When news was initially released that Wuhan, China was impacted by the coronavirus, EI immediately launched a series of weekly educational blogs in mid-January highlighting pragmatic occupational health and industrial hygiene practices which minimize the possibility of coronavirus transmission in the workplace.
The blog series has since covered the following topics:
1. Business Contingency Plans (January 27, 2020 and February 6, 2020) – Includes coronavirus pandemic planning
2. Respiratory Protection (February 13, 2020) – N95’s vs. Surgical Masks
3. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) (March 23, 2020) – Monitoring/corrective measures to minimize airborne COVID-19
4. Cleaning & Disinfection (March 25, 2020) – Cleaning, Disinfection & Verification Protocol as well as optimal EPA List N disinfectants & importance of proper application
5. Navigating COVID-19 (April 7, 2020) – Employer Guidance for Voluntary Respirator Use
6. Employee Medical Screening (April 8, 2020) – Detailed Guidance for identifying potential carriers of COVID-19
7. OSHA Recordkeeping (April 15, 2020) – Is COVID-19 Recordable on the OSHA 300 Log?
8. Reopening Business (April 29, 2020) – Guidelines for Minimizing Occupational COVID-19 Transmission
9. Training Students (May 7, 2020) – In the Era of COVID-19
10. Industry Sector-Specific Guidelines (May 12, 2020) – For Re-Opening Our Nation’s Businesses
11. COVID-19 Recovery Guidance (May 19, 2020) – Water System Restart from No- or Low-Occupancy Operation
12. Going Back to Work (May 21, 2020) – Considerations for Owners and Managers to Protect Employees, Tenants and Contractors
13. The Emergency Action Plan and COVID-19 (June 3, 2020) – Is it Time for a Revision?
14. The Re-Emergence of the Occupational Health Nurse (June 17, 2020) – As Employers Return to Work
15. OSHA COVID-19 Recordkeeping (June 23, 2020) – OSHA Revises Earlier Requirements for Cases
16. Airborne COVID-19 Transmission in the Workplace (July 23, 2020)
17. Are You Neglecting Safety Programs During the Pandemic? (August 18, 2020)
18. Part I: Lessons Learned from Occupational COVID-19 Screening (August 27, 2020)
19. Environmental Surveillance: COVID-19 Testing of Wastewater (September 3, 2020)
20. Part II: Lessons Learned from Occupational COVID-19 Screening – 140,000 Employees Screened Over 6 Months (September 10, 2020)
21. Part III: Tips for an Effective Occupational COVID-19 Screening Process (September 17, 2020)
22. Is Virtual Learning the Best Option? EHS Training in the Time of COVID-19 (October 5, 2020)
23. Five Lessons from the Pandemic that Perfectly Demonstrate the Challenges of Establishing a Safety Culture (November 11, 2020)
24. Onsite Occupational COVID Testing Methodologies – Breaking the Chain in 2021 During Vaccination and Post Vaccination (January 6, 2021)
25. The Next Step in Occupational COVID Screening – Rapid Antigen Testing of the Workforce (February 4, 2021)
26. Is Your Building Prepared for Post COVID Re-Occupancy? (March 3, 2021)
27. Back to School! Are You Ready? How Rapid Antigen Testing Can Provide Peace of Mind (March 16, 2021)
28. How to Combat the Highly Contagious Delta Variant in the Workplace: Rapid Antigen Testing – A Game Changer (July 29, 2021)
29. What Does Swiss Cheese Have to Do with Preventing COVID-19? (August 19, 2021)
The background information in EI’s blog series builds an excellent foundation for a comprehensive plan to minimize occupational transmission of COVID-19 when reopening businesses.
Wherever business managers lean politically, most concur that routine workplace testing of employees to identify COVID carriers is an effective measure to minimize occupational COVID transmission. The virulent nature of the Omicron variant (akin to measles in virulence) makes rapid antigen testing of the workforce a common sense choice to prevent them from spreading COVID to coworkers. What better concept to identify those employees who are infected with COVID and isolate them from their fellow workers to “Nip occupational COVID transmission in the bud!?”
We recently discussed how to minimize the spread of the highly contagious Delta Variant in the workplace with Rapid Antigen Testing. As more businesses return employees to the workplace, whether it be to manufacturing facilities or commercial office spaces, it remains critical to keep everyone safe and healthy. Absenteeism driven by the need to quarantine both COVID positive employees, as well as the general workforce with whom they closely interacted significantly impacts productivity.
How to Combat the Highly Contagious Delta Variant in the Workplace: Rapid Antigen Testing – A Game Changer
As the highly contagious delta variant spreads across the United States, a surprising number of vaccinated Americans are testing positive for COVID-19. The promise of a “return to normal” has hit an unexpected roadblock with the growing risk of these breakthrough infections. According to an early new study, individuals infected with the delta variant may carry more than a thousand times more virus particles, testing positive up to two days earlier than those infected with the original SARS-CoV-2.
When President Biden set a bold goal of re-opening schools in his first 100 days in office, public health experts quickly pointed out that regular COVID testing would have to be an integral part of the plan. While a questionnaire and temperature scan may have been provided peace of mind and screened some potential cases in 2020, more stringent measures are needed for student and teacher populations. Enter Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT).
Is Your Building Prepared for Post COVID Re-Occupancy? Control Measures to Reduce Airborne Transmission in the Workplace
As we move through this global pandemic, many of the buildings that we routinely entered pre-pandemic are now partially occupied or remain vacant. Buildings such as schools, churches, restaurants, and commercial office spaces have been significantly impacted by state and local restrictions aimed at mitigating COVID-19 transmission.
During 2020, the most effective method of screening employees who were potential carriers of SARS-CoV2 was the administration of a CDC recommended questionnaire, coupled with a temperature scan from a non-contact thermometer. The COVID questionnaire was utilized to identify those workers who were experiencing COVID symptoms or those employees who had potential contact with individuals who were COVID carriers.
Onsite Occupational COVID Testing Methodologies -Breaking the Chain in 2021 During Vaccination and Post Vaccination
During 2020, occupational screening to identify potential COVID-19 carriers was limited to monitoring employee body temperature in conjunction with administration of a questionnaire aimed at identifying employees who exhibited coronavirus symptoms (headache, loss taste/smell, sore throat, cough or gastrointestinal issues) or workers who had close contact with a potential coronavirus carrier.
Five Lessons from the Pandemic that Perfectly Demonstrate the Challenges of Establishing a Safety Culture
Like almost everyone else with whom I come into contact (six feet between, of course), I have grown exhausted of COVID-19 and the constraints it places on how I live and work. My role as an EHS professional is already demanding, regardless of world health conditions, and the latest recommendations from the CDC only add to my never-ending list of daily considerations and responsibilities.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter most aspects of business operations, questions surrounding the best options for employee training persist. Does it make more sense to complete training online or are classes with in-person trainers preferred when offered safely?
Lessons Learned from Occupational COVID-19 Screening – Part III: Tips for an Effective COVID-19 Screening Process
Maintaining continuity of technicians who perform screening is one of the most important aspects for the effective identification of coronavirus carriers. Developing rapport with employees during COVID-19 screening, especially when administering the COVID-19 screening questionnaire, is imperative. Having consistent personnel perform COVID-19 screening day after day creates an environment of trust.
Adequate planning for an occupational screening process is key for an efficient and effective operation to identify potential coronavirus carriers BEFORE they enter the workspace. Will the screening operation be staffed using the existing workforce or by engaging a third party? If staffed internally, do these “in-house” employees have sufficient training in PPE and bloodborne pathogen control? What types of PPE will be used?
Testing wastewater for the presence of pathogens as a surveillance tool has been used by for many years (Poliovirus and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as an example). This public health tool is now being utilized during the current pandemic to detect SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) by analyzing wastewater samples from public and private wastewater systems for non-infective RNA fragments of the virus.
EI’s next two blog entries will focus on the major points garnered from our field experience during screening of 120,000 employees to identify potential COVID-19 carriers as they reported to work at numerous manufacturing/pharma/biopharma facilities over the past 6 months. During the COVID-19 screening process, in order to minimize potential COVID-19 transmission in the workplace, EI employed the New Rochelle Incident Command model for coronavirus testing, where employee body temperature and a standardized COVID-19 questionnaire was administered from their vehicles as employees arrived to work.
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic deserves the attention and resources it continues to receive in the American workplace. Numerous EHS managers who built their careers on anticipating the unexpected wonder how they failed to see this crisis coming. As businesses look for any light at the end of the tunnel, health and safety professionals vow to learn from this coronavirus experience and use its distinct lessons to prepare EHS programs for the future.
EI continues to closely monitor the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and provide our clients and the general public with current, relevant guidance based on our experience with Occupational Health, Industrial Hygiene, Safety Compliance and Engineering services performed during the pandemic. We have documented our progress, shared our learnings, and offered our insight for managing/minimizing exposures through our blog, which launched on January 27, 2020.
On April 10, 2020, OSHA issued a memorandum which relaxed the rules for recording cases of COVID-19 on the OSHA 300. EI first reported on this topic back on April 15, 2020. More recently, OSHA issued another memorandum intended to provide guidance for compliance officers, rescinding those earlier restrictions and returning to standard recordkeeping practices for all employers as of May 26, 2020.
In the early 1970s, OSHA was established by the Federal government to prevent work related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Given the comprehensive nature of OSHA compliance and the lack of familiarity by manufacturing company management with worker health and safety compliance, the demand for “in-house” medical and safety professionals grew rapidly. Between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, the percentage of industrial operations with 250+ manufacturing employees, who had “in-house” occupational health nurse (OHN) support to assist with OSHA compliance initiatives, was high.
The COVID-19 virus has forced us to change our way of living…and working. While many employers are slowly beginning to resume business, it is not business as usual. Consider your emergency action plan (EAP) for example. While setting up barriers, teaching about social distancing and providing masks for your workers, did you remember to address, and update if necessary, your EAP?
Going Back to Work? Considerations for Owners and Managers to Protect Employees, Tenants and Contractors
We are not out of the woods yet, as the health risks from the COVID-19 pandemic remain. However, the phased opening of our economy and the opportunity to return to work is a measured and controlled path that appears to make sense. Though, this will put those returning workers’ health (and their family’s health) at risk.
Therefore, it is incumbent on building and business owners/managers to do what they can to make returning to the workplace as safe as possible. Planning, monitoring, and communication will be the cornerstones of creating a safe work environment to minimize the health risks associated with this virus.
Step one in restarting a commercial building water system is an assessment. It is imperative you know your water system; its piping configuration and end uses. The objective of the procedure is to flush the entire water system and the effectiveness of this flush/disinfection will be compromised if any portion of the system is not fully flushed.
Deep Breath: Respiratory Protection in the Growing COVID-19 Epidemic
February 13, 2020
Minimizing Airborne Exposure to COVID-19 in Buildings
March 23, 2020
Is COVID-19 Recordable on the OSHA 300 Log?
April 15, 2020
Training Students in the Era of COVID-19
May 7, 2020
Aiborne COVID-19 Transmission in the Workplace
July 23, 2020
Are You Neglecting Safety Programs During the Pandemic?
August 18, 2020
Part I: Lessons Learned from Occupational COVID-19 Screening
August 27, 2020
Environmental Surveillance: COVID-19 Testing of Wastewater
September 3, 2020
Part III: Tips for an Effective Occupational COVID-19 Screening Process
September 17, 2020
What Does Swiss Cheese Have to Do with Preventing COVID-19?
August 19, 2021