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Making Workplaces Safe

Published Monday Jul 20, 2020

Author Matthew J. Mowry

A Soil-Away employee disinfects an office. Courtesy photo.

As businesses reopen,  companies must find ways to make that reopening safe for employees and customers. Geosyntec Consultants, a testing and consulting firm with 1,500 employees and 80 locations globally, and Soil-Away Cleaning and Restoration Services, a Hooksett-based company with 25 employees, are among the firms helping companies to do that.

Testing and Planning
While testing all employees for the COVID-19 virus may not be possible, Geosyntec Consultants can test facilities for the presence of COVID-19-causing particles. The company, which has facilities in Bedford and Portsmouth, can also determine what disinfecting needs to be done and provide  follow-up testing to ensure that the disinfecting worked, says Duane Graves, a senior principal scientist with Geosyntec. It also helps companies with ongoing COVID-19 monitoring. “We can do spot checks to make sure SOP [standard operating procedures] are being followed,” Graves says. “It gives the ability to keep functioning with minimum downtime.”

The company can also conduct composite tests that gather samples from multiple touchpoints in a facility, says Stefanie G. Lamb, senior geologist in Geosyntec’s Bedford office. This service is used by hotels, health care facilities and dormitories where doing single tests for different areas would be cost prohibitive, says Mary DeFlaun, an environmental microbiologist at Geosyntec.

“If it’s in one place, it will be on other places, including those we wouldn’t think to sample,” Graves says. “We’re not looking for a source. If it’s been here, we need to take action.”

The company can also detect the virus in wastewater, which allows municipalities to determine if community infection ratesare rising or falling and isolate those areas where there are high concentrations of the virus, DeFlaun says. That could allow municipalities to be more systematic in their approach to testing people for the virus, she says.

Some of Geosyntec’s other services include devising long-term disinfection plans for businesses as well as determining personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, monitoring; adapting worker safety programs for those who travel or work remotely; establishing new worker isolation procedures; facility modifications; handling protocols for raw materials entering a facility; and health and safety audits. Basically, DeFlaun says, they can help with the new normal. Adds Lamb, “We make sure they are ready to respond quickly and get back on track and make sure the public and workers remain safe in the process.”

Another company helping businesses reopen is Soil-Away Cleaning and Restoration Services. Joshua Solloway, the company’s COO, says this goes beyond regular custodial services. “It’s janitorial services on steroids.” Enhanced cleaning means a thorough wipe down of all high-volume touch points, such as light switches, computer keyboards and faucets.

Besides reducing risk of infection, Solloway says the optics of instituting disinfection services provides employees and customers with peace of mind. “It supports that the business is doing everything it can to keep them safe,” he says.

Soil-Away also handles emergency response situations where a business has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 infection and has shut down the building to disinfect.

In such cases, Solloway’s team does the basic cleaning but also wipes down walls, washes floors and uses electrostatic sprayers to apply disinfectant to all surfaces, as well as installing High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters to capture airborne bacteria and viruses. Solloway’s employees wear full protective gear.

He says calls increased mid-April. “As people have been starting to see a little light at the end of the tunnel, everyone is trying to put together plans,” Solloway says. “We get a half dozen to a dozen calls a day from businesses asking to set them up with a program,” including monthly deep cleanings that Solloway says follow CDC guidelines with products approved by the EPA that are in addition to the customer’s regular janitorial services.

When hiring a cleaning company, Solloway recommends asking if the company conducts employee background checks of its employees as they will have access to empty buildings. He says businesses should also see how long the cleaning firm has been in business as some new companies have cropped up who view this pandemic as a business opportunity. Also learn about a company’s products as some raw materials and equipment can be damaged by certain cleaning agents, Solloway says.

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