’s known that the virus can be transmitted through the eyes, “it’s hard to quantify exactly what the risk is in terms [of] through the eye specifically.”

What’s more is that it is very difficult to detect with certainty the initial avenue of someone’s infection—that is, if the virus entered through the person’s mouth, nose or eyes. “And the evidence so far suggests that eyes are not a primary mode of transmission,” said the article.

What evidence exists? If many people were infected through their eyes, there would be more COVID-19 patients with conjunctivitis—inflammation of the eyes, or pink eye.

If the virus invades and infiltrates your conjunctiva—the clear tissue covering the white part of your eye and the inside of your eyelids—likely “there's going to be inflammation or redness in your eyes,” Steinemann says. Of course, there are many other causes for conjunctivitis, though, so getting pink eye doesn't necessarily mean you have COVID-19.

However, there is another reason eyes are not a likely avenue for COVID-19 infection. According to the NPR article, “the pathway from your eyes into your respiratory system is less direct than via your nose and mouth.”

To infect you via your eyes, the virus would have to penetrate your eyes’ mucous membrane, be washed by tears behind your cheeks into your nasal cavity, and then flow from the nose into your throat. “It’s a more circuitous route,” says Steinemann.

As it turns out, your eyes naturally have more protective barriers for things like viruses—more than your mouth and nose do.

What precautions should you take to protect your eyes? Well, the basic precautions against COVID-19 still apply: wash your hands, practice social distancing and “don’t touch your face”—which means don’t rub your eyes.

However, some airlines like Qatar Airlines are asking flight attendants to wear safety goggles in its latest announcement. This makes the public wonder if they should be doing the same. But keep in mind that healthcare settings do require eye coverings and face shields—mostly because they are workers are working face-to-face with potential COVID-19 patients.

Whether or not your need eye protection depends on your job. Most office jobs will not likely require the workers wear eye protection. You do not need face shields or goggles when going to the grocery store, walking outside etc.

On the other hand, Steinemann said, “if you are in close proximity to somebody screaming at you or talking to you or coughing in your face, or if you work in a hospital, suctioning people who are in an intensive care unit — those types of situations are extremely high risk, not only to your nose and your mouth, but also to your eyes. In a high-risk situation, I would definitely recommend the use of a full-face shield and goggles.”

What about the case of the virologist on the packed airplane? Steinemann says if he was on a crowded plane with an inability to keep a safe distance from others, goggles or face coverings might not be a bad idea.


California employers now must protect worker from both COVID-19 infections and heat illness as the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued extreme heat warnings for several parts of the state. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) reminded employers they must assess each worksite and protect their workers from heat illness while also taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID-19 currently is widespread in the community and considered a workplace hazard.

California’s heat illness prevention standard applies to all outdoor workers, including those in agriculture, construction and landscaping. The standard also applies where workers spend a significant amount of time working outdoors such as security guards and groundskeepers, as well as delivery and transportation and drivers who spend time in non-air-conditioned vehicles.

NWS has issued heat advisories this week for Lake and Mendocino Counties, parts of northern Los Angeles County, and many parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.

While there is no corresponding federal standard for heat stress or heat illness prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigates and cites incidents of worker heat illness under the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. A coalition led by Public Citizen has repeatedly petitioned OSHA and the Secretary of Labor for such a standard. House Democrats last year introduced legislation that would require OSHA to establish an emergency heat illness standard.

Under California’s heat illness prevention standard, employers with outdoor workers must take the following steps to prevent heat illness:

• Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures;
• Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention;
• Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge so that each worker can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so; and
• Provide shade when workers request it or when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit and encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating – workers should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.

While protecting workers from heat illness, employers should provide cloth face coverings or allow workers to use their own to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, employers should be aware that wearing face coverings can make it more difficult to breathe and harder for a worker to cool off, so additional breaks may be needed to prevent overheating.

At this time, Cal/OSHA does not recommend that agricultural and other outdoor workers use surgical or respirator masks as face coverings.

Employers should ensure there is enough space and time for employees to take breaks as needed in adequate shade while also maintaining a safe distance from one another, according to the agency.

Extra infection prevention measures should be in place such as disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, including the water and restroom facilities.

While COVID-19 is considered a workplace hazard, California’s aerosol transmissible disease (ATD) standard does not apply to agriculture, construction, and landscaping employers.


Claudio Dente is a 40-year veteran of the safety industry, and he’s never seen anything like the crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a matter of months it’s wreaked havoc with the PPE market.

Claudio is the president and founder (in 2004) of Dentec Safety Specialists, headquartered in the Toronto suburb of Newmarket, Ontario. Dentec’s manufacturing facility is in Lenexa, Kansas. In 2014 Dentec expanded by acquiring a respiratory protection business.

It’s a cliché -- “Necessity is the mother of invention” – but it describes Claudio’s response to the crisis. When COVID-19 broke out in January of this year, China cut off Dentec’s supply of N95 respirators. The challenge: to help workers continue to work using respiratory protection when needed while allowing frontline healthcare employees access to disposable respirators, where emergency demand was huge.

Claudio sought out alternative solutions for industrial workers to replace N95 disposable respirators. So he experimented. He took Dentec Safety’s rubber masks and filters, and wanted to compare against its own brand of disposable respirators and competitive styles. While wearing each styles of the masks, he walked 1,000 steps at a brisk pace. He wanted to generate enough physical exertion to simulate hard work. As he went through these paces, he looked for the respirator’s comfort against the face, and the rubber mask’s comfort versus the disposable respirators.

“When I touched the rubber to my face, I couldn’t believe the comfortable feel. Wearing the disposable respirators was brutal in comparison to our rubber style reusable respirator. I said, ‘This is alarming’,” he recalls.

The difference? When you wear Dentec Safety’s rubber half-mask respirator, you draw air in through the filter and blow it out through an exhalation valve. “This is OK, it’s not uncomfortable at all,” says Claudio. “I noticed when I blew hard, I couldn’t build up heat inside the mask in comparison to the disposable respirators. Heat build-up inside the mask is a major problem with respirator use. When I put on the disposable mask, it felt terrible. Disposable masks have a synthetic fabric with coarseness to it; it’s rigid when you first touch it to your face. With no exhalation valve, heat built up quickly in a disposable mask; I noticed this after only taking 15-20 paces. I said, ‘This is brutal. Think of a construction worker in hot weather, working hard, breathing hard. The rubber mask feels better against the face, and is less fatiguing. There’s an enormous difference.”

Claudio tried a disposable mask with an exhalation valve and says it was 50-percent better than a disposable with no exhalation valve but not near as comfortable as Dentec Safety’s rubber mask. “Wow, what a difference with the rubber mask,” he says.

Claudio realized through his exercise that he could convince customers that rubber masks were “absolutely more comfortable and more productive.”

More productive? “People misuse disposable respirators,” he says. “Say you’re wearing a disposable, grinding concrete block for 20 minutes. You take a break and take the mask off. Then you can’t remember where you left it. Even someone who is fairly responsible will go through two or three disposable respirators a day.”

Dentec Safety Specialty developed its alternative solution to disposable respirators: the Series 100 silicone half mask with filter; the Series 300 thermoplastic mask with filter; and the Series 400 elastomeric mask with filter. The filter reduces breathing resistance, and it doesn’t load up as quickly as a disposable due to the filter material. Also the filter is mounted into a filter cover holder. “This is the magic,” says Claudio. “The cover holder protects the filter, enabling you to change the filter according to a filter change schedule, or when breathing resistance becomes more difficult. So we have a more economical and more productive solution. Remember, the cost of disposable respirators has gone up in the past 90 days by 4-10 times. We are able to maintain same cost.”

There is also a safety perspective to consider. “You need to fit test a respirator before using and fit check it every time you go back to work. You cannot do a positive or negative fit test with a disposable respirator because the entire mask is breathable. You can fit check our half mask respirators every time. So from a safety standpoint, employees are better protected, you get a fit, better protection, and the alternative solution is more economical.

And a sustainability issue. “Where do disposable masks go when you need to replace them? The environmental savings of our rubber half masks is enormous,” Claudio says

Why offer three choices of alternative masks?

“We offer three choices at three price points,” says Claudio. “Silicone and thermoplastic masks have been around a long time. Silicone by far is more comfortable, it’s better for painting applications, it’s easier to clean, and it is a softer material to the face. All our masks have 95 percent of the same features. The silicone mask has more comfort features, such as wider and softer straps, and a larger sealing area that provides additional comfort.” We also have a unique way our cartridges mount to the mask called the Saf-Twist cartridge attachment system. Because our cartridges are round and the inhalation hole on the back is off centered, we can mount the cartridge in three different positions. If you need great visibility, mount the cartridge in position 1, it will also fit under many grinding or welding shields. Position 2 and 3 allow you to position the cartridge depending on the type of grinding or welding shield you may be using for the application. Its simple 1, 2, 3. No other respirator in the world offers this feature.

Dentec is ramping up production at its Lenexa Kansas factory. “We have more staff, we’ve gone to six- and seven-day work weeks. We’re working overtime. We’ve expanded the molding operations and have ordered more molds – all to make product faster,” says Claudio.

When the pandemic broke out, Claudio says most respirator buyers thought the crisis would clear up in a month. “At about the six-week mark, our sales just exploded,” he says. Claudio sees demand for alternative N95 respirator solutions continuing into 2021, however this event has caused the end user to consider replacing disposable respirators with Dentec Safety’s reusable N95 half mask solution. Its more comfortable, safer and more economical , Claudio says. “Until we get a vaccine, social distancing will remain a challenge,” he says. He also sees the supply shortage continuing. “NIOSH has published a list of defective Chinese defective masks. After announcing the first list of some 120 names, two weeks later NIOSH added another 51 new companies to this list. In Canada, a recall of these respirators has been ordered. They are counterfeit products and they do not offer he protection they claimed.”

“It’s sad and unfortunate, but it took the pandemic to rethink N95 respiratory protection and move it forward,” Claudio says.


In these soul-trying times of COVID-19, it’s good to have something familiar that reminds us of those not-so-long-ago days when the world didn’t revolve around hand sanitizers, face masks and social distancing. Most of the customary harbingers of spring and early summer have been shelved or postponed this year, including religious services, graduation ceremonies, blockbuster movies, major sporting events… it feels so unnervingly weird to me to not have MLB box scores from the previous night’s games to obsess over every morning.

So yes, it is somewhat comforting when annual events are still going forward, even if they were never in-person events, as an acknowledgment that the more things change, the more they just take on a slightly different appearance.

Case in point: The annual reveal of the country’s “Dirty Dozen” employers, presented by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). This year’s “Bottom 12” list was tagged as a “Special Coronavirus Edition,” as it focuses on employers who seem to have done the least to protect their workers against the spread of COVID-19 (although some on the list made it due to a pattern of gross negligence that predates the pandemic). Included on this year’s list are such well-known consumer-facing retailers as Chipotle, Hard Rock Café, Trader Joe’s and Victoria’s Secret, as well as the American Hospital Association and the National Restaurant Association.

“Our current public health crisis has demonstrated, more clearly than ever, that worker health cannot be separated from public health,” observes Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of National COSH. “Infectious diseases and other unsafe working conditions do not stay put in any one workplace or building, but can spread to families, communities and the public at large.”

EHS Today readers will perhaps remember how, in our previous coverage of the “Dirty Dozen,” we’ve pointed out that National COSH has a specific agenda as an advocacy group to promote and strengthen labor unions . The National COSH list doesn’t actually quantify the number of incidents or fatalities at these organizations, nor do they even weigh how dangerous any given company might be compared to others in its industry sector. What the list does do (or attempts to do, at any rate) is point the finger at employers who seem to be focused more on keeping the lights on than on protecting their workers.

The list, let’s face it, is meant to be provocative. You might be wondering, for instance, how in the world the American Hospital Association (AHA), representing the healthcare systems who are doing so much to help fight COVID-19, could be on a “Dirty Dozen” list? According to National COSH, the AHA has been resisting the institution of stricter protection protocols that would keep their own employees safe. Of course, that’s not entirely accurate—when you drill down to the specifics, it reads more like a classic “management vs labor” dispute between cash-strapped hospitals that claim the PPE they’ve already purchased provides adequate protection for their staffs and the nurses’ and service industries’ unions that say their members are at risk of contracting COVID themselves if they’re not provided better PPE. But there’s no denying that AHA ends up looking like penny-pinchers during a time when their people are putting themselves in harm’s way, every day.

One of the more alarming workplace issues raised by the “Dirty Dozen” report is the increase in workplace fatalities, which are up 8.9% over the past five years. That’s bad enough, but for workers of color, the fatality rate is markedly worse: up 19.5% for Hispanic/Latinx workers, and an astounding 29.5% for blacks.

“The higher rates of illness and death from COVID-19 we are seeing in Latinx and African-American communities track the higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities we see in the same populations in the workplace,” says Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “Discrimination in housing, healthcare and employment is not only illegal and unfair—it’s deadly.”

The dirty little secret of workplace safety is that far too many companies do little more than pay lip-service to the idea of establishing and maintaining a safety culture in their factories, at their worksites or throughout their organizations. In the words of Pedro Martinez, a construction worker on the I-4 highway project in Orlando, Fla., where five workers have died since 2016, “Safety meetings were a joke.” Martinez worked for Shelby Constructors, a subcontractor to SGL Constructors (another one of the “Dirty Dozen”), and he says he had to provide his own PPE and water because his employer did not.

It’s easy to dismiss the “Dirty Dozen” list as just a PR stunt that’s trying to make companies resistant to union organizing look bad. But how in the world do you dismiss the very real issue at the heart of it all: Why are too many companies doing too little to protect their workers?


Few of us know that the current N95 mask was the brainchild of a single woman called Sarah Turnbull who while tending to her ill relatives went to the 3M company and suggested a safer mask.

Never have masks played such an important role in our lives. They are even making designer masks now and you have to pay top whack for them.

My introduction to masks was the Lone Ranger and as kids we would cut out our own and paint them black. Then came the broader Zorro mask and you could buy them in the shops.

The word mask comes from the Latin "mascus" and "chew" which means ghost. In Arab, "maskharah" literally means jester and man with mask. That is why comedy and tragedy are traditionally depicted through masks. So much for the phantom of the opera.

The main reason that masks were worn was for theatrical purposes, and Greeks and Romans used them to change the character and expression of the actors.

In Africa, they used them to make contact with ancestors and even today there are people who collect masks from different parts of the world.

For the Chinese, masks represent religious symbols and we use them to hide our feelings.

Then there is Halloween.

Few of us know that the current N95 mask was the brainchild of a single woman called Sarah Turnbull who while tending to her ill relatives went to the 3M company and suggested a safer mask. The podcast Throughline relates how it went down. And so she spent a considerable amount of time in the medical situation with, you know, doctors and nurses and watching them fiddling around with these flat masks that they had to tie on. And she just was thinking, oh, man, I wonder if there isn't some way we can make a better one.

And in 1961 she did create what was the forerunner to the N95.


Washington — A new OSHA safety alert lists measures employers in the manufacturing industry should take to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The alert calls on employers to encourage workers to stay home when sick, as well as report any safety or health concerns. The agency recommends limiting duration of work activities when physical distancing isn’t feasible. Other suggestions: Move or reposition workstations to create more distance, or consider installing barriers (e.g., plexiglass shields) between workstations.

The alert states employers should “monitor public health communications about COVID-19 recommendations for the workplace and ensure that workers have access to and understand that information.” Workers should be educated on the proper ways to put on, take off, maintain and use/wear protective clothing and equipment.

Other tips:

■ Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
■ Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
■ Discourage workers from using co-workers’ tools and equipment.
■ Use disinfectant products listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as effective against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19.
■ Promote personal hygiene. If workers don’t have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Provide disinfectants and disposable towels workers can use to clean work surfaces.


The number one question on the mind of business leaders today is how to keep their employees safe. When you work for an agriculture company that is part of the world’s critical food infrastructure, that question becomes even more important. In addition to worrying about productivity, profitability and business continuity, you must also be cognizant of the impact that any disruption could have on the global food supply.

As the COVID-19 pandemic struck, my team and I were able to transition over 4.000 people to new ways of working while remaining operational and keeping a continued focus on the health and safety of every worker. We did this by developing tools and procedures that allowed agility in a rapidly changing and new environment. This approach resulted in our ability to make fast and effective decisions that have kept our teams safe and delivered on our commitments to our customers. While we recognize that we will continue to face new challenges in the weeks and months to come, we feel confident that we have the right systems and processes in place to help us manage through it.

Here’s what we learned over the past three months:

Make It Easy for Employees to Provide Information to Business Leaders: We quickly recognized that the first thing we needed to do when the coronavirus pandemic hit was to create a process for quick employee self-reporting of symptoms potentially associated with coronavirus. This self-report would initiate employee contact by a medical professional while allowing us to monitor coronavirus outbreaks throughout the region This sounds easy on the surface, but it’s really anything but. Traditionally, when someone is sick, they send an email to their manager and the process of follow up is done through non-centralized means. Under normal circumstances, this process works well, but when you’re trying to ascertain the health of 4,500 employees across the region at the same time, its limitations quickly become apparent.

We realized that in order to get our arms around the situation we were facing, we needed to build a self-serve online North America Coronavirus Response Portal. Despite not having coding skills, our team was able to create this powerful tool in a few days using Smartsheet and within just six weeks, the portal received over 28,000 views and interactions across more than 65 Syngenta locations in North America.

Our lesson was that when you create a process that makes it easy for people to share information quickly, they’ll do it. When you make it cumbersome, people will find a reason to put it off. By creating a simple and visually appealing way for employees to follow this critical coronavirus control, not only were they more likely to follow the requirements but most importantly they appreciated the quick contact they received by our medical professionals due to the process capabilities.

Overcommunicate with Your Employees: Of course, communication is a two-way street. As much as the company needed information from employees, the employees were hungry for information from the company. We quickly expanded the portal to become a single access point for information on the status of sites (operational, closed, or open for essential activities only) as well as a hub for employee training, and news and government advisories. We also provided the latest information on the status of our PPE supply chain, shipment status and other information updates for essential equipment.

Leverage Automation: With so many employees updating us on their health status, it’s impossible to respond to all of them individually. Automation has helped us ensure that employees know their voices are heard and that they can access any assistance they need.

For example, if someone clicks a box saying that they’ve been feeling sick, they’ll next be asked about their symptoms, whether they’ve seen a doctor, and so on. Depending on how they answer, the Smartsheet platform will automatically pass their information to HIPPA-trained doctors and nurses who will follow up with them confidentially.

Give Back: Our North America Coronavirus Response Portal was so successful; that we decided to create an additional portal focused on employee Wellbeing. This portal was created to support our employees to stay healthy, active, and manage stress during these unprecedented times. The employee Wellbeing Portal worked so well that we decided to make it available to our customers, families and communities as a gift from the Syngenta team. We also encouraged employees to share it with their loved ones, first responders and others. On launch day alone, we had over 1,000 hits from the community wellbeing portal, demonstrating the need people have for tools that will help them cope with the challenges of this health crisis. Opening the portal not only helped our communities, it also gave employees something to feel good about during a difficult time.

The key to managing through the COVID-19 crisis is understanding and mitigating the risk. The Coronavirus Response Portal and Wellbeing Portals have helped us quickly mitigate risks, keep our employees safe and deliver for the customers.

If this crisis had happened even five years ago, we likely would have been dealing with a deluge of email, which would have caused slower responses, confusion and a lack of accurate data, all of which leads to increased business risk. We have delivered on our commitments to employees and customers during this unprecedented time, and the use of technology that has empowered the Syngenta team to stay ahead of the curve as we deal with one of the most challenging times of our lifetime.


Atlanta — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines intended to help businesses, as well as schools and mass transit operations, safely reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 60-page guidance document outlines a three-phase approach that includes six “gating criteria” to move forward, including decreases in newly identified COVID-19 cases, decreases in percentage of positive tests and a robust testing program.

CDC advises employers to consider a variety of measures for keeping people safe, such as practices for “scaling up” operations, safety actions (e.g., cleaning and disinfection, and physical distancing), monitoring possible reemergence of the virus, and maintaining health operations. Workers who are at high risk for severe illness (i.e., anyone over the age of 65 or with existing health conditions) “should be encouraged to self-identify, and employers should avoid making unnecessary medical inquiries.”

Employers should move to the next phase only if they can ensure a certain level of physical distancing, proper cleaning and disinfection, and protection of workers and customers.

Additionally, employers are advised to limit nonessential travel based on state and local guidance, ask employees who use public transportation to adapt to teleworking, and train all managers on recommended safety actions. This training can be conducted virtually.

The guidance also provides details on conducting routine, daily health checks; planning for when an employee becomes sick; maintaining healthy operations; and when to consider closing because of an illness.


The market witnessed the highest levels of adherence to the guidelines since the market reopening with zero fines.

Shops in Dubai continued to maintain full compliance with Covid-19 guidelines on Friday, the Dubai Economy has said.

The market witnessed the highest levels of adherence to the guidelines since the market reopening with zero fines, zero shutdowns, and zero warnings issued on Friday. All 224 businesses inspected on Friday were fully following the precautionary measures put in place to stymie the spread of coronavirus.

Dubai witnessed 100 per cent compliance rate by the commercial outlets during the daily inspections carried out on Wednesday.

Dubai Economy called on consumers to report any non-compliance with the Covid-19 precautionary guidelines via the Dubai Consumer App available on Apple, Google, and Huawei stores; by calling 600545555, or on the Consumerrights.ae website.

Earlier, it announced 10am to 10pm as official hours for shopping malls during weekdays and up to 12pm over the weekend.


Industrial hygiene may not be a household name, but our knowledge base is exactly what is needed to help win this fight. The American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) defines the discipline as (emphasis added):

“Industrial hygiene is the science of protecting and enhancing the health and safety of people at work and in their communities. Health and safety hazards cover a wide range of chemical, physical, biological and ergonomic stressors. Those dedicated to anticipating, recognizing, evaluating and controlling those hazards are known as Industrial Hygienists. They are professionals dedicated to the well-being of people – at work, at home and in the community.”

A major responsibility of Industrial Hygienists (IHs) is to educate both the workforce and management about the hazards in their workplaces. We know how to evaluate hazards and use all the controls available to mitigate risk. For instance:

• IHs understand the physics of aerosols and how a cough, sneeze or even speech can spread virus-containing droplets through the air, and what it takes to engineer out a hazard using ventilation, filtration and barriers.
• His understand the chemistry of disinfectants and know what is effective at neutralizing the virus and what it takes to effectively decontaminate a person or surface.
• IHs understand physical means of virus destruction such as heat, cold, ultraviolet light and ionization.
• IHs routinely measure the quantity of hazardous substance in a workplace and can verify whether cleaning procedures are working to remove virus surface contamination in a given environment.
• IHs know the ins and outs of personal protective equipment, in particular respiratory protection.
• IHs know how to devise and educate workers on administrative controls.

Engineering Controls

In the hierarchy of controls engineering controls are at the forefront when it comes to a naturally occurring airborne biological hazard. Where an infection exists isolation of a space by putting it under negative pressure with HEPA filtration is essential to keep the virus from spreading. A NASA study has shown that HEPA filtration can effectively capture the virus even though it is very small (approximately 0.125 micrometers in diameter.)

Barriers are another means of protecting workers. One example is workers in a meat packing plant working side by side, on a production line. Easily cleaned Plexiglas barriers were placed between each worker. This, along with the other controls, improved employee protection. We’ve likely all seen the see-through barriers going up in grocery stores to help separate checkout clerks from the general public.

Administrative Controls

In the workplace, administrative controls are practices people must participate in to protect themselves. Though social distancing, hand washing, and avoidance of face touching seem like simple rules they must be continually reinforced. Through training sessions, IHs emphasize the importance of these cardinal rules and teach management how to effectively and continually reinforce them.

Housekeeping is of paramount importance in controlling exposure to SARS Cov-2. IHs recommend procedures and disinfectants that neutralize the virus or wash it away on surfaces and equipment. IHs can verify the effectiveness of a housekeeping procedure.

Personal Protective Equipment

Respiratory protection is a profound area of expertise for the industrial hygienist. Since 1971 IHs have relied on laboratory certification of respirators by the U.S. HHS Department’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which at that time took over respirator certification from the US Bureau of Mines. NIOSH certifies respirators for a specific range of uses. Any respirator use requires training and fit testing and IHs are able provide this training to workers in many settings.

The pandemic poses a unique problem for healthcare workers and others who must wear respiratory protection when dealing with SARS-CoV-2. The respirator of choice for most, the N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFR) though manufactured in large quantities, are still not sufficient in number to prevent shortages. These FFRs are meant to be disposed of after a single use, but they have to be reused, often for several days due to the shortage. IHs are trained in the function, selection, cleaning and care of respirators and can advise users of the best ways to deal with FFR reuse in this unique situation.

IHs have also been on the forefront of suggesting the pros and cons of alternative face coverings, including suggestions on what not to use. For instance, furnace filters have been suggested as a face covering material, but should not be used because furnace filters may contain fiberglass that may be released. Cotton bandanas, though inefficient at filtration are okay to use when something better isn’t available to prevent an infected person from unknowingly transmitting the virus. IHs specify other PPE too, e.g. eye, hand, and gowns.


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