Covid-19 and Workplace Safety: Ensuring Accessibility of Spaces

February 18, 2021

Carrying out various work activities while ensuring the safety of employees at all times is a fundamental challenge in the current emergency situation caused by the Covid-19 epidemic. During the initial phases of the pandemic, the spread of the virus in Italy forced many businesses to temporarily suspend their operations. However, it has now become clear that it’s crucial to identify methods that allow companies to continue operating safely. The ongoing fight against the virus requires substantial effort, and it won’t conclude in the near future.

For this reason, organizations and employers must implement the best technological solutions to protect their employees from the risk of contracting the Coronavirus. This involves intervening in both organizational and behavioral processes to ensure safe access, for anyone authorized, to company spaces.

How to reorganize the company structure and spaces, in compliance with regulations

The first guidance provided by the competent authorities concerns the need to modify the organization of business activities, also addressing the management of spaces within the company:

  • Where possible, the company is required to reorganize the entry and exit times of employees. This serves the dual purpose of avoiding gatherings during critical moments that involve the simultaneous influx of many people and creating work groups that are as distinct, autonomous, and recognizable as possible. This way, if an employee were to contract the virus, it would be easier to identify which colleagues had direct contact with them and promptly check their potential positivity for Covid-19. Meanwhile, colleagues belonging to different work groups could be assured that they did not come into contact with the infected person. By acting swiftly and specifically in this manner, it is possible to promptly identify any potential contagion hotspots and prevent the uncontrolled spread of the virus within the workplace.
  • Workstations and company spaces should be rearranged with the goal of maximizing the distance between individual employees as much as possible. Where feasible, the use of furniture or plexiglass partitions is recommended to further divide the workspaces and prevent employees from sharing the same environment for extended periods. Given that in-person meetings, training sessions, and direct interactions among colleagues are strongly discouraged at this stage, it is possible to convert spaces typically used for meetings or gatherings into workstations.
  • Access to common areas (changing rooms, dining areas, smoking areas, etc.) should be limited. Employees should be encouraged to spend as little time as possible in these areas, and continuous ventilation of the premises should be ensured. In these areas, particular attention should be given to ensuring compliance with the rule of maintaining a one-meter interpersonal distance. If necessary, auditory alarms can be used to indicate overcrowding or excessive proximity among individuals.
  • In cases where, due to the specific nature of the tasks performed by employees, it is impossible to guarantee a one-meter interpersonal distance among colleagues, the company is required to provide workers with all necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, suits, gowns, headphones, in addition to masks, which should be provided to all employees regardless of their role.

Sanitization of various environments and hygiene precautions for employees

The regulations also emphasize the importance of conducting thorough cleaning and sanitization of company spaces, paying particular attention to common areas and workstations. These guidelines should be shared with the employees, who should also be informed about the risks associated with Covid-19 infection. They should be encouraged to follow specific indications for personal hygiene.

  • The company must ensure the daily cleaning and sanitization of all company premises and individual workstations. In this regard, it’s important that at each shift change, keyboards, mice, and touch screens present in both offices and production areas are thoroughly cleaned with particular care. Practically, a good solution is to provide employees with cleaning supplies and encourage them to use these products when they find it appropriate (such as before leaving the office for lunch or after returning from a coffee break). This involvement of employees doesn’t replace the cleaning activities that the company should undertake, but it provides valuable assistance in ensuring a consistent and additional sanitization of surfaces. This includes water dispensers, beverage stations, and coffee areas.
  • If a Covid-19 case is identified within the company, it’s necessary to ventilate and sanitize the spaces where the infected person has stayed. Instructions on proper cleaning methods are outlined in Circular 5443 from the Ministry of Health dated February 22, 2020. It recommends thorough cleaning with water and common detergents for all potentially contaminated areas. There should be particular attention to surfaces frequently touched, such as door handles, restroom surfaces, bathroom taps, and so on. Once the cleaning is completed, it’s necessary to proceed with decontamination using 0.1% sodium hypochlorite or alternatively 70% ethanol. These sanitization operations should be carried out while keeping the windows open. The cleaning personnel should be equipped with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as disposable gloves, disposable long-sleeved gowns, FFP2 or FFP3 masks, and so on.
  • The company should inform employees about the hygiene procedures to follow, emphasizing the importance of maintaining interpersonal distance at all times and regularly cleaning hands. In this regard, suitable cleaning agents must be provided to employees: soap in restrooms and medical sanitizers for use without water in other work areas. It’s important that the dispensers of sanitizer are placed in easily accessible areas for all employees, especially in potentially critical zones like the break area where employees may temporarily lower their masks to eat or drink, thus increasing the risk of touching their mouth and nose with contaminated hands. Corridors, changing rooms, reception, and entry areas are strategic locations where hand sanitizers should also be placed.
  • The areas mentioned above, where the risk of contagion spread is higher, are ideal places to install air sanitization devices.

How to sanitize the air to protect employees from the risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus

Sanitizing the air is a fundamental aid in combating the spread of Covid-19. Indeed, we know that this virus primarily spreads through the air, either through droplets emitted by individuals in an environment or by attaching to particles suspended in the air that we breathe. For this reason, while it’s crucial to sanitize surfaces, it’s equally important to clean the air in the environments where workers stay (as also highlighted by the Ministry of Health guidelines, which recommend airing out all company spaces as much as possible).

Regarding this matter, it’s important to remember that the high contagion rate of the Coronavirus is also due to the fact that many virus-infected individuals are, in reality, completely asymptomatic. This means that these individuals continue to frequent their usual living and working environments, inadvertently contributing to the spread of the virus through the air they exhale or the surfaces they touch. Given that temperature checks and the identification of symptoms commonly associated with the virus do not always detect and isolate asymptomatic carriers, sanitizing the air becomes a crucial aid in preventing the spread of Covid-19, especially in environments frequented by a large number of people.

Among the available technologies for sanitization, the certified ActivePure system is a particularly advantageous choice. This system efficiently purifies the air (it is even used by NASA to protect its astronauts from the risk of contagion) and can be used even when people are present inside the areas undergoing sanitization. Indeed, unlike other solutions such as ozone treatment, ActivePure utilizes hydrogen peroxide, a substance completely non-harmful to humans. Therefore, it can operate continuously 24/7 without posing any health risks. The vaporization of hydrogen peroxide enables continuous purification of indoor air and also facilitates the sanitation of surfaces. As the vaporized substance settles on surfaces, it eliminates potential sources of contagion, streamlining cleaning operations.

The selection of such technology also serves as a crucial legal protection for the company. Indeed, the Consolidated Law on Health and Safety in the Workplace (Legislative Decree 81/08) establishes that companies are obligated to safeguard the health of their employees by employing the best available technology on the market. Therefore, by opting for a sanitation system utilizing ActivePure technology, the company is adequately addressing the requirements of the regulations, effectively safeguarding its employees in the best possible manner.

Do you want to discover how to best protect your employees’ health and what are the necessary measures to enhance your company’s safety? Download our checklist and contact us!