Joint Consensus Statement Calls for Action to Prevent COVID-19 Aerosol Transmission

  • Published
  • 11 February 2021
  • Category
  • News

Nine leading scientific and health organizations have endorsed recommendations for federal and state agencies to create specific guidelines to help prevent aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

A Joint Consensus Statement summarizes what occupational health and safety professionals and scientists know about airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission and outlines recommendations that call for related regulations, research and funding.

Studies show SARS-CoV-2 can remain viable in air for at least three  hours. According to the statement, infectious particles are exhaled by contagious people while breathing, talking, singing, coughing and sneezing. Particle sizes vary widely, from 0.1 to > 100 µm. Some larger particles rapidly settle, while others evaporate to smaller droplet nuclei. Particles less than 10 µm can be distributed by diffusion and air currents.

The statement calls on the:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments to review guidance for occupational prevention and respiratory protection.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a temporary emergency standard for SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, harmonizing diverse state and departmental rules and guidelines within a single federal standard to ensure a unified national approach to worker protection.
  • OSHA to continue the rulemaking process for an infectious disease standard applicable to all industries and issue it as soon as possible.
  • Federal government to fully implement the Defense Production Act to address national shortages of respiratory protection equipment, personal protective equipment and medical supplies.
  • Federal government to provide funding to support state, local and professional efforts to develop workplace hazard assessment and control programs that recognize airborne exposure routes and prioritize workplace engineering and administrative controls.

As envisioned, federal funding would be used to support:

  1. Research into the roles and designs of dilution and local-exhaust ventilation in a wide variety of workplaces.
  2. Development and deployment of effective, simple-to-use, inexpensive ventilation assessment tools and methods.
  3. Respiratory protection programs, including training and fit testing, for all essential industries that lack the necessary resources and expertise to establish effective respiratory protection programs on their own.
  4. Research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and other federal health agencies to address knowledge gaps.

The statement proposes that funding priority be directed toward providing frontline workers with respiratory protection options such as elastomeric and powered air-purifying respirators. Expanded options would help reduce demand for filtering facepiece respirators needed by  health care personnel and other essential workers whose jobs involve prolonged or close contact with co-workers and the public.

The nine co-sponsoring organizations of the consensus statement are:

  • American Industrial Hygiene Association, which has taken the lead in issuing the statement
  • American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
  • Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists
  • American Public Health Association-Occupational Health and Safety Section
  • International Safety Center
  • National Association of Occupational Health Professionals
  • Organization for Safety Asepsis and Prevention
  • Workplace Health Without Borders

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