In facilities services, monitoring and reducing risk of exposure to hazards within the facility is the fundamental method of protecting employees and occupants.
Traditionally, the hierarchy of controls’ funnel has been used as a way to implement effective control solutions and determine where critical emphasis should be concentrated.
It has been found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, using the funnel as a way to determine what processes should take place, and in what order, can help reduce risk for your facility.
As the graphic suggest, the items at the top of the funnel are the most important and should receive the greatest amount of support, since they are potentially more effective and protective. As you work your way down the list, the focus and spend amount can be reduced.
By following the hierarchy funnel, it will create safer systems where the risk of illness has been substantially reduced.
Elimination: Remove the Risk
There is no better hazard control option than eliminating the hazard. However, elimination of risk, while the most effective, can be the most difficult to implement. There will always be a gentle balance between risk and reward.
In the case of COVID-19, you can remove the virus from your facility with a thorough disinfection, but if the next person to walk in your doors is infected, it will undo all your elimination efforts. This creates a need to take additional precautions and constantly re-eliminate the risk of contamination. You can achieve that by implementing other steps of the hierarchy funnel.
Hazard substitution is a control strategy in which things that would be considered hazardous are replaced with those that are not hazardous, thereby reducing risk. Since the risk of COVID-19 within your facility can only be eliminated if there are no humans within your walls, substituting other methods to reduce the potential contamination is needed.
Implement Stay at Home Methods
By reducing the number of personnel inside your facility, you can reduce risk. COVID-19 is spread by a person who has become infected. They can spread it from person to person through aerosol particles or by touching items that are then touched by others. Create a stay at home policy for as many occupants as possible.
That will reduce the number of chances the virus will have to get into your facility.
Removing the potential for two or more individuals to come into contact with one another will help reduce risk as well. If occupants must enter the facility, create a schedule that protects them from contact with others, and allows for disinfection during the time gap. This will reduce the risk of potential transmission within the facility.
When a hazard cannot be removed through elimination or substitution, the next best option is to use engineering controls. The risk will not be eliminated, but occupants are better protected. The basic idea is to design processes that allow work to be completed, but will reduce or eliminate exposure.
Placing physical barriers, like plexiglass, between occupants can help reduce the potential for contaminated particles to travel from one person to another.
The fewer individuals that cross paths throughout the day will reduce a potential mass-transmission. This can include on/off days, staggered start and end times, isolating personnel to only certain areas of the building and not allowing shifts or campuses to share personnel resources.
Create Social Distancing Protocols
The virus is most easily spread from person to person. This usually occurs because two or more individuals are within close proximity to one another. Implement processes that will keep the occupants in your facility at least six feet apart, at all times, to reduce the risk of transmission from person to person.
Administrative controls are used to help personnel go throughout their day in a safer manner. When paired with engineering controls and the use of PPE, administrative controls can produce a triple threat against possible contamination within your facility. These controls do not eliminate hazards, but they can reduce risk with new procedures and rules.
It is important to communicate changes within the facility and to the business processes to all occupants. These can include new procedures, training, warning signs and labels. Establish a strong communications process that informs, answers questions, reminds and updates.
Promote Individual Responsibility
Fighting COVID-19 is the responsibility of everyone within your facility. You can’t do it all by yourself. Install sanitation stations to allow employees to care for their own hygiene as well as disinfect their personal items. Establish rules and processes for when employees can enter, when they should stay home, routes within the building to avoid contact, and where to report issues.
Establish High-Touch Disinfection
As occupants move throughout the facility, make sure high-touchpoint areas like door handles, bathrooms, elevators, kitchens and any other areas that are used by multiple employees are routinely disinfected.
Use PPE and Masks
The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last line of defense for protecting workers from hazards. This is because if the PPE becomes damaged or fails, the employee will then become exposed. However, PPE like masks and face coverings will help protect personnel from one another. After all other measures are taken to reduce risk, PPE presents one final defensive control.
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