While many businesses have been shut down or have had their operations greatly changed throughout the pandemic, owners of essential businesses have had to adapt and implement critical biosecurity measures on the fly. In many cases, these measures have come via news reports, word of mouth testimonials, and investigating successful peer companies, and the lack of consistency in messaging can be maddening. The Cleveland Clinic compare each biosecurity measure to layer of swiss cheese, each with holes but playing an important role in protection against the spread of the virus. Knowing that each has an important role to play, and in the case of most businesses' budgets are tight, we have compiled our 3 Most Important and Cost Effective Biosecurity Measures for improving indoor environment quality (IEQ) that every essential business should be implementing.
1. An open and honest dialogue with employees.
The first step to any great biosecurity plan starts with preventative biosecurity measures, which are put in place to ensure that any person who may be infected is kept from penetrating your business facility. While in some cases local guidelines require that an employee health self-assessment be filled out every day prior to going into work, this is not a universal requirement. This is a recommendation by the CDC, but if it is not done, is important to have a dialogue with employees and foster trust in them that they will not put their colleagues at risk by entering the facility if they are experiencing symptoms. This can be further facilitated by having a second look at the office policies on sick days and working remotely. A scenario to be avoided is when an employee is not feeling well but feels forced to come in based on company policy.
2. Social distancing in the workplace and enforce mask wearing policies.
While most people in society may have grown tired of hearing about social distancing and the importance of wearing a mask, the cold truth is that the virus is not listening. It is absolutely critical that when surrounded by others outside of your household bubble, and especially when indoors, a mask is worn and a distance of at least 6’ is maintained. This is a key passive biosecurity measure that is shown to reduce the risk of acquiring infection by greater than 70%. It is also best practice to have employees stagger the times when they eat lunch, as mask wearing is impossible while eating.
3. Increasing ventilation however and whenever possible.
COVID-19 is a virus that is transmitted through the air, and therefore our indoor spaces where air can become stagnant or is recirculated poses a potential infection problem. This is a major reason why outdoor dining at restaurants operates under less stringent guidelines than indoor dining, as in the open air, coronavirus particles disperse more quickly than they do inside. Conversely, if you can introduce more outside air inside a building, the coronavirus particles will also disperse more quickly, as the outside air dilutes the recirculated and potentially contaminated inside air. This can be achieved in many ways depending on the building type and HVAC system that serves it. The most cost effective being simply opening windows and doors to the extent allowable for occupant safety and comfort. In buildings where this is not possible or not sufficient, it is recommended to have an HVAC professional inspect the existing system to determine to what extent outside air dampers can be opened and ventilation rates increased.