A pandemic was not completely unexpected—but many companies were completely unprepared to manage a pathogen like COVID-19 in the workplace. This blog will help you understand the renewed sense of urgency for health and safety in the post-pandemic workplace and why businesses need to adopt a pathogen protection plan with a focus on air and surface purification.
In the past 20 years, five significant pathogen threats, including SARS, MERS, Ebola, avian influenza and swine flu, hinted at the danger of a pandemic-level outbreak. So, why weren’t most businesses prepared for this known scenario? Considered a high-consequence but low-likelihood event, many companies simply miscalculated the risk. But scientists predict these risks will become more likely, with diseases spreading from animals to humans more frequently in the future due to ongoing environmental disruption. In this new normal, businesses must be prepared to protect employees and customers or else risk consequences–like shutdowns and lost market share–that will be too hard to ignore.
To protect employees and customers, businesses need healthy workplaces. One Workplace recently reimagined Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for today’s workplace. Like Maslow, this new COVID-19 hierarchy of needs places physiological needs at the foundation of the pyramid. After all, keeping employees healthy should be a workplace’s first priority. How else will your business function or grow? To support health and prevent illness, environmental health practices should include sanitation stations, sectioning off designated high-traffic walkways, and ventilation systems to improve air quality.
Air quality is important because many pathogens spread illness through the air, including: pandemics like COVID-19; seasonal airborne illnesses, like influenza and streptococcal infections; and illnesses without seasonality, like pertussis, tuberculosis, and norovirus. No workplace is immune, though some industries are more at risk than others. A recent study showed that 80% of COVID-19 outbreaks belonged to manufacturing, agriculture and transportation/warehousing industries—all of which are difficult to do remotely. While vaccinations can help reduce risk, they don’t protect everyone and don’t cover all airborne seasonal illnesses or future novel risks. If you can’t avoid a physical workplace, new health and wellness policies focused on air quality are needed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed a set of guidelines to help businesses create healthy workplaces. In addition to basic preventive measures, like promoting frequent hand-washing and telling employees to stay home if they are sick, businesses are encouraged to develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. Guidelines for improving building ventilation systems are included.
Tips for improving air quality:
● For tenants: Ask building operators what the air exchange rate is, what filters are in place and how HVAC systems address pathogens. (Note that filters don’t kill pathogens, they attempt to trap them based on size.)
● For owners: Review your HVAC system performance and maintenance routines and implement an air purification system that offers active pathogen protection, one that kills pathogens. For example, PYURE offers air purification systems that are proven to kill airborne pathogens including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
An air purifier with the power to kill airborne pathogens is an important part of a business’ pathogen protection program. In fact, major real estate boards are noting “indoor air quality” as the top real estate trend to emerge from the pandemic—along with more demand for air purifiers.
With the right environmental health protections in place, you can protect your business, keep your team safe and healthy, increase customer trust and help mitigate future novel risks.