2023 Tech Trends: Latest Technology to Keep a Workforce Healthy

Ronald D. Brown, MD, Contributor

One of the best ways to minimize potential contagion is to eliminate as many high-touch areas as possible; door handles, elevator controls, light switches and touch-screens should be wiped down at least twice a day to minimize health risks. (zaetsevgeniy – stock.adobe.com)

Infectious diseases like the flu, COVID-19, RSV and more continue to present emergencies for hospitals; epidemics for public health officials; and high absentee rates for employers. But, as much as workplaces can spread disease—if operated smartly—they can also help fight against it.

The best and easiest solutions for public health prevention will always be the basics: washing hands, covering the mouth while sneezing, easy-to-find educational hygiene signage and frequent surface decontamination. While most hygiene techniques used today date back a century, the lingering threat of mass viral transmission is as contemporary as ever.

For a workplace hygiene solution to be effective, it must be simple to use. There are several new technologies that companies are using to safeguard themselves from potential viral spread. Recent innovations in hands-free, high-efficiency technology can help workplaces lower viral risk, cut employee sick leave and boost morale overall.

No-Touch Decontamination

Ensuring proper surface hygiene is an integral part of a holistic safety plan—and one of the easiest to mess up due to a lack of personal motivation, ineffective technique or general awareness. By minimizing the human element, companies can reduce potential human error.

“No touch decontamination” (NTD) refers to technology that enables a user to decontaminate or disinfect surfaces without any physical contact. Many systems are deployed manually through a pressurized or electrostatic sprayer, while others utilize automated fogging or UV light processes that don’t require human involvement. NTD systems often use hospital-grade disinfectant to fill the interior of a treatment area with a “fog” that traps pathogens on the surfaces and in the air and kills them.

This technology is perfect for routine cleansing of high-traffic areas, including break rooms, offices, bathrooms, machinery, keyboards and more. Companies should look for systems that offer completely hands-off cleaning and manual spot-cleaning nozzles to maximize potential use cases.

Many businesses are switching to hands-free motion sensors to minimize physical interaction and indirect contact. Becoming a hands-free office allows businesses to take proactive measures to reduce cross-contamination. (Mark – stock.adobe.com)

HEPA Filtration

A 1994 government analysis of sick leave data for more than 3,000 workers found that 57% of all sick leave was attributable to poor ventilation. Poor indoor air quality can exacerbate allergies and asthma, causing headaches and fatigue, skin irritation, respiratory problems or an increased risk of infection due to contaminants in the air.

New advancements in “high-efficiency particulate air filtration” (HEPA) technology has become a necessary tool to fight against airborne contaminants. All HEPA-designated technology must be able to capture over 99.97% of all particulate pollution—including pollen, dust, mold, tobacco smoke and PM2.5 (among the smallest of all atmospheric particles). Many new air purifiers also bundle their HEPA technology with UV technology to thoroughly capture air and pass it through a filter exposed to UV-C light for an additional level of purification.

Workplaces that do invest in new air purification systems need to make sure the unit is serviced correctly; the filters are changed regularly; and the unit is fit for the amount of space it is actively purifying for the best performance possible.

Hands-Free Motion Sensors

One of the best ways to minimize potential contagion is to eliminate as many high-touch areas as possible—before they become a transmission source. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst found bacteria on doorknobs as soon as 15 minutes after the doorknobs were disinfected. Door handles, elevator controls, light switches and touch-screens should be wiped down at least twice a day to minimize any health risks.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are switching to hands-free motion sensors to minimize physical interaction and indirect contact between individuals. Hotels were some of the first businesses offering digital check-in, digital room keys and voice assistants for turning on lights. Something as simple as an overhead light sensor can drastically reduce the amount of contact and optimize energy efficiency as a bonus.

Hands-Free is Not Effort-Free

Becoming a hands-free office allows businesses to take proactive measures to reduce cross-contamination. The more operations or interactions that become automated or touchless, the less probability workers may unknowingly infect each other with a debilitating virus.

However, researching, investing and installing new technology is only one part of creating a better work environment. A heavy investment in decontamination systems does not prevent a workplace from practicing other routine safety measures. Workplace safety needs intentional and consistent effort to create the optimal environment for employees to flourish. IHW

About the Author:

Ronald D. Brown, MD, is the CEO of AeroClave, a leading distributor of decontamination systems that was founded in response to the 2003 SARS epidemic. He has decades of experience in emergency medicine, acting as the EMS Medical Director for the Seminole County Department of Public Safety from 1985-2000.

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