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The Pandemic Is Changing How Facility Managers Deal With Floors

The Pandemic Is Changing How Facility Managers Deal With Floors

It's no secret that facilities that see a lot of traffic pose the highest risk of infection, whether you're talking about the common cold, or something as serious as COVID-19. Many sanitizing procedures deal with common contact surfaces, like countertops, door handles, and plumbing fixtures, with the understanding that people are very likely to touch a surface and then accidentally rub their eyes or touch their faces. Floors pose their own dangers, however, as dirt, bacteria, and viruses get tracked in from outside. One study found that pathogens could easily be transmitted from a contaminated floor to adjacent furniture, particularly after people removed their footwear and proceeded to touch objects in the room. Facility managers are responding to this by changing the way they handle everything from floor cleaning to the flooring itself.

Why switch to non-porous floors?

Anyone who has ever had to pull up carpeting can vouch for the fact that it's often deceptively dirty. Even well-maintained carpets can end up with dirt or liquids trapped where regular vacuuming and shampooing can't reach them, only to release particles back into the air. Bacteria also love places with ample surface area to grow on, and carpeting provides plenty of it. For this reason, many facility managers are making the switch to hard, non-porous flooring. With less surface area and fewer tiny spaces to trap grime, they are an easier-to-maintain and more hygienic option. That said, the type of non-porous flooring matters.

Seamless vs. Tiled Floors

Some flooring is seamless, meaning that it consists of one piece. Other flooring types, like tile, has to be pieced together. The difference might seem small, but it can become significant -- while all non-porous flooring is easy to clean and sanitize on the surface, the tiny gaps between pieces can be very difficult to keep clean. Tile flooring is attractive, but it requires grout, which is porous and notorious for trapping grime. Textured tile can also have small gaps or spaces worked into the design of the tile itself, which increases its surface area and creates spaces that trap debris. While all of these options are still less porous and easier to sanitize than carpeting, seamless flooring is less hospitable to germs than pieced-together flooring. Unlike many other types of floors, tile can be applied to walls as well. This can create a less porous surface than wallpaper, fabric, or eggshell paint, but, as mentioned above, still has some areas that are vulnerable to harboring pathogens.

Scrubbing, Disinfection, Wear and Tear

Another thing to consider is the amount of wear and tear a given floor is likely to receive. Under normal conditions, most floors get a regular mopping and an occasional scrub, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that. Now, facility maintenance workers have to clean more often, using disinfectants that prioritize germicidal activity over gentleness. For some floors, particularly vinyl and laminate, that can mean that the flooring ends up worn down faster. The coating can also strip off, leaving a more porous surface behind.

The Case for Epoxy and Urethane

Resinous flooring made of epoxy or urethane creates a seamless, non-porous surface that can even be extended to walls, making an entire room easy to sanitize. It's very easy to maintain, with virtually no small spaces to trap germs or dirt -- even gaps between the floor and the walls can be covered with cove base molding. In addition to liquids, epoxy floors are also resistant to shock and fire. Because of its durability, resinous flooring is very often used in factories, warehouses, garages, and the like. This gives it an industrial connotation that may not be aesthetically desirable in other facilities, though it is possible to change its appearance by mixing in various pigments. Urethane and epoxy can also be slippery unless they are texturized, but adding too much texture creates areas for bacteria to hide.

When to Choose Carpeting

Carpets still have their place, even if they do require some extra care. Soft surfaces help soften the acoustics of a room and give it a warmer, cozier appearance. For this reason, it may benefit hotel rooms, waiting rooms, and other areas where people tend to spend more time. For areas where the pros of soft flooring outweigh the risks, it may be a good idea to switch from wall-to-wall carpeting to a large area rug. Unlike carpets, rugs can be picked up and professionally cleaned, and won't trap grime between the backing and the subfloor. Post-COVID-19, facility managers are looking for options that make things as safe as possible for their tenants, visitors, and employees, and as easy to maintain as possible. Considering how often surfaces needed to be cleaned, flooring that takes hours to thoroughly disinfect isn't a viable option. Switching to non-porous floors of any type provides several advantages over carpeting, though carpeting will always have a home where it's softening, warming, and sound-dampening properties are desired.

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Access Control Procedure & Policy Tips For Facility Managers

Access Control Procedure & Policy Tips For Facility Managers

One key strategy for protecting employee and guest health is keeping pathogens out of a facility. The best way to do this is by rigorously controlling who can come and go, though this isn't always an easy task. Most businesses are used to limiting access to protect their equipment, employees, and intellectual property from things like theft, sabotage, and violence, not viruses. Here are some tips for making sure that people who may be sick -- including carriers of COVID-19 -- are prevented from accessing your building:

1. Create a solid (and legal) access policy.

The first thing any facility manager should do is implement a way to determine who is and isn't allowed in, and how that determination is made. Will all visitors have to pass a temperature check? What is required for someone to come back after they are sent home? If you choose to use a temperature check, what number will you consider a fever? The CDC defines a fever as over 100.4° F. Some states consider a fever anything over 99.5° F. Some places turn away anyone with a temperature over 100° F. After forming a plan, run it past the company's legal department. There are several ways that these policies can end up doing more harm than good -- they may infringe on employee's rights. You may be required to inform tenants or employees that you will be collecting protected information. If you plan to employ security guards to turn away potentially infected people, follow all OSHA guidelines regarding proper protective equipment. Ensure that whatever procedures you choose to put in place are legally sound and consistently enforced without bias. It's also important to inform employees, visitors, and tenants of any policy changes verbally, then follow with a written notice. Emails, regular mail, and signage can all help here. Be sure to include a phone number that they can call if they need help with compliance.

2. Consider adding a temperature checkpoint.

A fever is a pretty reliable indicator of illness, though it isn't the only one. People can run a fever without realizing it, or try to come to work regardless if they don't show other symptoms. Some facilities use security guards equipped with non-contact infrared thermometers, and instructions to turn away people whose readings are abnormal. Other options include biometric temperature monitors connected to door locks. One potential avenue is to equip an entryway with a thermal camera -- if a visitor reads as having a fever, the door will not open. Some companies specializing in touchless access point control are adding thermal sensors to their lines. A fire department in Duxbury, Massachusetts, uses wearables to continuously track vital signs.

3. Know what to do when visitors fail to pass the checkpoint.

It's understandable that someone might be upset at being asked to leave after failing a temperature check. For this reason, it may be a good idea to perform two or three checks a few minutes apart -- if all of them fail, the person must go home. This must be handled discreetly, to protect the person's privacy. If the person is an employee, make sure they know that they can be subject to disciplinary measures for refusing to go home. Follow up with them afterward, outlining what is necessary for the tenant or employee to return. If someone refuses to leave, consider your options. If you provide accommodation to one person, you must be prepared to provide it to everyone. You may have to threaten a belligerent person with termination (if they're an employee) or legal action.

4. Have a procedure for dealing with high traffic times.

Checkpoints create a bottleneck, and this can make it difficult to keep things efficient and streamlined. Pay employees for the time they spend waiting and being screened. Make sure all available entrances are open and able to be used, so not everyone is crowded near one door.

5. Have a procedure for handling deliveries, visitors, and messages.

Visitors and delivery people generally aren't in a company's access database. They don't have badges, so this can make them difficult to keep track of. Create a policy that determines who is allowed to enter, whether they should be accompanied through the building by an employee, and how to handle cleaning and disinfection afterward.

6. Consider adding new tech to your arsenal.

COVID-19 has exposed a lot of vulnerabilities that businesses and facility managers just weren't aware of before, and tech is rapidly moving to take care of them. Cloud-based access control systems allow facility managers to work remotely, granting or restricting access as-needed without having to be in the building. Some biometric access technology now includes mask-detection. Safe Scan by Optec International, for example, scans for elevated temperature and mask-wearing and can scan up to forty faces per minute. Access control has always been about safety, but it's only recently become about illness prevention. By using these tips, facility managers can restrict access to their buildings, protecting everyone inside from potentially dangerous pathogens.

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Airborne Coronavirus and Your Building's HVAC System

Airborne Coronavirus and Your Building's HVAC System

Amid all of the discussion of mask policies and sanitization, one area often gets overlooked: the HVAC system. Research has shown that the novel coronavirus is much more likely to infect people in a confined, poorly-ventilated space than it is outdoors. What can you do to make sure the air in your facility is clean?

How does SARS-CoV-2 spread?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus responsible for COVID-19 primarily spreads through person-to-person contact. This means that if an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or otherwise sheds respiratory droplets, and these droplets get into the eyes, nose, or mouth of an uninfected person, that uninfected person can become infected. There's also reason to believe that an uninfected person may pick up the virus by touching a contaminated surface, then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. While the CDC hasn't indicated that airborne transmission is a major risk, they acknowledge that one of the most important things that facility managers and employers can do is improve building ventilation. Dr. Fauci has also said that airborne transmission is "something that we can't completely rule out." In mid-July, the World Health Organization updated a scientific brief to say that reports of COVID-19 outbreaks in closed settings, such as bars, churches, and restaurants, indicates that airborne transmission may be possible.

Are HVAC systems responsible for circulating the virus?

A study by the University of Oregon found the SARS-CoV-2 virus present in 25% of the vents in hospital rooms that saw COVID-19 patients, suggesting that indoor ventilation systems can potentially contribute to the spread of the virus. It's not yet fully understood exactly how much of a risk they pose, but one thing is for certain -- poorly-ventilated indoor spaces are correlated with spikes in COVID-19. Even if HVAC systems aren't found to be responsible for circulating the virus themselves, they can still help mitigate the risk of infection.

How can HVAC systems prevent the spread?

Proper filtration is one crucial element of cleaning any potential viral particles from the air. Filters are generally measured in Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV). The higher the MERV rating, the more efficient the filter. As filter efficiency increases, it requires more energy for the system to force air through it. This is why most commercial systems don't use the highest-rated filters that they possibly can -- they trade energy efficiency for filtration efficiency. If possible, HVAC systems should use a HEPA filter. If not, they should use the highest MERV filter they can handle. UV lighting units can also help sanitize air. These can be installed in the ventilation system itself, treating the air as it passes through. New advances in specific UV wavelengths show some very promising results when it comes to inactivating the novel coronavirus. Humidity control is another important factor. Maintaining a level of 40-60% humidity can help decrease the risk of infection for the building's occupants.

Are there new technologies that can help HVAC systems keep the air cleaner?

New UV sterilization systems that employ UV-C can help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. While germicidal UV units have been in use for a long time, interest in UV-C is relatively new. UV-C is one of the types of ultraviolet light that the sun gives off, but gets filtered out by the ozone layer before it can reach the Earth. It's a good thing, too -- in addition to inactivating viruses, it can also cause serious harm to living cells. This is what makes it perfect for use in an HVAC unit. It can sanitize the air, without coming into contact with any occupants.

How are some employers and facility managers handling the situation?

In many cases, they're trading sustainability for employee health. Not only are they switching to filters with a higher MERV rating, but they're also increasing the number of times indoor spaces get "flushed" with outdoor air. If flushing isn't an option, increasing the air change rate can still help. Some are also creating more separation within buildings, by isolating areas and setting up smaller HVAC units. This keeps air from mixing as easily, so, if there's an outbreak, it is easier to confine to one area. In old buildings without central HVAC units, facility managers are bringing in fans and opening windows to bring in as much outdoor air as possible. When it comes to protecting employees and guests from SARS-CoV-2, improving ventilation is key. Even though we don't yet fully understand all of the ways it's possible to transmit the novel coronavirus, data shows that crowded, poorly-ventilated areas quickly turn into hotbeds. By increasing the air change rate, bringing in as much outdoor air as possible, controlling humidity, isolating areas, and installing UV units and better filters, facility managers can help keep the air as virus-free as possible.

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Office Space Planning For The "New Normal"

Office Space Planning For The

As more people return to the workplace after working from home, it raises a number of questions for owners, facility managers, and employees alike. Workers want to know if their buildings are going to make them ill. Owners want to know if they can keep their businesses open without having to worry about shutting down due to an outbreak. Facility managers want to know how to allay everyone's fears.

COVID-19 has forced us to reimagine what a workspace looks like. For many people, wearing masks and staying at least six feet away from others has become second nature. How is this "new normal" going to impact office space planning?

1. Reduced capacity.

Before the novel coronavirus, offices were planned for efficiency. Now, health is the number one priority. Following the CDC and WHO recommendations that people stay six feet away from each other, modern office spaces will shift to accommodate. Rooms will, by necessity, become lower capacity as facility managers move desks and conference seating to allow for space.

2. Changes in traffic flow.

Part of maintaining space between employees involves changing the way they navigate office spaces. If two people are walking toward each other, there comes a point where it's impossible to maintain a safe amount of distance.

In addition to changes in policy, this is going to lead to a shift in office layout. Avoiding sickness relies heavily on employee behaviors, but office planning can help change those behaviors. Some layouts make it easier to reinforce one-way navigation, and more and more offices are going to adopt them.

3. Changes in meeting spaces.

In the past, it was common practice for employees to hold meetings in their offices. Now, that may not be safe or comfortable for everyone involved -- offices are enclosed spaces, and disinfecting between meetings can create disruptive pauses in the middle of the workday. In the future, we're likely to see a new type of common room emerge: a room furnished with easy-to-sanitize materials and treated as an auxiliary office space just for holding meetings. These rooms could be thoroughly cleaned between uses, allowing employees the disruption-free space and atmosphere they need, while keeping everyone safe.

4. Touchless environments.

Washing your hands frequently, wearing gloves, using hand sanitizer, and not touching your face help keep you from contracting the novel coronavirus, but touchless environments are even better. They keep employees from coming into contact with each other's pathogens in the first place, so proper hygiene becomes added insurance against infection.

Increases in the automation of everything from doors to bathrooms, to HVAC systems help reduce the number of touchpoints in an office, thereby reducing the chance of a COVID-19 outbreak. In the near future, modern office buildings will be designed with minimal contact in mind, including the integration of app-based technologies to allow employees to enter, exit, adjust the lighting, open the blinds, and everything we currently rely on touch-based controls to do.

5. More flexible spaces.

Research has shown that fresh air and sunlight make it more difficult to contract COVID-19, and sealed-up buildings can develop sick building syndrome at the best of times. Modern office plans are probably going to become more of a compromise between the two -- offering increased fresh air and light, and flexible indoor-outdoor spaces for employees to work.

Before this, building design largely emphasized energy efficiency. This shift represents a compromise between saving energy and being healthy and more appealing. Fresh air spaces don't just reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, they can entice remote workers to spend time at the office. This is important for maintaining a solid company culture; even employees who spend 90% of their time working from home benefit from a shared space for collaboration.

6. New furniture.

Studies show that the novel coronavirus is capable of surviving on certain surfaces, like glass and some metals, for up to 5 days. While surfaces aren't considered as important as airborne droplets in terms of transmitting the disease, choosing furnishings that are inhospitable to viruses and easy to clean is still important for maintaining a safe, healthy building. Materials like copper and aluminum, two of the least hospitable to SARS-CoV-2, are likely to become more popular in the future. We may also see the emergence of office furniture treated with continuously active antiviral coatings. While these coatings are still in the experimental stage, they have shown virus-inhibiting activity for 90 days at a time. That makes them a valuable addition to modern office furniture, doors, elevators, and other furnishings.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, has changed everything about the way we live and work. Even with a vaccine and improved treatment for this disease, it's going to be with us for a while. By adjusting office planning and culture to accommodate social distancing and employee safety, facility managers can ensure that workers stay safe, and businesses stay open.

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Restroom Operation Tips For Facility and Property Managers

Restroom Operation Tips For Facility and Property Managers

Restrooms are important for the comfort of employees and visitors, but can also require a lot of time and resources to keep clean, stocked, and maintained. The novel coronavirus has made an enormous impact on how people react when confronted with the possibility of infection, and this has caused many to view public restrooms with suspicion. As a place that potentially hundreds of people may visit daily, touching everything from door handles, to counter spaces, to toilet handles, public restrooms represent a significant possible source of surface-transmitted infection. Here are some ways that facility and property managers can make their restroom areas as safe, clean, and reassuring as possible:

1. Train employees to avoid cross-contamination and use cleaning tools appropriately.

There are a lot of disinfectants that are approved for eliminating the novel coronavirus on surfaces, but they only work as long as users are able to follow instructions. Some need to be applied on surfaces and allowed to work for ten minutes, and can't do their job if a maintenance worker is in too much of a rush to give them time. Make sure staff members understand the importance of following usage instructions to the letter, cleaning frequently, and taking steps to avoid cross-contamination. Some facilities achieve the latter by using color-coded reusable cleaning rags, saving one color for handles, another for windows, another for toilets and urinals, and another for surfaces like tables and counters.

2. Take advantage of low traffic times.

Every facility has peak usage hours, and times when things slow down a bit. Document when restrooms are likely to see few visitors, then use that time to schedule deep cleanings. Restrooms should receive regular disinfection at least once a day, in addition to regular deep cleaning to tackle spaces that may have been missed, hard-to-reach areas, or spots that get a lot of traffic.

3. Post signage.

Hand sanitizer is great in a pinch, but hand washing is more effective -- as long as it's done properly. Posting a helpful reminder of proper hand washing techniques can increase handwashing by up to 40%, according to The Healthy Hand Washing Survey by Bradley Corp. Signs can also help restrict the maximum occupancy of restrooms, making it easier to socially distance. Signs don't just let employees and guests know what to do, they show that you take their health seriously and are working to protect them.

4. Enforce social distancing.

Placing tape or plastic bags over urinals, or even physically locking bathroom stalls, can help users maintain social distancing. With fewer fixtures to choose from, guests will be forced to use ones that aren't adjacent to each other, reducing the risk of person-to-person coronavirus transmission. This also reduces the number of fixtures that need attention from employees, saving time, and helping to streamline routine cleaning and disinfection.

5. Provide hand sanitizing stations near exits.

After a guest has washed their hands, they may still need to touch the sink, hand dryer, paper towel dispenser, or door handle before leaving. Providing a space for them to use hand sanitizer afterward can help keep them from picking up pathogens from these surfaces, and either getting sick or carrying them to another surface. Roughly 65% of people use paper towels to avoid touching these surfaces, so providing a trash can for them to dispose of used towels can help keep things neat.

6. Upgrade to touchless fixtures.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and all the cleaning and disinfecting in the world can only do so much. Since it's not feasible to thoroughly sanitize a restroom after each visitor, especially during peak usage times, touchless fixtures can offer guests a way to do what they need to do, while coming into contact with as few surfaces as possible. Hands-free washrooms are safer for guests and require fewer resources to sanitize.

7. Keep doors open.

While having touchless sinks, hand dryers, and toilets is great, there's still one spot that few guests can avoid touching: the door. Since touchless doors aren't a practical solution here, the next best thing is to keep them propped open. This keeps guests from having to touch the door with their hands to enter or exit, and allows them to gauge how many people are inside. This eliminates another key touchpoint and lets guests follow occupancy limits and socially distance more effectively.

Restrooms are a necessary evil. They require a lot of time and energy to keep clean and stocked, and, in a post-pandemic world, properly disinfected. Few guests look forward to visiting a public restroom, especially now. With these tips, facility and property managers can help improve their disinfection, protect their guests and employees, and ensure that their restrooms are as safe, clean, and welcoming as possible.

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Long Island's Plan For Reopening: What Facility Managers Need To Know

Long Island's Plan For Reopening: What Facility Managers Need To Know

As Long Island begins the process of reopening, it's important to have a solid plan in place -- not just at the federal, state, and local levels, but on an individual level. Before they attempt to reopen, facility managers should have their ducks in a row to make the process as smooth and painless as possible. Here's what we know about the phased reopening process (and what we don't):

What We Know

New York is planning to reopen in stages. Right now, Phase 1 of the reopening plan consists of manufacturing, construction, wholesale facilities, certain retail establishments with curbside pickup, landscape and gardening companies, low-risk outdoor recreation, and drive-in movies. This phase is expected to last about two weeks. Governor Andrew Cuomo's office has laid out seven criteria that areas need to meet in order to qualify for Phase 1 of the reopening plan. This is designed to keep tabs on the state's ability to contain existing outbreaks, as well as to weather a possible second wave of infections. The criteria are:

  • A 14-day long sustained decline in hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations (averaged over three days) due to COVID-19.
  • A 14-day long decline in COVID-19-related hospital deaths or under five new deaths (averaged over three days).
  • Fewer than two new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.
  • 30% or more of a region's hospital beds must be available.
  • 30% or more of a region's ICU beds must be available.
  • The capacity to conduct at least 30 COVID-19 tests per 100,000 residents monthly.
  • Must have at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents, depending on the region's infection rate.

As of two weeks ago, Nassau and Suffolk county still fell short of these metrics. Right now, the number of hospital deaths has not been steadily declining, and there are still too many new hospitalizations for the areas to qualify. However, while Long Island still misses the mark, it's just barely -- the region saw an average of 3.06 new hospitalizations. According to the most recent data, Long Island also saw six days of declining hospital deaths with an average of 13 hospital deaths per day across the last three days.

As of this writing, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to use technology and limit train capacity in order to safely bring passengers back to the Long Island Rail Road, and Long Beach plans to reopen its boardwalk to city residents only. After evaluating the effects of Phase 1 comes Phase 2, at which point more businesses, including real estate firms, more retailers, and professional services, may reopen. Phase 3 allows bars, hotels, and restaurants to reopen. Lastly, during Phase 4, schools and entertainment venues (like cinemas and theaters) can resume operations.

What We Don't Know

It's important to highlight that the phased reopening process is designed to gather data just as much as it is to protect the public. While it relies on seven criteria that indicate a favorable turn in the spread of the virus, it's also designed with an uncertain future in mind. That means that there's still a lot that we don't know yet. It's anticipated that areas with lower population density, like upstate New York, are going to reopen first. Lower New York, which has a much higher population density, is expected to take longer. While the criteria put forth gives a solid idea of what these regions need to achieve before they can open, there's really no timeline.

Reopening depends entirely on its ability to curb infections and have enough medical capacity to deal with the emergence of new ones. This is going to take however long it takes, and can't be rushed. The original plan to shut down New York expired on May 15th, but many areas aren't ready to open just yet. As a result, the plan has been extended to the 28th. Right now, data on Long Island's hospitalizations and hospital deaths is still being gathered and evaluated. A fairly recent upswing in cases of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization set the region back, so, despite the current decline, Long Island officials are not yet sure when the region can enter Phase 1.

Where to Go for Help

Here are some resources for facility managers looking for more detailed information for their specific regions: The Nassau County Department of Health Phone: 516-227-9500 The Suffolk County Department of Health Services Phone: 631-854-0000 The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (for Kings and Queens county) Phone: 347-396-4100 The NYC COVID-19 Response Map Coronavirus Hotline: 888-364-3065 With experts predicting a resurgence of COVID-19, reopening needs to proceed with an abundance of caution. While Long Island hasn't quite met all of the criteria for entering Phase 1 of New York's reopening plan, it's getting close. Facility managers should be ready to proceed according to the plan, with risk management strategies in place to deal with the potential for new infections.

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5 Steps Every Facility Manager Should Take Before Reopening

5 Steps Every Facility Manager Should Take Before Reopening

As COVID-19 cases begin to plateau in some areas, states have begun to test out reopening strategies. This has left a lot of business owners wondering if what they're doing is enough to keep them, their clients, and their employees safe. If you manage a facility, you're likely in the same boat. Here are 5 steps you can take to make sure that your reopening goes as smoothly and safely as possible.

1. Confirm your plans with your local government, legal team, or any other relevant authorities.

Make sure your company is following the most current guidelines by confirming your intent to reopen with your local government. In some cases, your building may require a new certificate of occupancy -- address this first, so you don't have to scramble to fix any legal red tape later on.

Once you've created a re-opening plan, it may need approval from other departments in your company. Risk and audit teams, legal teams, security, and human resources should all be kept apprised of any plans to reopen, new policies, or updates to existing ones. They can help ensure that everything is structured appropriately, so you won't be held liable for any missteps in the reopening process.

2. Perform a deep clean, and reassess current cleaning procedures and cleanliness standards.

No matter how clean a place might have been before shuttering, dust inevitably begins to settle and pests might even try to move in. Before reopening, it's imperative that facilities conduct a thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning, followed by a long look at their current cleaning procedures. Cleaning products should be swapped out for those that contain EPA-approved disinfectants that are effective against the novel coronavirus, cleanliness standards should meet CDC guidelines, and facility managers should consider including extra measures (like UV sanitizers) in their protocols.

This is also a good time to double-check your supply chain. Are you able to get all of the supplies you need? Are any of your suppliers in hotspots that might threaten product availability? Have backup plans in place in case you aren't able to source necessary items from your current suppliers, so you aren't left having to go without and putting your workers and guests at risk.

3. Create tighter social distancing policies.

Should you require employees to have their temperatures checked before entering the building? Will you require visitors to wear masks? Will you need to move furniture in order to accommodate six feet of social distancing? Depending on the nature of your business, you will need to create, update, or change your business' social distancing policies. If your policy requires masks and gloves, make sure that employees know how to wear, clean, and dispose of their protective gear properly.

Infrared thermometer guns can check employees' and visitors' temperatures in seconds, and sanitizer stations can offer hand sanitizer, wipes, gloves, and even disposable masks if needed. Look for touch-free sanitizer dispensers, so guests don't have to come in contact with a potentially contaminated surface. At a time when many people feel squeamish about touching things, this will help make it easier for visitors to stay in compliance with hand sanitizing guidelines.

4. Have a plan in place if something goes wrong.

The novel coronavirus is tricky -- with the length of its incubation period and the number of asymptomatic carriers, it can be very difficult to tell who's carrying a threat and who isn't. Even the best-prepared facility might experience a case of COVID-19. Create a plan to address this before it happens. Make sure employees know how the virus is spread, understand the signs and symptoms, and have adequate sick leave. Check-in with your employees frequently, so you can address any concerns and adjust your policies and protocols as needed.

Right now, reopening is still very experimental, and there's a significant chance that businesses may need to temporarily close again. Create or confirm procedures that will allow you to close quickly if you need to. Set up building shutdown policies with your security department.

5. Increase visibility.

Chances are, your employees, tenants, and guests have some reservations about reopening. This is natural. Help put them at ease by increasing the visibility of your reopening procedures. Place signs reminding people of social distancing policies and the proper way to wash hands, apply hand sanitizer and use masks and gloves. Have workers clean while visitors are present to put guests' minds at ease. Send a letter to the building's occupants to let them know all of the steps you're taking to protect them.

While staying closed and unable to earn an income is frightening to employers and employees alike, reopening is very intimidating, too. Having a comprehensive, legally sound reopening procedure can go a long way to allaying these fears. Tighten cleanliness standards, update cleaning guidelines, put social distancing policies in place, and make sure employees and visitors alike know what's expected of them, and you'll be on the road to reopening.

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How Facilities Can Use Ultraviolet Light To Kill COVID-19

How Facilities Can Use Ultraviolet Light To Kill COVID-19

Most pathogens that infect humans or animals have a pretty narrow range of tolerance. Change the pH, moisture level, or amount of light in their environment, and they either die or can't reproduce. While there's a limit to how we can exploit this within the human body, disinfecting surfaces and objects is a lot less complicated. For managers looking to keep their facilities clean and sanitary, that's where ultraviolet light comes in.

How UV Light Kills Pathogens

Ultraviolet germicidal radiation kills pathogens using short-wavelength ultraviolet light (UVC). Though viruses aren't technically alive and therefore can't actually be killed, UVC damages their nucleic acids, inactivating them. This method can be used to effectively disinfect water, air, and even hard or soft surfaces.

The Drawbacks of UVC Disinfection

Anything that kills pathogens can also harm human or animal cells, so it's very important to follow certain safety considerations. UVC light should only be used in unoccupied rooms since it can damage eyes and skin. It also doesn't have a residual effect and can take a long time for maximum effectiveness -- sometimes an hour or more depending on the size of the room. This can make using UVC a challenge, but some companies are working on technology to make it faster, safer, and more convenient.

Far-UVC and Upper-room Devices

Since the main problem with UVC is that it can't be used in occupied spaces, researchers at Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research put forth the idea that far-UVC might be a safer option. Since far-UVC theoretically can't penetrate the skin, it should be able to kill or inactivate pathogens without causing harm to multicellular organisms. Several companies are working on prototyping far-UVC sanitizers, but FDA approval of this technology is still pending.

One alternative is upper-room ultraviolet disinfection. This uses UVC lighting placed seven feet above the floor, so it doesn't come in contact with the room's occupants. As the light kills viruses and bacteria in the air above, fans or other ventilation equipment mixes this cleaned air with contaminated air from below. This helps the light decrease the room's pathogen load. Since it still uses conventional UVC lighting, the fixtures must be turned off if anyone has to work near the ceiling in order to prevent cell damage.

Portable UV Devices

For most facilities that don't require clean room-levels of sanitation, there are portable devices on the market for disinfecting everything from cellphones, to rooms. Portable UV wands direct UV lighting down toward a surface, so they can be waved over desks, chairs, phones, anything else without too many nooks and crannies. These devices take a few seconds of exposure in order to be effective, so it's important to move them very slowly for the best results. It's also important for users to avoid looking directly at the light or pointing it at other people.

There are also UV lamps and bulbs that can disinfect entire rooms. Most of these are fixtures that simply need to be set up in a space, plugged in, and left alone. In about forty-five minutes to an hour, the pathogen load of the room will have significantly decreased. UV bulbs work much the same way but can be screwed into any conventional light fixture. Even if the light is unable to reach every corner or shadowed spot in a space, natural air movement will help ensure that the pathogen load is reduced as sanitized air mixes with contaminated air. As with other room-sized UV devices, these should only ever be used in unoccupied areas.

UV sterilizer boxes are similar to portable UV wands but in a container. Small items, like phones, pens, glasses, or other handheld objects can be placed inside and allowed to disinfect, without any potential for harm to anyone in the room. The box completely contains the light, so there's no danger of cellular damage outside.

The LightStrike Robot

Recently, the San Antonio-based robotics company Xenex Disinfection Services managed to prove that their Lightstrike Robot can sterilize a room contaminated with the novel coronavirus. The robot works by using xenon lamps that create bursts of intense light at brief intervals. To test it, researchers placed it in a lab where several surfaces had been contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19. They allowed the robot to run at one, two, and five-minute intervals, testing the remaining amount of the virus after each. The results showed that it took the LightStrike robot about two minutes to inactivate 99.99% of the virus on both hard and soft surfaces. At the moment, the LightStrike robot costs about $100,000 to buy, but the company also provides leasing options.

Ultraviolet lighting can take care of bacteria and viruses -- even the virus that causes COVID-19 -- by damaging their nucleic acids. With a good ultraviolet device and some basic safety considerations, facility managers can take advantage of this to keep their businesses clean and employees and clients safe and happy.

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COVID-19 Resources For Long Island Facility Managers

COVID-10 Resources For Long Island Facility Managers

Our understanding of COVID-19 shifts from day to day as doctors and researchers gain a better understanding of this novel virus. Keeping a facility up and running poses enough challenges on an average day as it is, so it is understandable that these circumstances have thrown facility managers for a loop. Here are some resources for Long Island facility managers, property managers, and business owners to help you keep your facilities running safely and smoothly during the pandemic:

OSHA's “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a 32-page guide that explains how an outbreak of COVID-19 could impact business and offers information on symptoms and transmission. It also outlines steps employers can take to minimize the danger to their workers, depending on their level of exposure risk (low, medium, or high), with special instructions for workers traveling abroad.

OSHA's COVID-19 Safety and Health Topic

The COVID-19 page on the United States Department of Labor website explains how the virus spreads, and how OSHA standards apply when it comes to protecting employees from the virus. It provides tips for employers and employees alike, with specific guidance for employees of certain industries. This is a must-read for managers of healthcare or deathcare facilities, laboratories, or sanitation facilities.

The CDC's "Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)"

This COVID-19 guide by the Centers for Disease Control provides guidance on cleaning and disinfection and social distancing, designed for non-healthcare settings. It explains how to reduce the risk of transmission between employees, maintain healthy business operations, and keep up a healthy work environment.

The CDC's Long-Term Care and Other Residential Facilities Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist

Long-term care and residential facilities often house the people most vulnerable to illnesses like COVID-19. This pandemic planning checklist highlights important areas for pandemic preparedness and response planning, geared specifically to the challenges these facilities face.

The WHO's "Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19"

The World Health Organization has also released a COVID-19 guide for businesses. It outlines ways to prevent the spread of the virus, managing risks in group settings like meetings, managing risks during travel, and preparing your facility for a local outbreak.

The IFMA's Pandemic Preparedness Manual

The International Facility Management Association's Pandemic Preparedness Manual covers instructions for maintaining business continuity, planning checklists, response checklists, and instructions for controlling and mitigating the spread of a viral outbreak. Though the information is geared toward avian influenza, much of it is applicable to other viruses.

New York State Department of Health

The NYS Department of Health COVID-19 website explains which businesses are experiencing mandatory closures, and links to guidance for businesses considered essential services. This is intended to help employers determine if they meet the criteria for an essential business, and follow the necessary steps to obtain the designation.

COVID-19 Resources within Nassau County

Nassau County has a dedicated coronavirus hotline at (516) 227-9570. The Nassau County COVID-19 website provides helpful infographics with instructions for applying for aid, important links and numbers for Nassau-area individuals and businesses, and simple instructions for limiting the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 Resources within Suffolk County

Suffolk County also has a COVID-19 resources portal, with the most up-to-date news on cases within the county, information from the CDC, and links to guidance for individuals who may have come in contact with a carrier.

The ISSA's "Coronavirus: Prevention and Control for the Cleaning Industry"

The International Sanitary Supply Association offers webinars by the Global BioRisk Advisory Council, tip sheets, and information geared toward those employers that work within the cleaning industry.

The EPA’s List of Anti-COVID-19 Disinfectants

Not all cleaners are effective against viruses, COVID-19 included. When purchasing a disinfectant to combat a specific disease-causing agent, it's important to cross-reference it with the products on the EPA's recognized anti-COVID disinfectants list. This list gives the registration numbers, product names, manufacturers, and formulation types of all of the currently recognized anti-COVID disinfectants.

Dealing With Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a Facility Manager Whitepaper

This Dealing With Coronavirus Whitepaper is written for facility managers, to offer guidance on how to prevent, contain, and mitigate outbreaks in the workplace. It covers reducing the number of workers, increasing the distance between workers, disinfection strategies, and keeping everyone in the loop.

This novel coronavirus is presenting challenges that are testing the limits of everyone's disaster preparedness plans. If you are a facility manager in New York state, these resources can help you keep your employees, clients, and guests as safe and healthy as possible.

Work At Home Checklist For Employers

This Work At Home Checklist is a handy reference for employers working to maintain business continuity by having employees telework.

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How Facility Managers Should Be Responding to Coronavirus

How Facility Managers Should Be Responding to Coronavirus

The emergence of any new disease is scary, especially when there's a lot of misinformation circulating about it. Right now, officials in the U.S. and overseas are talking about closing down schools and other public places in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and it has facility managers rightfully concerned. Here's what you should be doing to help keep yourself, your employees, and your visitors safe:

Enforce hand washing protocols.

The news is full of stories about stores running out of antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, and even masks, but the best defense against diseases like influenza and COVID-19 is regular old hand washing. Coronavirus is believed to be transmitted through contact with respiratory secretions. Train employees in proper handwashing techniques, post new signage as a reminder and make sure bathrooms are properly stocked with soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Encourage sick employees to stay home.

It's a sad fact that many people don't feel that they are able to stay home to rest when they are ill. Avoid scheduling any shifts that can't absorb a loss or two if someone needs some sick time, and make sure employees know that they can and should leave work or stay home if they begin experiencing upper respiratory symptoms. If sick employees insist on coming in anyway, send them home. The minor addition to productivity they would bring is not worth jeopardizing the rest of your employees, tenants, or visitors. This is especially true of workers in hospitals, nursing homes, or other areas with a high concentration of potentially vulnerable people.

Review sick leave policies.

One of the biggest reasons that sick people don't stay home is that they fear being penalized for doing so. Go over your company's sick leave and paid time off policies, and make sure that employees aren't in a position that disincentivizes reporting symptoms or responsibly taking sick leave. Put policies in place that cover furloughs or workplace closure.

Promote good coughing or sneezing hygiene.

If you are managing a store or office building, your visitors and tenants may not have the things they need to prevent infection, so provide them -- within reasonable expectations. Set up stations with hand sanitizer, disposable tissues, and a wastebasket, and keep them stocked and cleaned. If you are managing a hospital, keep stations stocked with masks, and post signage encouraging anyone with respiratory symptoms to use them. Masks don't protect the wearer very well, but they are excellent at protecting others from the wearer.

Go over cleaning procedures.

Contaminated surfaces can transmit illness when people touch them and then touch their eyes, mouths, or noses. Make sure your policies outline the procedure for sanitizing each area of the facility, what products need to be used, and protocol for avoiding cross-contamination. Make sure that any disinfectant products used have EPA-approved claims against bacteria and viruses of concern. There haven't been any tests specifically on COVID-19 yet, but the EPA's Emerging Virus Protocol offers information on products that are effective on similar pathogens.

Keep some extra inventory on hand.

It's not a good idea to hoard supplies, but it's reasonable to expect some supply chain disruption. Public health experts recommend that households have some extra non-perishable staples on hand in case of store closures or problems restocking, and this can be extrapolated to facilities, too. Take inventory on your most-used supplies, and stock 10-15% extra. It should be enough to get you through a minor disruption, but not enough to cause problems with purchasing or storage.

Keep tenants and employees informed.

Epidemics are frightening, and being kept in the dark only intensifies those fears. Keep tenants and employees up-to-date on the latest information and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as all of the steps you are taking to protect their health. Go over employee and tenant contact information, and make sure it's up-to-date. If there isn't a good communication system already in place, set one up.

Train supervisors or other key employees in infection control and reporting.

As new cases of COVID-19 emerge, it's imperative to report exposures to local public health departments. Educate key employees in the potential impact of the virus, make sure they have easy access to relevant company policies, and give them the contact information for the public health authorities in your area.

Don't panic.

The media tends to sensationalize stories and play on the public's fears. Make sure you're getting your information from a reputable, expert source, and don't succumb to the temptation to panic. It isn't necessary to stockpile bottled water and food, and many of the most-frequently stockpiled items (like triclosan hand sanitizer and surgical masks) aren't effective against viruses anyway. Remember: Right now, the flu is a bigger threat than COVID-19. If the flu isn't triggering a panic, that shouldn't either.

When most companies plan for disasters, they think of tornadoes, fires, explosions, and floods. Illnesses can easily become emergencies, too, and it's vital that facility managers have policies in place to help mitigate the damage they can cause. By following these tips, you can keep your employees, tenants, and visitors safe, and business running smoothly.

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