Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Cleaning and Disinfection Protocol

For more information or questions regarding Coronavirus, call us at (973) 597-0750 or email gary@phaseassociate.com.

The following protocol has been developed as a guideline to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. These protocols are subject to change and may be updated at any time.

General Guidelines

  • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially.
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (i.e. doorknobs, keyboards, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
  • Limit hand to face contact. Cough or sneeze into a tissue, then throw the tissue into the trash and wash hands frequently.

Cleaning Guidelines

  • Use PPE (disposable gloves and N-95 respirator) to prevent direct contact with chemicals and potential bodily fluids. Employees should wash hands with soap and water prior to donning PPE.
  • Don eye protection (i.e. safety glasses and face shield), if splashing is expected, prior to entering any contaminated areas.
  • Use gowns, leg covers, or shoe covers as needed.
  • Immediately clean surfaces and objects that are visibly soiled. Additionally, clean all frequently touched non-porous surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Cleaning should occur 1-3 times per day.
  • Currently there are no FIFRA/EPA approved cleaning agents for COVID-19. Wash surfaces with a general household cleaner. Rinse with water and then apply disinfecting agent. Use agents that are either ethanol, accelerated hydrogen peroxide, or bleach-based and follow the directions on the product label. Do not mix cleaners and disinfectants unless the labels indicate it is safe to do so. Used wipes must be discarded, do not re-use or double dip.
  • The recommended length of time for the disinfectant used should be 5 minutes before drying (allow to air dry if possible).
  • According to the CDC, diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.
    • Prepare a bleach solution by mixing:
      • 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) bleach per gallon of water or
      • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
  • A list of products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims, maintained by the American Chemistry Council Center for Biocide Chemistries (CBC), is available at: https://bit.ly/3aySFjN. Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder to kill viruses.
  • Carefully remove contaminated porous materials, where possible, such as upholstery, rugs, and carpeting. Launder in accordance with the product instructions or dispose (material should be sealed in plastic and labeled as a biohazard during disposal).
  • Change PPE frequently, especially if damaged during cleaning and disinfection.
  • Once cleaning and disposal is completed, employees should remove and discard PPE. Used PPE should be disposed of in plastic bags, tied up, and labeled as a biohazard. Employees should wash hands with soap and water prior to leaving the cleaning areas.

Sources:

  1. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/controlprevention.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business response.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fguidance-business-response.html

Coronavirus Disease 2019 and Workplace Prevention

For more information or questions regarding Coronavirus, call us at (973) 597-0750 or email gary@phaseassociate.com.

Written By: Gary P. Schwartz, CIH, CSP, CMC
February 24, 2020

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus Disease 2019, now officially known as COVID-19, is a new respiratory illness that was first identified in Wuhan, China in December of 2019. This is not the same as the types of coronaviruses that commonly spread among humans that cause mild cold symptoms. COVID-19 most likely developed from an animal source and is currently spreading from person-to-person.

There have been tens of thousands of cases in China, with a growing number of infections spreading internationally. Illnesses range from having mild flu-like symptoms to severe respiratory illness and death. As of February 20, 2020, there have been over 75,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 2,000 deaths from the virus globally. It is also important to note that the CDC estimates there have been at least 26 million influenza illnesses and 14,000 deaths so far this flu season.

Symptoms and Treatments

Those with confirmed COVID-19 infections have reported symptoms including mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Complications may include pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that symptoms of COVID-19 appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure.

There is currently no treatment or vaccine specifically available for COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to COVID-19. People infected with COVID-19 should receive care to alleviate their symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should involve supporting vital organ functions.

People who believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately. Call ahead before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room and warn them about your symptoms and concerns.

Preventing COVID-19 in Your Workplace

Illness prevention for COVID-19 in the workplace revolves around important actions employers and employees can take to protect themselves, referred to as nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs).

Given the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, workplace illness prevention policies should be revised to include: monitoring employee travel to impacted locations, implementing a 14-day stay at home before returning to work policy following a visit to an impacted location, guidance for employees exposed to close family or friends impacted by an outbreak, and a stay at home/work from home policy when an employee is contagious or suspected to be contagious.

Employers and workplace administrators should:

  • Build illness prevention policies into business operations;
  • Stay informed about the COVID-19 situation in the area through communicating with the local health department;
  • Promote sick leave policies that encourage sick employees to stay home;
  • Train staff on healthy workplace policies and behaviors;
  • Maintain a clean work environment by cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects like telephones, keyboards, and doorknobs;
  • Provide supplies such as tissues, soap, and hand sanitizer to promote healthy hygiene; and
  • Encourage frequent hand washing using proper washing techniques.

Employees should:

  • Stay home when sick and for at least 24 hours after fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines;
  • Stay at least 3 feet away from sick people whenever possible to avoid droplets from coughs or sneezes containing infection;
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and throw the tissue away and wash hands immediately;
  • Wash hands thoroughly and often with soap and water. Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used if water and soap are not available;
  • Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces with soap and water or an EPA-approved bleach-and-water solution or disinfectant.  Follow the instructions for the bleach solution or disinfectant to ensure it is effective in sanitizing the surfaces;
  • Know their employer’s sick leave policies; and
  • Stay informed on the local COVID-19 situation.

What to Do if You are Sick

If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect that you have the virus, you should stay home for the duration of the illness, except when getting medical attention. If living with others, you should stay in a specific room to avoid contact with others in the home.

Call your healthcare provider to let them know you have or might have COVID-19 so they can take precautions to keep others from getting infected or exposed.

Wear a facemask when you are around other people and pets, and before you enter a doctor’s office. If you are unable to wear a facemask, you should stay in a separate room from those that live with you, or they should wear a facemask when entering your room.

Use good hygiene practices such as covering all coughs and sneezes, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer with 60-95% alcohol, avoiding sharing personal household items like dishes, cups or bedding, and clean surfaces that are frequently touched to avoid exposing others.

If your illness is worsening, seek medical attention immediately. If you have a medical emergency and must call 911, notify dispatch personnel that you have or are being evaluated for COVID-19. Put a facemask on prior to emergency medical services’ arrival if possible.

Conclusion

The spread of 2019 Coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is a rapidly evolving situation that is being closely monitored by the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States, imported cases of COVID-19 in travelers have been detected, along with person-to-person spread of COVID-19 among close contacts of returned travelers from Wuhan, China. However, the CDC stresses that this virus is not actively spreading in the United States, and the risk to the general American public is low.

Workplaces offer several opportunities for people to interact, which increases the risk for respiratory illnesses to spread. There are actions people can take to protect themselves and others from the transmission of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, which include staying home when sick and following proper hygiene practices.

It is expected that more cases globally will continue to be identified in the coming days, including in the United States. It is also anticipated that person-to-person spread of COVID-19 will continue to occur. Staying updated on the evolving situation and following the directions from public health officials is integral to slowing the spread of this virus.

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm

Protecting Workers from Hexavalent Chromium Surface Accumulations

For more information or questions regarding Hexavalent Chromium, call us at (973) 597-0750 or email gary@phaseassociate.com.

Written By: Gary P. Schwartz, CIH, CSP, CMC
February 11, 2020

Protecting Workers from Hexavalent Chromium Surface Accumulations

Hexavalent chromium, a.k.a Cr (VI), is a hazardous compound found in a variety of industrial processes. Hexavalent chromium is used in, but not limited to, pigments, metal finishing, wood preservatives, dyes and coatings, fungicides, and chemical synthesis processes. Hexavalent chromium may also be present in fumes generated during the production or welding of chrome alloys.

Workers may be exposed to Hexavalent chromium through inhalation (dust, mist or fumes), or dermal or eye contact with dust or liquids. Additionally, workers may be exposed to Hexavalent chromium through ingestion, via handling food, cigarettes, and applying cosmetics with hands contaminated with hexavalent chromium.  Workplace exposure to airborne chromium (VI) may cause the following health effects: lung cancer; irritation or damage to the nose, throat and lungs; irritation or damage to the eyes and skin. Ingestion may cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting and hemorrhaging.  Therefore, housekeeping has an impact on the magnitude of workplace exposure. For this reason, the Hexavalent chromium Cr (VI) standard for general industry includes requirements for housekeeping.

In the Hexavalent chromium standard, 29 CFR 1910.1026(j)(1)(i) states the employer shall ensure all surfaces are maintained as free as practicable of accumulations of Hexavalent chromium. Proper housekeeping requirements are important because they target possible sources of exposure to Hexavalent chromium.  Exposed employees can inhale or ingest Hexavalent chromium while performing tasks using the compound or being exposed to in the compound in the workplace.

In order to ensure employee protection against Hexavalent chromium exposures in operations where Hexavalent chromium may accumulate on surfaces, the employer shall institute a housekeeping program in accordance with 1910.1026(j). In addition, whenever an employer allows employees to consume food or drinks at a worksite where Hexavalent chromium is present, the employer must “ensure that eating and drinking areas and surfaces are maintained as free as practicable of Hexavalent chromium.”  To meet this requirement, the employer must establish hygiene practices, such as regular cleaning, for eating and drinking areas.

It is suggested that an employer collect dust wipe surface samples to evaluate the efficacy of its hygiene practices and ensure surfaces are free from accumulations of Hexavalent chromium. It is noted the standard does not require the collection of surface wipe samples to be performed or specify the allowable surface loading of Hexavalent chromium. However, surface wipe sampling may prove beneficial, as it can be used as a means to ensure surfaces are “as free as practical” from accumulations of Hexavalent chromium. Brookhaven National Laboratories has suggested a guidance concentration of 50 micrograms per 100 square centimeters for operational areas and a concentration of 3.3 micrograms per 100 square centimeters for non-operational areas (IH75190 “Surface Wipe Samples for Metals”).

In order to minimize exposure to Hexavalent chromium accumulations, contaminated surfaces must be cleaned regularly. Work surfaces should be cleaned by applying wet methods, such as wet wiping, wet sweeping or wet scrubbing. Vacuuming should only be used when using a High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter (HEPA) equipped vacuum. Employers must evaluate the specific hazards in their workplaces to determine the frequency and type of cleaning required to maintain eating and drinking areas and surfaces as free as practicable of chromium (VI) contamination.

Resources:

  1. Hexavalent Chromium. OSHA Publication 3373, (2009).
  2. SS-835 Hexavalent Chromium. Saif, (2018).
  3. Clarification of the Chromium (VI) Standard – Change Rooms and Hygiene Practices. [1910.141; 1910.141(e); 1910.1026; 1910.1026(h)(1); 1910.1026(i)(1)]. (September 2, 2011).
  4. 1910.1026(d)(2)Clarification of monitoring and sampling requirements for hexavalent chromium. – (09/30/2010)
  5. IH75190, “Surface Wipe Sampling for Metals,” Rev. 23, Brookhaven National Laboratory, 06/23/17

EPA Issues Clarification on Asbestos Sampling in Newer Buildings

For more information or questions regarding asbestos, call us at (973) 597-0750 or email us at gary@phaseassociate.com.

Written By: Gary P. Schwartz, CIH, CSP, CMC
January 16, 2020

EPA Issues Clarification on Asbestos Sampling in Newer Buildings

There is a common misconception in the environmental industry that buildings built after 1980 are not required to be inspected for asbestos. However, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Natural Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), the age of the building does not affect whether an inspection needs to be done prior to renovation or demolition.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos refers to two groups of minerals that are naturally occurring in rock and soil. Due to its fiber strength and heat-resistant characteristics, asbestos is used in a wide variety of building materials. Asbestos containing materials (ACM) include, but are not limited to, floor tiles, roofing shingles, insulation, and plasters.

When asbestos fibers are disturbed, they can easily become airborne. These fibers are then inhaled  and can cause fatal diseases including, but not limited to, lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.

Requesting Clarification

In January 2016, a letter was sent to the EPA asking for clarification regarding what documentation would be needed to identify building materials as non-ACM. According to the author, the following documentation had been commonly relied on by building owners to waive the inspection requirement under NESHAP:

  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for installed building products
  • Letters from each manufacturer certifying that their products do not contain ACM
  • Letters from each installer certifying that the installed products are not ACM

The EPA replied to that letter, stating that the owner/operator, prior to a renovation or demolition, must conduct a thorough inspection of either the whole facility or the portion of the facility that will be affected by the renovation or demolition operation,  except for residential structures of four or fewer dwelling units, regardless of the date of its construction.

The Issue with Documentation

The EPA further stated that obtaining documentation from manufacturers and installers is not a guarantee that ACM is not present. There have been several instances where follow-up testing found ACM in buildings built after 1980. Furthermore, the EPA currently allows for asbestos to be used in various types of building materials.

The EPA also mentions that the owner/operator may use certain forms of acceptable documentation to certify materials as non-ACM in lieu of an inspection, depending on the circumstances. Applicable documentation would need to provide an explanation on how the asbestos content or lack thereof was determined. Polarizing Light Microscopy (PLM) is the only method of analysis for asbestos that complies with the regulation. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are three ways to comply with EPA’s Asbestos NESHAP regulations: conduct asbestos sampling and analysis prior to any renovation or demolition, obtain certain forms of acceptable documentation certifying that building materials are not ACM, or simply assume building materials are ACM and follow the applicable regulations accordingly.

References

  1. https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/learn-about-asbestos
  2. https://www.msbo.org/sites/default/files/EPA%20Clarification_Asbestos_newbuildings.pdf