Coronavirus and Infection Control Guidance
As a result of the infection outbreak, there is a proliferation of information that can be overwhelming, The following guidance is provided based on current information provided by the Center for Disease Control, the US Occupational Safety and Health Department (OSHA) and industry disinfection experts.
TEN PRACTICAL TIPS FROM INDUSTRY EXPERTS
1.Avoid second hand info from bloggers and main-stream media (social driven info is usually biased towards the sensational and self-appointed experts). One possible indicator of poor information is an expert referring to the virus as “COVID-19.” The virus is correctly described as is SARS CoV-2; the resulting disease is COVID-19. Experts would not make that fundamental mistake. Your first stop for all information should be the dedicated CDC site: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html 2.Do not purchase N-95 medical-grade masks. We need to save them for medical professionals as they are in short supply. If you already have one, wear it correctly and re-use (social media is filled with selfies of people wearing them wrong—e.g. upside down or not forming metal band around bridge of nose). Any type of respiratory protection is better than nothing. You can probably make a mask from materials on hand (e.g. medical gauze,fleece, flannel, old bras etc.) You can find various "how-to" videos or other instructions from an internet search. Wearing a mask increases moisture levels in your lungs, which is a good thing. 3.Disinfecting or avoiding common touch surfaces (e.g. door handles and elevator buttons) is the main objective for slowing the spread of the virus. Wear disposable gloves if you will be in contact with public common touch surfaces. Non-disposal gloves also offer some protection to you and others. 4.Viruses attach less rigorously than bacterial pathogens to surfaces. Preventative cleaning of contact surfaces does not need to be more intensive than normal cleaning practices. 6.Already own hand sanitizer? No problem. No need to let it go to waste. It can be used like a cleaner on door knobs and other hard frequent contact touch surfaces. Refill your empty hand sanitizer bottle with soapy water to take with you if soap and water is not available. 7.Studies have shown that a large aspect of the benefit of hand washing is ascribed to the physical abrasion (rubbing of hands back and forth). Therefore, the rubbing of hands back and forth, particularly to the point of generating heat, is good hygienic practice. The goal is the removal and refreshing of the surface film of skin oil and dead skin cells. 8.Do you only use green cleaning products? Most green cleaners have not been validated for disinfection. No problem. Refer to tip #4 above. However, if you feel you need to have disinfection properties in your cleaner, refer to the list below for active ingredients of EPA validated anti-viral cleaners.. 9.Studies have shown it only takes the addition of 0.2% of bleach or pine oil to soap and water (typically a few drops) for it to achieve the necessary cleaning and sanitizing properties. Understand that prudent frequent precautionary cleaning measures need not be confused with more stringent cleaning protocols used by professionals to decontaminate a space occupied by a person with a confirmed infection. 10.Wear gloves if you are cleaning with disinfectants to protect your skin. Disposable microfiber wipes are a good option for cleaning difficult to clean (non-smooth, rough or stippled surfaces). Most frequent contact points however such as door knobs are smooth and readily cleanable by most standard wiping materials. Items that can be difficult to clean or sanitize can just be left in "quarantine" for 48 hours to allow a majority of the viruses to be de-activated.
OSHA GUIDANCE FOR EMPLOYERS AND WORKPLACES
OSHA released guidance regarding best practices for virus infection control and risk management on March 6, 2020 entitled "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19." This guidance does not include any new standards or regulations but summarizes basic regulatory obligations and recommendations for the workplace.
The following is a generalized summary of the recommendations:
- To meet “social distancing” objectives, it is recommended that places of businesses extend their off-peak hours of operation and periods of work time to allow greater staggering and spacing of personnel.
- As of March 15, 2020, the CDC recommendation for events and gatherings is to limit groups to 50 people or less or 10 people or less for high risk groups (e.g. elderly). Refer to your specific state Governor’s requirements for specific mandated restrictions and additional recommendations.
- Minimum physical spacing of employees is a distance of 6 feet. Since the bioaersols released from breathing and talking can remain suspended for several hours, additional spacing is advisable, particularly if the employees spend a lot of time talking on the phone.
- Re-evaluate sick leave policies to assure that potentially sick employees are not encouraged to work.
- Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member.
- Do not require a healthcare provider’s notes for employees for either medical leaver or to return to work. We must maximize the capacity of healthcare providers to prioritize their resources for the ill.
- Employers should post reminder signage and document their implemented policies, procedures and training given to employees.
- Health and Safety program templates can be downloaded from the OSHA website: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines
- Employees with job descriptions that frequent close interactions should use disposables gloves, face masks and eye protection. Wearing safety glasses will also help limit employee hand to eye contact. In the event of a mask supply shortage, face shields may be available that will provide some protection. Be judicious in your purchases of protective equipment to reflect the risk levels of your employees. Over-protection is not recommended as supplies must be managed to assure that high exposure occupation can obtain the supplies that they need.
A more hygienic workplace environment can be provided by implementing the following:
- Review existing air filtration systems and install high-efficiency air filters if needed.
- Increasing general ventilation rates in the work environment. Set exhaust fans in restrooms, break rooms etc. to run constantly.
- Increase humidity if possible by building HVAC controls or portable humidifiers. One study of a hospital indicated that the viral infections spread more slowly in the hospital wings with higher humidity. The benefit is two-fold: less skin cells bearing the virus are shed at higher humidity and lung moisture reduces infections risk (one reason why colds and other infections are more common in the winter). A Relative Humidity of 70-75% is ideal.
- Assure that soap and water hand-washing facilities are convenient and close the work area.
- Limit or eliminate sharing of computers or other equipment or devices. However, there should be no fear of sharing objects that have been properly cleaned between uses.
- Survey and identify common touch points for frequent disinfection. These surfaces include door knobs, sink hardware, equipment handles, step stools and ladders.
- EPA-approved anti-viral disinfectants consist of a wide-range of cleaners that contain quaternary ammonium, bleach, lactic acid, peroxyacetic acids, hydrochloric acid, silver/citric acid, phenolics, thymol, octanoic acid and hydrogen peroxide -based products. In the event of retail shortages, you may be able to obtain concentrated chemicals from bulk suppliers. Alcohol-based cleaners are not recommended.
- Resist using heavy and broad applications of strong cleaning chemicals as a "quick fix" or a belief that residual will provide long-term protection. Frequent applications of mild cleaners constitutes a much better practice.
BEST PRACTICES IN EFFECT BY TRI-TECH DURING OUTBREAKS
Tri-Tech will be observing the following best practices as part of its routine business practices during outbreaks:
- Introductions and agreements will omit handshakes with bare hands.
- A portable cleaning solution will be used frequently and as needed on customer touch points involving contact of bare hands. Anti-viral micofiber wipes are transported for use with each project as needed.
- Cleaning of personal touch points such as car handles, shift levers and door handles between uses.
- Disinfection of equipment contact points such as the nose of the XRF lead paint analyzer
- Disposable rubber gloves will be utilized on all project worksites.
- Frequent soap and water usage.
- As a minimum, an N95 mask will be worn. Half-face respirator usage and eye protection may be used in high exposure risk scenarios.
- As a sole owner-operator of my business, I have designated generous sick leave and short-term medical leave benefits if needed. Working with evidence of respiratory illness is not an option.