Manufacturing facilities have several requirements that differ from those of other commercial or industrial buildings. Many of these design elements will need to evolve to continue production with full support staff in the environment of COVID-19. Even after the economy reopens and recovers, these changes will be needed as additional waves of the coronavirus may occur this fall and next spring. These changes will also help prepare for the potential of other pandemics.
In discussions with clients and health experts, Nutec has identified five areas that are particular to manufacturing. These areas will need to be reconsidered for retrofitting existing buildings or an altered approach in new buildings:
Note that the current thinking is that the greatest transmission is through droplets in a person’s breath. Transmission through touching surfaces is currently considered a lesser hazard, and whether to address this can depend on the vulnerability of the population in those spaces and the ability to enforce the use of gloves.
Building Entry and Exit
The main building entry has experienced a significant transition in the last few decades. It began with minimizing the time a worker experienced leaving their transportation until they “punch the clock.” The next issues involved content security, as manufacturing and warehouse facilities contained small items that could easily fetch big prices on the black market. These products were given hard-to-remove RFIDs (Radio Frequency Identification tags) that could be detected as employees left the plant. A more recent concern is controlling entry of employees looking to bring weapons into the work place.
Due to the pandemic, here are some new considerations:
- Social Distancing: Earliest possible clock punch often results in bunching of employees through the entry. Aside from the security concerns of checking so many badges so quickly (and checking for masks and gloves, as well as steel toed shoes, safety vests and other Personal Protective Equipment – PPEs), enforcing social distancing is less likely to occur.
- Provide punch clocks using IoT technology, like EZ pass, so flow can occur as badges are read wirelessly. Intercepting interlopers still may be difficult, and require review of video later to locate those who followed the crowd (“tailgaters”).
- Install of touch-free automated turnstiles using swipe or wireless cards achieves a similar result. Originally popularized at mass transit facilities, these are being introduced at commercial building entrances as a quick means to let badged employees through and to stop the non-badged “tailgaters.”
- Extend queuing similar to the way amusement parks keep people moving rather than waiting in line, for the same transport-to-entry time.
- Separate those entering from those exiting to avoid convergence, face-to-face contact.
- Good Hygiene:
- Retrofit main entry and exit doors to be hands-free operated, either by motion detectors or by proximity devices.
- Provide opportunities to wash or sanitize hands as employees (and visitors) enter and exit the building.
- Offer hands-free glove and mask dispensers.
- Similarly, locate hands-free containers for disposal of masks and gloves, as well as other personal items. Learning from healthcare design, treat these containers as bio-hazards.
- Limit all hard surfaces, particularly horizontal ones, and in socially public areas. Choose materials that are unfriendly hosts to the virus, or treat surfaces with anti-microbial coatings.
- Increase ventilation as well as pressurization from areas with filtered air to areas with unfiltered air.
- Provide sneeze guards to protect security personnel.
- Regularly deep clean and sanitize these areas.
- Non-Touch Body Temperature Detection: Devices are now available that can remotely sense body temperature, now referred to as Infrared Fever Screening Systems (IFSS). While this is not necessarily a test for every employee who comes through the entry, it is recommended that security flag people who appear to be feverish or exhibit other symptoms for this initial test. Rapid diagnostic testing could then be administered when available.
- Germ Irradiation: Employing FAR UVC (ultraviolet) light has been demonstrated as a means to kill germs being brought into (or out of) the facility without harming people. UV technology can be used to kill germs while spaces are unoccupied.
- Access to Employee Support Facilities: While these facilities are detailed further below, entering employees often seek immediate access to lockers to drop off coats and sometimes to gown, access to the break area to drop off lunchboxes (often in refrigerators) and access to restrooms. The reverse is often true when leaving the facility. The key is to plan these access routes so that lines do not bunch up to defeat social distancing. It is also recommended that one-way routes are designated, so employees do not face each other as they move in opposite directions.
- Hygiene Zone: Implement multiple levels of decontamination:
- Enter facility and remove and store coat (if worn).
- Change personal shoes (and store) to a locker room shoe.
- Pick up uniform.
- Change into uniform and work facility floor shoes (store locker room shoes).
- Enter the work area.
These facilities are used during lunch and coffee breaks:
- Social Distancing: Rearrange tables to achieve 6 feet between diners. This is necessary to avoid extended contact. One recommendation is that each diner have their own small table.
- Hands-free Access:
- Spread access to the refrigerator, sinks, vending machines and trash/recycling containers to minimize close personal contact.
- Retrofit sinks and paper towel dispensers to be hands-free. Hands-free vending should be used when available.
- Good Hygiene:
- In environments with high risk occupants, consider phasing out refrigerators so that there is no incidental contact with others’ lunch boxes by someone who later is discovered to be infected, or touching a lunch box that was not wiped down.
- At locations providing food, discourage cash purchases.
- Again, treat trash containers as biohazard.
- Regularly deep clean and sanitize these areas.
- Increased purified (HEPA filters) ventilation will also assist to diminish germ spread between diners. Use differential air pressure to route air from clean to less clean areas.
- Offer outside eating opportunities with naturally superior ventilation.
Other Employee Support Facilities
- Locker Room: This will create the greatest challenge. It is not practical to place lockers six feet apart, particularly stackable lockers. New best practices suggest that this be addressed through shifting start times, break times and quitting times. Regularly deep clean and sanitize these areas. Some of these may need to be eliminated for the pandemic’s duration.
- Restrooms: Another challenge for social distancing. Where possible, gangs of one person restrooms are provided, with the prescribed percentage being handicapped-accessible. Shifting or proper queuing will achieve social distancing. This has the benefit of eliminating gender identify issues, and possibly longer lines for one gender than the other if the restrooms are all unisex. Some restrooms can be equipped with showers. Sinks, toilets, dryers, tissue and towel dispensers should be hands-free. Sanitary wipes should be near the door hardware to clean handles as leaving. Regularly deep clean and sanitize these areas. One-way corridors to these areas will limit face-to-face transmission.
- Wellness/Nursing Rooms: Employ medical facility standards.
- Smoke Breaks: Where smoking is still permitted outside the building, tables and benches provided should promote social distancing. Many of the same precautions at the building entry should be duplicated here.
Opportunities to modify production lines and areas may be limited. Some of these may include:
- Social Distancing: Location of operators and other workers to minimize occasional or prolonged contact.
- Hands-free Entry: Automatic doors to rooms.
- One Way Corridors: Avoid face-to-face contact.
- Increased Ventilation: Especially in rooms with high number of social-distanced occupants.
- Handwashing Stations: Add liberally around the facility; these can be portable.
- Receiving Docks:
- Facilities to wipe down offloaded boxes and containers.
- Create physical separation between drivers and employees; limit their direct interaction.
- Other Entries: These exist in most facilities, often keycard operated, but now pose a threat of allowing entrants with symptoms and unwiped packages. These might best be converted to exit only for the duration.
With the high likelihood that someone at the plant contracts the pathogen or is exposed, recommended to be in place:
- Holding Room: This is for someone who starts showing symptoms on their shift. It is advisable to have this room near a secondary exit so they can be moved to transport home or to the hospital with minimum contact with other people.
- Accessible Records: Once an exposure or contraction is identified, those who were in contact with the person need to be notified so they can self-quarantine (or ultimately quickly receive a vaccine). This requires easy-to-access records of whom was in the building when, so only those likely to have had contact can be alerted. This highlights the need to have controls at the building entry and exits that offer an accurate accounting of everyone entering and leaving and cannot be easily or mistakenly bypassed through tailgating.
Nutec is now working with clients to assess how their facilities can become safer during the COVID-19 pandemic, and implementing immediate and long term solutions for maintaining essential manufacturing production during pandemic periods. Can we assist you with assessing how best to control the hazards your facility is facing?