Keep Workplaces Safe from Contamination Hazards

Editor’s Note: For this Industrial Hygiene in the Workplace exclusive, we sat down with Ronald D. Brown, MD, CEO of AeroClave, to discuss industrial workplaces’ airborne hazards and how to combat them.

1. What kinds of industrial facilities does AeroClave work with?

We work with fleet maintenance companies, manufacturing spaces and warehouses across multiple industries.

2. What are common airborne hazards that industrial workspaces deal with regularly?

Industrial workspaces often struggle with a variety of contaminants, most commonly bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew and fungi that can be severely detrimental to everyday operations.

3. What are industrial workplaces’ top pain points regarding proper hygiene and viral transmission?

We’ve seen companies struggle with four major categories of hazards: biological, chemical, airborne, and physical hazards.

  • Biological hazards including bacteria, viruses, fungi and other living things, can come in the form of solids, liquids, gasses, mists, dusts, fumes and vapors that can cause toxic effects in inhalation (breathing), absorption (direct contact with skin) or ingestion (eating/drinking). Once inside the body, these contaminants can cause acute or chronic infections.
  • Airborne hazards like particulates, gas or vapor contaminants can be highly corrosive to human tissue. Fine dust, mists, aerosols and fibers can be highly dangerous when absorbed and ingested.
  • High levels of chemical hazards like harmful vapors and fumes are extremely damaging to an exposed individual. Scientists and researchers set threshold standards to assess worker risk and monitor for potentially dangerous chemical concentrations.
  • Physical hazards from extreme temperatures, work conditions in a confined or poorly ventilated space, and excessive levels of ionizing and nonionizing electromagnetic radiation can be life-threatening.

At AeroClave, we specialize in surface decontamination. Ensuring proper surface hygiene is an integral part of a holistic safety plan and one of the easiest to mishandle through user application. We aim to minimize the human element to reduce potential human error.

New HEPA air filtration technology has been a helpful tool to fight against airborne contaminants, but that’s only helping solve one piece of the safety puzzle. Our technology is part of a complete process.

4. What are common areas of transmission for employees who work in industrial spaces?

Communal spaces and areas of heavy foot traffic are causes of concern, including:

  • Break rooms, offices, confined spaces with poor air quality
  • Changing rooms, employee lockers, showers and bathrooms
  • High-touch areas like door handles, stair railings, remotes for equipment
  • Commonly used machinery like forklifts, hand tools, rotators, etc.
  • Phones, computers, keyboards and table surfaces

Fully enclosed facilities also typically create more hygiene hazards than hybrid or fully outdoor workspaces. UV light from the sun can serve as a natural disinfectant for many transmissible viruses and contaminants.

5. It’s been several years since the onset of COVID-19. How have industrial workspaces changed their protocol, or have they changed at all since 2019?

Since March 2020,, we’ve seen a marked increase in adherence to basic hygiene procedures. Routine hand washing, coughing into an elbow, and increased usage of educational hygiene signage can drastically help a workplace’s overall hygiene. Workers are now more accustomed to typical flu season mitigation protocol.

Many large facilities employ the services of an industrial hygienist, whose role is to anticipate health and safety concerns and design solutions to prevent them. By implementing industrial hygiene principles early, companies can identify potential issues before they escalate, potentially endangering the health and safety of their employees. Overall, implementing industrial hygiene programs and practices keeps employees safe, protects the company from potential risk/liabilities and minimal interruption in the day-to-day operations.

6. What is “no-touch decontamination,” and how does this technology differ from what’s on the market?

“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.

7. Can you explain how AeroClave systems cleanse a space?

All our portable NTD systems, including RDS3110 and RDS6110, deploy aerosol technology. We use commercially available hospital-grade disinfectants to fill the interior of a treatment area with a disinfectant “fog” that traps pathogens on the surfaces and in the air and kills them.

Our fully automated process results in a more comprehensive and consistent clean than a manual, hands-on alternative. However, our technology can be manually applied to disinfect specific high-contact surfaces, technology or exteriors more frequently. Once a disinfectant deploys, the aerosol requires a 10 minute dwell (or contact) period to allow the disinfectant enough time to work. Once that is complete, the disinfectant breaks down naturally and the treatment area can be returned to normal use.

8. Is an aerosol like Vital Oxide safe to use around heavy machinery?

Yes, it is.

9. What benefits have you seen from facilities that have started using no-touch decontamination?

Overall, our clients see a heavy decrease in sick leave, overtime usage and work hours needed for decontamination, resulting in significant cost savings. Workforces that save time and resources creating a healthy environment see increases in overall health, productivity and morale knowing that their workspace is properly sanitized. Companies that invest in hygiene and safety systems and follow protocol develop reputations for being quality employers, leading to less overtime and increased employee retention. IHW

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