As the situation develops, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we have to live with COVID-19. Even after the announcement of a second lockdown, workplaces will have to eventually return to normal occupancy. However, it is integral that building managers protect the health of their employees. This doesn’t only include social distancing measures; after extended periods of vacancy, other biological hazards like mould can appear. Equally, fire protection systems need to be tested. Here, we cover the five key points that building managers need to address and implement.
1. Plan social distancing measures
Although hazards extend beyond COVID-19, implementing social distancing is a priority. Building managers should conduct a thorough risk assessment of what could increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Begin by identifying the spaces within which employees could have close contact, for instance, meeting rooms, the cafeteria, break rooms, and lifts.
Modify or adjust furniture to maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres and consider installing perspex shields or other dividers where possible, should social distancing not be an option. Also, install visual cues like markers on floors and signage to encourage building users to keep their distance.
2. Ensure proper PPE supplies
Before the building reopens, make sure that all of the necessary supplies are available to building users. This includes cleaning products, personal protective equipment (PPE), and all of the usual office supplies. Special attention should be given to ensuring that maintenance staff have the proper protection, especially when handling air ducts, filters, or any areas or components that may contain contaminated droplets.
3. Implement a plan for high-touch surfaces
To continue the focus on cleaning and maintenance staff, building managers should draw up and clearly communicate a complete cleaning plan for high-touch areas. This will ensure that areas like desks, door handles, light switches, taps, toilets, photocopiers and telephones are regularly disinfected by cleaning staff, depending on the frequency of use.
4. Decontaminate water systems
Legionnaires’ disease is an illness that can cause more severe pneumonia than coronavirus. To minimise the risk, take steps to ensure that all water systems and installations (including sinks, water fountains, decorative fountains, ice machines, or even industrial cooling towers) are fully inspected and decontaminated before the building reopens.
5. Rebooting and improving HVAC systems
Generally, thermostats will be lowered while a building is vacant. However, HVAC systems shouldn’t be switched off completely, as uncontrolled temperature and moisture can cause damage. Before the building is re-occupied, there should be a full flush of all the air in the building, even if the HVAC system was left on during lockdown.
After the system is reactivated and temperatures returned to normal, building management should consider how they can enhance indoor air quality. Of course, increasing outdoor airflow is a go-to, but in the winter months, this can make the building uncomfortable. Instead, building managers should consider investing in next-generation UVC-light-powered air purifiers; this will ensure the safest possible working environment.
Protect your employees
Maintaining a healthy working environment is of vital importance to any business. Certainly, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic presents a significant health risk, but the mould and moisture that can collect in an unoccupied building can also cause substantial health risks. Therefore, it is essential to develop a proper re-opening plan to guarantee safety. Employees are a business’s biggest investment – so it’s vital to further invest in their safety.