Use the Smarter Business checklist to ensure compliance before opening your doors

With the daily Government updates on its plans for a mass return to work, the entire country is gearing up for the grand reopening; once the R0 number is sitting at an acceptable level. It is important to note, however, that COVID-19 is not the only major concern for businesses hoping to return things to “normal”.

The pandemic has changed the way that we think about business and social situations, forcing us to analyse many things we once took for granted. Beyond that, the lockdown has caused a number of potential risks in buildings which must be addressed before anyone thinks about reopening.

To support you while you plan your return, Smarter Business has put together a useful checklist of what you should be thinking about and what you should be doing before you reopen; taking into account COVID-19, other potential diseases and the ‘new normal’.

The “Ready for Work” Checklist:

1. Have you contemplated the major risk of Legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ Disease?

COVID-19 is the disease on everyone’s minds, but that does not mean that others have become less dangerous. In fact, with Legionella bacteria building up in the dormant water systems of vacant buildings and offices, it is imperative that you follow all of the correct Legionella procedures to ensure safety for all of your staff and residents.

Key requirements of Legionella testing include knowing the water temperature and flushing the system regularly. This is typically done by running all taps in the building for two minutes, recording the temperature and keeping the records for a minimum of five years. This test needs to be done regularly, resulting in significant costs in resources and administration.

Whether your staff are returning on a part-time basis with a remote working solution included, or coming back full time, this procedure needs to be done before you can let them back in. Shower areas pose an especially high risk as the bacteria is carried in water mist.

What should I do to combat the risk of Legionella?

Smarter Technologies Group has developed an automated Legionella testing unit that carries out remote flushing and temperature testing, easily controlled through a bespoke dashboard.

This first-of-its-kind technology allows you to schedule automated Legionella testing and regular flushing, with automatic reports being generated and recorded. The system removes human error from the testing, significantly reducing the costs and burden. Smarter Technologies Group’s automated Legionella testing units are the perfect solution as you look to return to your version of the ‘new normal’.

2. Have you decided on how you will scan temperatures and monitor the health of visitors, staff and customers?

It is prudent to consider a plan for checking the temperatures of people entering a site, but you also need to decide how you will inform them of this development and assure them of where and how this data will be used. It will be very important to be transparent so that your customers and staff do not feel harassed or unnecessarily inconvenienced by something so important.

The tempting method would be to use a handheld device, especially for smaller enterprises. But that begs the question of how close the device user needs to stand, opening up more obvious concerns around health and safety (not to mention requiring some brave volunteers). Gender issues play a further role and need to be carefully thought out, particularly airports and other places where crowd control is necessary.

Another topic for consideration is the sharing of data.

  • What procedure will you put in place for the screenings and testing
  • How will you then distribute the data?
  • How will you store it?
  • How will you notify the person being tested of their results and potential risks associated?
  • How will you keep track of them to inform of any potential risks coming in the future?

The short answer is to use a system which allows for staff to maintain a safe distance, records temperatures and presents it all in a simple and useful manner. This system should use IoT devices to communicate and eliminate as far as is possible the need for human interaction.

Where can I find a full virus and fever defence solution?

Smarter Technologies Group offers the perfect scalable solution for businesses returning to work after the lockdown. From small, self-scanning cameras for building access control to large-scale crowd scanning cameras, Smarter Technologies Group’s solutions give you real-time temperature screening and alerts using technology developed for the Ministry of Defence.

This solution gives medically accurate readings and, most importantly, can be automated to operate without the need for any human contact. If you are concerned with how your business can cope with the need for a higher level of health protection, Smarter Technologies Group can offer a single, scalable solution.

3. Have you given any thought to the updated guidance on air quality control and monitoring?

The Building Engineering Service Association (BESA) has released its guidance, titled: COVID-19 – Practical Measures for Building Services Operation. In it, they have stated that “preventing contamination and protecting public health is more important than thermal comfort”.
Some of their key call outs include:

  • Air recirculation in buildings is to be turned off. Currently, approximately 90% of air is recycled in a building with an additional 10% fresh air added in. Moving forward, all tempered air is to be dumped into the atmosphere and systems must bring in 100% fresh air. This means that HVAC systems will be running at a much higher capacity than normal.
  • Systems should either be on 100% of the time or off altogether. Removing occupancy timers meaning a possible 66% increase in running times.
  • Toilet supply and extract systems to run 100% of the time as per above.

All people working in the building will need to be made aware that they cannot turn off the systems or tamper with them in any way, even if the building feels too cold! The number one priority is to vent any potential virus bacteria. This means systems working harder for longer, increasing utilities costs as your energy usage rises to meet the new demand. As a result, you need to prepare for a larger energy budget.

Is there a way for me to monitor my air quality and ensure that I am following BESA’s guidelines correctly?

Smarter Technologies Group has a comprehensive building monitoring solution for the ultimate facilities management, including sensors which monitor air quality, flow and usage.

The outdoor sensors are designed to look for pollutants and produce real-time air quality maps in urban areas, giving you an overview of what is happening in the air outside of your building.

The indoor sensors are designed for insulated buildings where air quality can suffer under high occupancy and where air control systems may be ineffective or costly. With the advent of COVID-19, this is especially important in keeping occupancy at manageable levels and where outbreaks may occur, ensuring that decisive action can be taken at speed.

These smart sensors, presented on a tailored dashboard, will give you a full, real-time overview of your building, allowing you to make important decisions regarding your air quality, energy output and enable you to rapidly take action on any issues which may arise.

4. How have you decided to improve your channels of communication and transparency once life returns to the workplace?

It is more important than ever before for business owners and upper management to share their decisions on how to protect staff, colleagues, students, visitors and customers. This is particularly important with respect to updated protocols on entrance and exit; with temperature screening as the obvious example.

You will need to ensure General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance and communicate with staff effectively on issues. This includes a channel of communication to be opened for improving the systems and solutions that have yet to be encountered in the return to the ‘new normal’.

5. Will the old fashioned work patterns remain in place? Do they even need to?

Probably one of the most discussed topics amongst your colleagues and management teams is “do we need everyone to be present in the building to remain productive?”. Whatever the result of your particular discussion, this is a conversation that needs to bring about honest answers. Is it really necessary to have everyone on site, all of the time? If not, can you work in a remote working system whereby staff work from home and come in when needed? Can you apply a model of rotation?

While the world has had a trial-by-fire on Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams meetings, one must also question the nature of security and breaches in a modern, digital world. What kind of exposure will your business face with regards to data loss or theft? How do you handle corrupted files and breaches of GDPR? How do you maintain staff integrity and ensure that work ethic does not slump?

These are all questions which need tailored solutions, specific to your business model.

6. Who do I speak to about finding reopening solutions for my business?

Smarter Business, and our associated company Smarter Technologies Group, has a number of applications that can help mitigate the risks posed by reopening facilities and can provide stakeholders with the proof points needed to demonstrate that reasonable measures are being taken to protect the workplace environment.

To find out more about what we can do to support you, call 01444 220060 or email us at info@smarterbusiness.co.uk.

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