COVID-19: How to Make a Decontamination Action Plan for the Workplace
Protect Your Workplace During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Keeping your workforce and facility safe and productive is prudent during a pandemic. If one or more of your employees is confirmed or suspected of contracting COVID-19, they might have already shed the virus at your facility. A quick decontamination response of facility equipment and workspace areas is essential in order to keep a safe work environment and a healthy workforce.
Follow these four key steps below to identify the risk to your workforce and to develop an effective coronavirus decontamination plan.
Step 1: Determine the COVID-19 Infection Timeline of Employee
One reason COVID-19 spreads so rapidly is that individuals can begin shedding the virus 2-3 days prior to showing any symptoms. If you have a confirmed or suspected case, you will want to try to identify when the employee was shedding virus.
- When was the Initial Point of Transmission?
Identify when and who from the office came in contact with the person confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19. Was it outside the workplace? Out in public? Make note, it takes two days from initial transmission for the virus to replicate and for an individual to begin actively shedding the virus.
- When was the initial onset of symptoms?
Mark the date he/she confirmed symptomatic. Most people begin shedding virus 2-3 days prior to demonstrating symptoms. In some cases, loss of smell or taste or sore throats have been reported as initial symptoms of COVID-19. Other symptoms from the CDC include fever, fatigue, chills, shortness of breath, headache and later a dry cough. It should be assumed an individual was shedding virus at your facility 2-3 days prior to the onset of symptoms.
If you are able to identify either the initial point of transmission or the initial onset of symptoms you can begin to identify when the live virus was shed at your facility.
Step 2: Identify Contaminated Workspace Areas and Equipment
Perform a contact tracing exercise at your facility to identify the location and equipment potentially contaminated. Start by interviewing the individual about the work activities they performed while the virus was being actively shed. Which areas did they visit? What equipment or tools did they handle? What activities did they perform?
It is believed that the primary route of transmission occurs through respiratory droplets that travel up to one meter (3.2 ft) from an individual. There is some evidence that the virus aerosols can travel as far as another 4 meters (totaling 13.1 ft). Use the contact tracing exercise to identify potentially contaminated areas and equipment.
The CDC recommends that any facility contaminated with coronavirus should be decontaminated up to 7 days from the initial contamination.
Step 3: Determine the Necessary Coronavirus Decontamination Methods
Now that you have identified potentially affected areas in your workplace, you will need to determine what type of coronavirus decontamination methods are needed to combat the virus. A COVID-19 decontamination is more complex than a simple cleaning or disinfection that most janitorial or cleaning operations offer. It is a targeted response that removes any transmission risks, leaving the workspace safe to re-occupy and objects safe to re-use. The CDC and EPA have provided guidance on how to achieve this.
- Cleaning: Areas should be cleaned first. Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt, grime, and germs. This process does NOT kill the coronavirus; however, the process does remove it and prepares the surface for disinfection. Cleaning often uses some sort of solvent such as soap to achieve cleanliness.
- Disinfection: Once an area is rendered clean, it should then be disinfected. Disinfectant does not necessarily clean a surface but does kill any remaining coronavirus. Coronavirus disinfection is much more effective if a surface is cleaned prior to disinfecting. The EPA has provided guidance on approved disinfectants. Products for coronavirus disinfection should be used as directed by the manufacturer.
- Surfaces: Current evidence suggests that the coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. The CDC has prescribed different decontamination methods for different surfaces (from hard surfaces to porous surfaces where coronavirus can survive). Additionally, lab settings and high-tech manufacturing areas with various types of specialized equipment may require different decontamination methods. Developing specific methods for each type of surface or equipment is essential to a safe and effective COVID-19 decontamination plan.
Depending on the methods being used to decontaminate, respiratory protection equipment may be necessary for the respondents. If so, the respondents must also be part of an OSHA respiratory protection plan that includes fit testing. Have questions about coronavirus disinfection plans or EHS support? Triumvirate can develop the appropriate decontamination plan tailored to your needs.
Step 4: Choose the Appropriate Decontamination Vendor
It is critical to be sure your decontamination service provider has the required training, experience, and capabilities to handle the complexities of a proper decontamination.
The CDC and OSHA require a host of OSHA safety training for any workers responding to a COVID-19 contaminated site. OSHA specifically requires the following training on:
- Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200)
- Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030)
- Proper Disposal of Regulated Waste, and PPE (29 CFR 1910.132)
The appropriate decontamination service provider can help you with the following key services:
- Decontamination of Virus-Infected Labs, Facilities & Workspaces
- COVID-19 Respiratory Protection
- COVID-19 Respirator Fit Testing
- COVID-19 PPE Training per CDC Guidelines
Finally, do not put cleaners or janitorial staff in a position where they are not trained or equipped to protect themselves. If your workplace has additional occupational hazards such as hazardous chemicals in a lab or a manufacturing setting with dangerous equipment or machinery, or confined space entries, additional safety training and protection may be required for employees conducting the decontamination.
Next Steps: Triumvirate Is YOUR COVID-19 Expert
Triumvirate can provide COVID-19 cleaning services for your workspace and equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, perform risk assessments, implement temperature screening programs, and much more.
To discuss your specific needs, click the link below to send us your contact details and we’ll get back to you, or call us directly at 888-834-9697.