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What to Consider When Responding to the Coronavirus

SARS-CoV-2, commonly known as Coronavirus, has brought us one of the greatest challenges we could have foreseen in industry. Facility Managers all over the country have had to adapt on the fly, managing day-to-day operations as normal in a not so normal world. Unless you are running a medical facility, your emergency plans likely did not prepare you for a global pandemic. This article explores the workplace practices that essential business companies are employing to keep their employees safe and discusses how facilities can effectively direct a cleaning process.

The reality is that many of our members are running facilities that are considered essential with employees that cannot perform their job remotely. So how are you coping? Many employers have created internal pandemic teams to manage the company’s response. Most companies have put practices in place to ensure the health and well-being of their workers during this crisis. Typical work practices include social distancing to the extent possible (use of portable office trailers, staggering workers in an assembly line, use of visual cues to maintain 6-foot separation, employee tracking, making personal protective equipment available when separation is not possible, and eating in vehicles), taking the temperature of each employee upon entering the workplace, directing employees to notify their supervisor and to self-quarantine for 14 days if they show signs of illness, and aggressive cleaning strategies. Additionally, companies have developed policies that outline the steps to be taken if a worker appears to be symptomatic for Coronavirus, and policies that outline the steps to be taken if a worker tests positive for Coronavirus.

What if someone who has been in your workplace tests positive for Coronavirus ? This could be an employee or an outside party such as a delivery person who has to enter your facility to deliver their goods. This would likely initiate the need to thoroughly clean the workplace. Several environmental remediation firms in our region have established cleaning protocols for coronavirus contamination. Unlike a routine cleaning service, these firms have experience in emergency preparedness and clean-up of hazardous sites. Proper vetting before hiring a subcontractor is recommended. Ask for their insurance and to ensure there are no exclusions which could void coverage for disinfecting due to a viral agent. Inquire about their cleaning protocols, what proposed cleaning agents will be used, and how they will assess compliance with government guidelines. Request their health and safety plan. A good plan should include steps to ensure their workers do not become infected. Ask where the waste will be taken for disposal. Waste from the disinfection process should be handled properly and sent to a permitted disposal facility. Currently, there is no widely available standardized field or laboratory media testing available to identify the presence or absence of Coronavirus; therefore, the cleanliness of the space is based upon the thoroughness of the cleaning contractor. To meet these challenges, consider utilizing a third-party consulting firm with environmental regulation and industrial hygiene acumen. They can guide the subcontractor vetting process and provide oversight of the disinfection process. Finally, ask for help. The world is adjusting, and everyone is looking for best management practices.

About the Authors
Ms. Shoemaker, LEED AP, is a Senior Project Manager with GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., specializing in environmental compliance and site investigation.
Ms. Payne, CPEA is an Associate Principal with GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., specializing in environmental compliance and permitting.
Names: Heather Shoemaker and Marianne Payne
Company: GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc.
Address: 1515 Market Street, Suite 945, Philadelphia, PA
Telephone: 215-591-3800
email: heather.shoemaker@gza.com & marianne.payne@gza.com

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