Facilities were not created to be left unoccupied and underutilized for weeks or months. You will quickly find, that like a well-oiled machine, your facility and all its parts need to run and be maintained on a regular basis or assets will cease to operate at full potential.
If your facility has been shuttered, partially shuttered or even underused, you may find that some new things have moved in. It may be bacteria, pollen, dust or even pests. To maintain the health of your facility, you’ll need to approach your facility's operational processes with a solid plan. That starts with reviewing and updating the facility services' scope of work with the goal of protecting your occupants' health and safety.
Here are some things you can expect and ways to maintain a healthy facility.
Creatures, critters and insects love moving into quieter spaces. Since the traffic at your facility has been reduced, the silence is like a beacon to unwanted and germ-spreading animals, amphibians and insects.
You should complete a walkthrough and full inspection of your facility. If you find evidence of any unwanted creatures, including holes, waste product, nests, messes, etc., you will want to eradicate the creatures immediately. Depending on what has rehomed itself into your facility, you may want to contact a professional exterminator for chemical distribution and critter removal.
Filtration is not only essential for creating fresh, contaminant-free water to keep our bodies healthy but is also used in almost any industrial process you can imagine. With less activity happening in your facility, damp filtration systems can easily begin to grow bacteria and mold. Particles of the bacteria or mold may now run through your pipes and into your machinery or occupants’ containers. That may cause equipment not to function properly or make occupants ill.
If the filtration system has dried out, it may become brittle. Once the water begins to flow, particles from filters may break apart and enter your facility’s drinking water or equipment and cause issues. Your filtration system should be regularly flushed, and all independent filters should be visually inspected for mold growth or deterioration. Replace any filters that show damage and inspect the outflow for particulates, smell or discoloration.
Pipes and sewage systems
Areas where water has remained static can cause a buildup of sediment and allow microorganisms to breed. This can cause discoloration, staining, damage to filters or equipment, odd taste or even clogs if there is a large buildup.
It is also possible for the toilet tank to siphon back into the plumbing. This can cause drain disinfectants containing chemicals that may pose health hazards to be ingested or touched. You will need to take precautions to clear the lines and flush the systems on a regular basis. This allows you to monitor the systems and ensure your sewage system is functional and clearing. If you notice any odd smells or discoloration coming from your pipes or your drains, you may have a larger issue and need to bring in a professional.
HVAC and Ventilation
Your facility may be gathering quite a bit of dust. If you continuously run your HVAC, those particles are circulating and ending up in your HVAC filter. Filters should continue to be replaced according to your maintenance program.
If your HVAC has been operating at a lower velocity, particulates may have settled and risk becoming airborne again. This not only will affect occupants that have asthma or allergies, but it could release debris into your HVAC system and cause damage. Static systems also allow bacteria to breed and mold to form. When systems are reengaged, the mold or bacteria can begin to release pollutants and allergens in the building. The last thing you want is for those spores to begin recirculating through the facility and find their way into your HVAC system.
Allow time to have your HVAC properly maintained, your ventilation system cleaned and replace the HVAC filter before reopening your facility. OSHA suggests using HVAC system filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 13 or higher, where feasible. And when changing filters, wear appropriate personal protective equipment. ASHRAE recommends N95 respirators, eye protection (safety glasses, goggles, or face shields), and disposable gloves.
Bathrooms and showers
In areas that are moist, such as a shower or bathroom, a biofilm of bacteria called Serratia marcescens can grow. It is often mistakenly called “Pink Mold”. Serratia feeds on mineral deposits, toothpaste residue and soap scum. Serratia is an airborne bacterium and presents as a pink/red/orange discoloration on walls and fixtures in damp areas.
It is not enough just to scrub away the biofilm - the area must also be disinfected to kill any remaining bacteria colonies. This process may need to be repeated every few days to prevent it from reestablishing.
If you have refrigerators and freezers at your facility for employees, the unit coils should be checked, and the units should be wiped down and disinfected. Check the operation of the unit and its filtration. Growth of mold or bacteria inside the unit can still circulate into the filters and make occupants ill.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the commercial cleaning and facilities management processes are done and how seriously they're taken. Flagship has put together several strategies for you to use in the new post-COVID 19 world to keep your facility healthy. We are able to flex with your facility operations and navigate changes as your needs change.
These are challenging times but Flagship's customizable approach to your facility's needs will help you protect employees and your assets now and into the future. From cleaning and disinfection to one-source Facilities Management, our teams tailor your program to meet your needs and grow with your organization.
Email a facilities expert today and get the help you need to keep your facility healthy and safe.