We have all experienced the chaos of the last several months and now the focus is slowly shifting to returning to work. As the focus shifts, questions arise about how this will happen, how is this going to work, and is the workplace safe to re-occupy?
Returning to work will likely happen gradually, with strict limitations on controlling capacity to maintain social distancing requirements and access to facilities. Workers returning to these spaces will want some assurances from the landlord and the businesses they work for that the spaces are clean, decontaminated and safe to work in. How can these landlords and business owners make these assurances?
During the lockdown, many businesses continued to provide cleaning services to their spaces to maintain a general level of cleanliness. Some businesses that continued to operate, had enhanced cleaning of high touch surfaces performed by their cleaning vendor, and some businesses had to have their spaces decontaminated after a presumptive or confirmed positive case was identified in their place of business. In most of these cases, the cleaning, enhanced cleaning and decontamination of surfaces was performed by the cleaning vendors that are regularly used by the landlords or businesses. But will this be enough assurance for the workers as they return to work?
The Environmental Information Association (EIA) is a not-for profit volunteer organization primarily focused on the management, control and removal of hazardous materials from buildings. On many projects, this includes the decontamination of spaces so that they can be re-used by the public. Our contractor and consultant members design, execute and monitor complex abatement projects throughout the nation on a daily basis. Our organization is made up of over 800 firms across the nation and includes abatement contractors, environmental consultants, abatement and material suppliers, environmental laboratories and key associates. Our members know how to help you navigate your way through these unprecedented times.
At the onset of the crisis in Ontario Canada, the Environmental Abatement Council of Ontario (EACO) – the Canadian Chapter of the EIA – decided to establish an Infection Control committee with the intent of producing a guideline for the decontamination of buildings in the Province of Ontario. EACO has a history of producing Industry Best Practice Guidelines when limited information is available from the scientific communities or regulatory agencies. The EACO Mould Abatement Guideline is a great example of this effort.
On March 27, 2020, EACO released version 1 of the guideline document “Emerging and Existing Pathogen Cleaning – Cleaning Best Practices for Environmental Professional Services”. The committee that developed the guideline consisted of abatement and decontamination contractors, experienced environmental consultants, certified industrial hygienists and material suppliers. Over 18 firms were represented on this committee and came to a consensus to produce this Industry-first guideline.
EIA contractor members are uniquely qualified to assist you during this crisis. Our firms understand crisis management and work within these confines daily, not just in response to the current crisis. Decontamination is our job – it’s what we do, so our members understand how to do it. We wear PPE on every job, every day – not just sometimes, so we know how to fit test respirators, don and doff protective clothing and gloves, decontaminate and protect ourselves.
When it comes to consulting on COVID-19 projects – our EIA consultant members are experts in project design, oversight, communication and verification. Like our contractor members, they do this kind of work every day, all the time. Documenting processes and overseeing on-site work as a normal course of business enables our consultant members to produce decontamination reports with verification testing to prove that your space is clean. This is something that cleaning contractors typically do not provide.
As you are planning your return to work strategy, make sure you focus on the assurances that your staff are going to want when they return to work. When you decide you need reliable, experienced, insured and trained professionals, contact our members at www.eia-usa.org