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Health Experts Urge Businesses to Use Practical Guidelines for Reopening

As COVID-19 cases spike across the country, and schools and businesses brace for the cold months ahead, occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) experts urge employers to implement practical, science-based guidelines. 

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring OEHS in the workplace and community, continues to expand its library of comprehensive Back to Work Safely guidelines, white papers, and resources aimed at 26 different business and community sectors.   

AIHA most recently released additional resources for higher education, K-12 schools, dental offices, bars, amateur sports, and more. The guidelines are understandable and feasible to make it easier for business owners to adopt them. 

These free materials offer industry-specific recommendations on engineering controls (ventilation, enhanced filtration, and physical barriers), germicidal ultraviolet radiation, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and personal hygiene and physical distancing. For example, effectively increasing the number of air changes in a room or building by using standalone “off-the-shelf” HEPA filtered air cleaners, installing enhanced filtration in central HVAC systems, and increasing the volume of outside air introduction are practical and immediate measures building operators and employers can implement. Other pertinent materials include:

From the experts

The authors of the guidelines are leading scientists and professionals from a variety of industries who have volunteered their expertise in such areas as workplace respiratory protection programs, fit testing PPE, cleaning and disinfection protocols, and engineering controls strategies. 

To date, there were more than 1.2 million downloads of the guidelines from backtoworksafely.org. Back to Work Safely Guidelines are available for the following business sectors in English and Spanish:

  • Amateur sports
  • At-home service providers*
  • Bars
  • Business services (i.e., banks, dry cleaners)**
  • Childcare providers
  • Construction sites*
  • Dental offices**
  • General offices*
  • Gyms and other workout facilities*
  • Hair and nail salons*
  • Institutions of higher education
  • Libraries
  • Museums and other collecting institutions
  • Outdoor recreation activities
  • Physical and occupational therapy, massage therapy
  • Restaurants*
  • Retail*
  • Rideshare, taxi, limo and other passenger driver-for-hire*
  • K-12 schools
  • Small manufacturing and maintenance shops
  • Small sports and entertainment venues (i.e., mini golf, arcades)
  • Small lodging establishments
  • Street vendors and farmers markets
  • Transit systems**
  • Warehousing/transportation**
  • Worship services

(*Available in English and Spanish; **Coming soon in Spanish)

Pertaining to K-12 schools in particular, especially as many school districts grapple with getting students back in classrooms, “COVID-19 is bringing to a head the deplorable conditions of schools that have been neglected because parents don’t see it, so it is not an area of focus,” said Dr. David Krause, a certified industrial hygienist and toxicologist, contributor to several of these guidance documents, and former chair of the AIHA Indoor Environmental Quality Committee. “AIHA materials are practical and provide schools with pragmatic recommendations. For example, what you can’t achieve in air ventilation, you can make up with HEPA filters.”


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