What can FMs do to protect residents from a pandemic virus like COVID-19?

What can FMs do to protect residents from a pandemic virus like COVID-19?

  • Posted by: Frank
  • Category: Building community and making place, Corporate responsibility, Facilities management, Latest
Facilities management and pandemic virus effects on workers and residents

Does your FM have a plan for the pandemic virus COVID-19?

Havencab Property Group has been working hard on non-pharmacological interventions to protect our workers and clients from the spread of the pandemic virus COVID-19. Below are 17 steps that all FMs should be considering to help protect workers and the public from the spread of the pandemic virus COVID-19.

Facilities management and pandemic virus effects on businesses

Obviously you want to protect yourself and others from getting and spreading respiratory illnesses like the coronavirus COVID-19. Facilities managers have a critical role in implementing non-pharmacological intervention strategies. Without non-pharmacological interventions, the number of COVID-19 cases in China would likely have shown a 67-fold increase.

Facilities management and pandemic virus

Nonpharmaceutical Interventions

Nonpharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs)  are actions, apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicine, that people and communities can take to help slow the spread of illnesses like pandemic viruses (like COVID-19). NPIs are also known as community mitigation strategies. When a new virus spreads among people, causing illness worldwide, it is called a pandemic. Because a pandemic virus is new, the human population has little or no immunity against it. This allows the virus to spread quickly from person to person worldwide. NPIs are among the best ways of controlling pandemic outbreaks when vaccines are not yet available.

In the current pandemic, facilities managers will play a key role in protecting residents’ health and safety as well as in limiting the impact on the economy and society. Businesses will likely experience employee absences, changes in patterns of commerce and interrupted supply and delivery schedules. Proper planning and actions will allow businesses to better protect their residents and workers and lessen the impact of a pandemic on society and the economy. All stakeholders must plan and act appropriately. You can read the scientific data here.

Facilities management and pandemic virus

How to Maintain Operations During a Pandemic

As a facilities manager, we have an important role in protecting resident and worker health and safety, and in limiting the impact of a pandemic. It is important to integrate your pandemic actions with local and government planning. Integration with local community planners will allow you to access resources and information promptly to maintain operations and keep your people safe.

Pandemic Preparedness

Facilities managers need to be prepared for the effects of the pandemic virus COVID-19. Some steps that you can take are outlined below.

  1. Be aware of and review federal, state and local health department pandemic virus advice and plans. Incorporate appropriate actions from these plans into your workplace plans.
  2. Prepare and plan for operations with a reduced workforce.
  3. Work with your suppliers to ensure that you can continue to operate and provide services.
  4. Develop a sick leave policy that does not penalise sick employees, thereby encouraging workers who have virus-related symptoms (e.g., fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, or upset stomach) to stay home so that they do not infect other workers. Recognise that workers with sick family members may need to stay at home to care for them.
  5. Identify possible exposure and health risks to your workers. Are workers potentially in contact with people with the virus such as in a hospital or clinic? Which of your workers are expected to have a lot of contact with the general public?
  6. Minimise exposure to fellow workers or the public. For example, will more of your workers work different hours or perhaps from home? This may require enhancement of communication technology equipment.
  7. Identify business-essential positions and people required to sustain business-necessary functions and operations. Cross-train or develop ways to function in the absence of these positions. If possible, have three or more workers able to sustain business-necessary functions and operations, and communicate the expectation for available workers to perform these functions if needed during the pandemic virus.
  8. Plan for downsizing services but also anticipate any scenario which may require a rapid increase in your services.
  9. Recognise that, in the course of normal daily life, all workers will have non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings that should be reduced as much as possible. Some employees will also have individual risk factors that should be considered by businesses as they plan how the organisation will respond to the pandemic (e.g., immuno-compromised individuals and pregnant women).
  10. Stockpile items such as soap, tissue, hand sanitiser, cleaning supplies and recommended personal protective equipment. When stockpiling items, be aware of each product’s shelf life and storage conditions (e.g., avoid areas that are damp or have temperature extremes) and incorporate product rotation (e.g., consume oldest supplies first) into your stockpile management program.
  11. Be aware of your workers’ concerns about pay, leave, safety and health. Informed workers who feel safe at work are less likely to be absent.
  12. Develop policies and practices that distance workers from each other, customers and the general public. Consider how you might minimise face-to-face contact between workers such as e-mail, websites and teleconferences. Policies and practices that allow workers to stagger their work shifts may be important as absenteeism rises.
  13. Organise and identify a central team of people or focal point to serve as a communication source so that your workers and clients can have accurate information during the crisis.
  14. Work with your workers and their union(s) to address leave, pay, transportation, travel, childcare, absence and other human resource issues.
  15. Provide your workers and clients with easy access to infection control supplies, such as soap, hand sanitisers, personal protective equipment (such as gloves or surgical masks), tissues, and office cleaning supplies.
  16. Provide training, education and informational material about business-essential job functions and worker health and safety, including proper hygiene practices and the use of any personal protective equipment to be used in the workplace. Be sure that informational material is available in a usable format for individuals with sensory disabilities and/or limited English proficiency. Encourage workers to take care of their health by eating right and getting plenty of rest.
  17. Assist workers in managing additional stressors related to the pandemic. These are likely to include distress related to personal or family illness, life disruption, or grief related to loss of routine support systems, loss of family, friends or coworkers, and similar challenges. Assuring timely and accurate communication will also be important throughout the duration of the pandemic in decreasing fear or worry. Businesses should provide opportunities for support, counselling, and mental health assessment and referral should these be necessary. If present, an Employee Assistance Program can offer training and provide resources and other guidance on mental health and resiliency during the pandemic.

Protect Workers and Clients

Facilities management and pandemic virus effects on workers

Educate and train workers in proper hand hygiene, cough etiquette and social distancing techniques. Understand and develop work practice and engineering controls that could provide additional protection to your employees and customers, such as: drive-through service windows, clear plastic sneeze barriers, ventilation, and the proper selection, use and disposal of personal protective equipment.

These are not comprehensive recommendations. The most important part of pandemic control measures is to work with your workers, local and state agencies and other businesses to develop cooperative pandemic actions to maintain your operations and keep your workers and the public safe. Share what you know, be open to ideas from your workers, then identify and share effective health practices with other businesses in your community.

How Organisations Can Protect Their Workers

For most businesses, protecting their workers will depend on emphasising proper hygiene (disinfecting hands and surfaces) and practicing social distancing. Social distancing means reducing the frequency, proximity, and duration of contact between people (both workers and the public) to reduce the chances of spreading the pandemic virus from person-to-person. All employers should implement good hygiene and infection control practices.

Work health and safety professionals use a framework called the “hierarchy of controls” to select ways of dealing with workplace hazards. The hierarchy of controls prioritises intervention strategies based on the premise that the best way to control a hazard is to systematically remove it from the workplace, rather than relying on workers to reduce their exposure. In the setting of a pandemic, this hierarchy should be used in conjunction with current government health recommendations.The types of measures that may be used to protect yourself, your workers, and your residents (listed from most effective to least effective) are: engineering controls, administrative controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Most businesses will use a combination of control methods. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of control measure when considering the ease of implementation, effectiveness, and cost. For example, hygiene and social distancing can be implemented relatively easily and with little expense, but this control method requires workers to modify and maintain this behaviour, which may be difficult to sustain. On the other hand, installing clear plastic barriers or other physical measures will be more expensive and take a longer time to implement, although in the long run may be more effective at preventing transmission during the pandemic. Employers must evaluate their particular workplace to develop a plan for protecting their employees that may combine both immediate actions as well as longer term solutions.

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Author: Frank
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