Preparing Your Facility to Reopen [Webinar]
[Erika] Thank you for listening in to this discussion from Travelers.
Before we begin, I’d like to say just a few words about our disclaimer. During this session, we are going to be discussing some best practices relating to your reopening your facility after COVID-19. But we can’t possibly cover every scenario you may encounter. Since every company and scenario is different, it is going to be up to you to take this information and use it in a way that best fits your company’s individual situation.
And, for any legal decisions that may relate to the use of the information discussed during this presentation, always follow the advice of your own legal counsel.
My name is Erika Fleig from the Risk Control organization at Travelers and I’ll be moderating this discussion. We are fortunate to be talking to an extremely knowledgeable team of specialists from the property, boiler and machinery, and industrial hygiene disciplines in Travelers Risk Control about some things that are likely on your mind as you re-open your facilities after a shutdown due to COVID-19.
So let's meet our panel. Dale? Let's start with you.
Need name, area of focus at Travelers and group you work with, how long you have been with Travelers or in the industry?
[Dale] Dale Bonn, Sr. Property Specialist and I have been with Travelers for 10 years.
[Erika] Thanks Dale. Jeff can you introduce yourself?
[Jeff] Jeff Post, Boiler Machinery Risk Control, we consult on equipment breakdowns and complete jurisdictional inspection. I have been with Travelers 9 years and in the boiler industry 24 years.
[Erika] And Bill, please share a little bit about yourself and your background.
[Bill] Bill Shoemaker, Certified Industrial Hygienist, with Travelers Risk Control.
[Erika] Thanks very much. Let's get started.
Travelers Risk Control has been assisting businesses manage their risk for decades…. and managing risk in a world that now involves COVID-19, at least for the time being, means businesses need to be very deliberate and follow a PATH back to business...
As you think about your PATH to reopening your facilities safely, fall back on four guiding elements.
- Act and
- Train, to maintain
Every business is unique and workplaces are just too diverse for a one–size-fits-all approach. There are, however, some core principles everyone should consider on the PATH to operating safely in today’s environment.
There's a lot to think about. Bill would you share the specific elements of the PATH forward that we're going to focus on today with this panel?
[Bill] Sure. We know that getting a facility ready to be operational after any shutdown takes work and a lot of preparation, but with COVID-19 being the reason for the shutdown, there’s even more to plan for as you open your facilities back up for business, and welcome your employees back to work. Dale, Jeff and I will focus on the first two elements in PATH. PLAN and ACT. We will provide our thoughts to some of the questions that might be on your mind as you start PLANNING to reopen and ACTIONS to consider to make so that employees can return safely.
[Erika] Great, let's go to the a question that gives us a good place to start this discussion.
As we think about reopening a facility that may have been shutdown, in part or entirely after COVID-19……I'm sure its more than just turning the lights back on, so where does a company start? Dale, let's start with you for your thoughts on this.
[Dale] A good place to start is to consider how the operation was shut down, or repurposed as a result of COVID 19. Then consider the people who need to be engaged, and what knowledge and skills are needed to help restart operations.
Prepare Team – So as you dive in and develop your reopening plan it is critical that you bring all key players to the table to ensure it's a strong, coordinated effort. Decide who will be represented on your reopening team and what roles they will play. Your team should include building engineers, contractors, facility or plant managers, human resources, environmental health and safety, and someone to act as liaison to the state and local officials. Team members can focus on the objectives specific to their area of expertise, whether it be the building, people or processes and brief the other teammates on their progress in order to reduce the potential for oversight or duplication of efforts. Getting the right people involved early on, and communicating regularly can help ensure a successful transition.
[Erika] That's a really great point and one that really speaks to the first part, the PLAN component of the PATH forward. Let's keep going with another question
I'm going to start with you again Dale, but would like to bring in Jeff on this one too. What can businesses expect when they restart an idle plant and equipment? Let's start with you Dale...
[Dale] Building envelope – One of the first things to focus on when you reopen your building is to evaluate the building envelope, that’s essentially the four walls and the roof, in order to make sure it hasn’t been compromised. Roof maintenance may have lapsed and severe weather may have exposed your building to damaging conditions. Starting inside, inspect interior walls and ceilings for signs of water stains, cracks and the settling of foundation walls. Then if you can safely access the roof, visually inspect roof-mounted equipment to verify that it hasn't been damaged. Also take a close look at the roof covering and flashing and clean out debris around roof drains to prevent standing water. The photo here on the upper right may look like a parking lot, but it's actually a large roof with severe water ponding. On the ground, inspect the gutters to make sure they discharge water away from the building. Do the same with the windows, making sure there are no broken panes or evidence of water damage. And lastly, if your basement has a sump pump check to make sure it is working. I recommend starting with the building envelope because if the building is compromised, successfully starting operations inside will be difficult.
[Erika] Jeff, while we are on the topic of maintenance, are there specific areas that the facilities restoration team should focus on?
[Jeff] There are Erika. Keeping in mind the team that Dale mentioned, team members should include individuals who are familiar with both building equipment and production equipment. First if any routine maintenance tasks have not been able to be conducted as a result of the virus those items should be performed by qualified contractors or employees familiar with the proper operation of the equipment prior to startup. Some typical activities might be looking for signs of leakage, checking fluid levels and ensuring lubricants are sufficient.
If equipment was removed from service, cycle based testing, meaning repetitively starting the equipment and observing though a full sequence of operation may help the restoration team identify any deterioration caused by inactivity. The restoration plan should include, verifying that moving parts of each piece of equipment are free and unobstructed prior to energizing.
Some systems may have been left in operation while plant idling occurred. For example, if electrical system remained in service, it might seem that powered equipment could be restarted without any concern. However, electrical loads should be restored slowly to prevent overloading damage to electrical systems. Maintenance personnel or Electricians should monitor equipment operation as power is restored helping to prevent issues.
Emergency systems, such as emergency power generators, should be tested as soon as practical for proper operation in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines. A service contractor or qualified technician should physically observe testing of the emergency generation equipment.
Are the other emergency systems to consider Dale?
[Dale] Absolutely, life safety and fire protection systems are critical when reopening your building. This includes fire alarms, sprinkler systems and portable fire extinguishers. Most businesses have been closed for at least two months, which means inspection, testing and maintenance may certainly be overdue. An easy way to begin is by reviewing the service tags or records and then schedule anything that lapsed. Some items you may need to hire a contractor for, but other self-inspections can be handled by in-house. For example, 40% of sprinkler system failures are simply due to a valve being closed. You can easily visually inspect each sprinkler control valve to ensure it is in the open position. Your team should also check that building life safety systems are functional. This includes things like egress signage and lighting, fire doors, smoke control systems. Be sure to inspect, test and maintain them as necessary.
[Erika] Thanks for those insights Dale and Jeff. Now let's turn to a topic that everyone is talking about and that's social or physical distancing
Bill, let me start with you as businesses plan to bring employees back to work and adhere to social distancing guidelines, what steps might they need to take to accomplish social distancing?
[Bill] Well, the Center for Disease Control has worked hard to educate all of us on the value of social distancing. We need to remember though, that social distancing can be accomplished many ways (for example: working from home may be an option for some workers; another might be adjusting starting or stopping times or break times for workers). It isn't just maintaining a magical six foot physical free space around us.
[Erika] Let's focus on physical distancing then. What changes to the facility might businesses need to make?
[Bill] There are many changes that can be made to your facilities to create physical separation between people. Let's see, some that come to mind.
[Erika] Can you give us an example of how a physical barrier might be used?
[Bill] Certainly. Imagine an assembly line in a factory. Workers could be separated by installing fixed partitions between them or even hanging curtains on a rod. Dale -
[Dale] [interject] that brings up a really good point.
We see physical barriers going up all over; banks, check out counters. Just recently I saw a supermarket redirecting pedestrian traffic one way. When reconfiguring your facility to address physical distancing it is critical that you keep fire and life safety in mind. Be cognizant of the fact that any time you change the path of people through your facility, your potentially changing human behavior in an emergency. Continue to ensure exit aisles remain clear and accessible, exit doors and signage is not blocked, and that evacuation plans and diagrams are up to date. And if you set up temporary facilities, for example, outdoor seating areas, take into account that there may be similar requirements for occupant loads, exits and signage.
[Erika] All really important things to think about with regard to establishing that distance and separation to prevent transmission. Now let's talk about something a little different.
I'd like to get a few of you in on this discussion related to preparing and maintaining some of the building systems after a shutdown, but let's start with Bill... Bill, in addition to the risk of potential property damage, are there any health concerns that businesses should be addressing as they turn on mechanical and electrical systems?”
[Bill] Yes, Erika. Stagnant or standing water in plumbing systems and pipes, can cause a slimy film of bacteria, called biofilm to form. This increases the risk of Legionella or other bacteria growing and spreading.
[Erika] What should facilities do to prevent these biofilms from forming?
[Bill] Pipes should be flushed to clear bacteria and metals. Run hot water systems until the water reaches its maximum temperature.
[Erika] Are there any other water systems besides pipes that need to be flushed?
[Bill] Yes, for sure. Safety equipment such as eye wash stations, drench hoses, and safety showers should be flushed as well. You also want to think about water features, such as cooling towers, fountains, humidifiers, spas and showers should be cleaned and well-maintained. If ice machines are present, old ice should be discarded, machines should be cleaned and the first couple batches of new ice should be discarded as well.
[Erika] How about heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems? Do they need to be cleaned as well?
[Bill] Changes to the HVAC system are part of overall mitigation efforts associated with COVID-19. Modifications may include increasing the % of outdoor dilution air supplied to the system, AND improving the filtration of return air by swapping to higher efficiency filters. Of course, all modifications should be discussed and verified with your building engineers or the contractors who maintain your HVAC systems.
[Erika] In addition to talking to your contractor, are there any other things people should be thinking about with regard to maintenance or upkeep of their heating and cooling systems? Jeff – can you comment on that?
[Jeff] Keeping HVAC systems along with chillers and Boilers safely operational requires regular upkeep even during the pandemic. Prior to using this equipment all safeguards, controls, and interlocks should be tested. Liquid filled systems should have the water chemistry verified by a service professional. Again, cycling the equipment may help identify malfunctions before the equipment is put online. All typical maintenance suggested by the manufacture such as filter changes, charging, combustion testing, and oil sampling should be fully reimplemented. Even the most routine tasks of observing and logging pressures and temperatures can help prevent downtime.
Boilers and pressure vessels may have become due for jurisdictional inspection. In many states and cities, inspection completion is required to operate pressure retaining equipment. To verify the status of your inspection requirements you can contact your insurance provider or governmental inspection agency.
[Erika] Thanks Jeff and Bill for speaking to these important ACTIONS that need to be a part of any plan to reopen a facility.
We've all heard that some companies altered their operations to produce items that were in short supply due to the pandemic, such as masks or hand sanitizer. What should these businesses who made changes to their operations be thinking about as they bring that equipment back to it’s original use? Jeff, can you comment first on this?
[Jeff] Start with good reverse engineering, the steps taken to change the use of the equipment must be reverted back. Basic inspection and cleaning afterward will help prevent debris not usually occurring with the equipment from causing damage as regular operation occurs. The nontypical operation may have stressed components or accelerated wear and tear on the machinery. Nondestructive testing such as oil testing, material integrity testing, or vibration analyses may help predict occurrences resulting from the modified use before they happen.
[Erika] And Dale, what if businesses end up continuing those temporary operations going forward? What else should they be doing?
[Dale] I'd just add that if you find that a temporary change is becoming permanent you'll want to evaluate the overall impact. For example, a closed school building being turned into PPE storage could have a major impact on the overall hazard classification, and could overtax fire protection systems. It's good practice anytime to have a major change in occupancy to conduct a thorough hazard analysis and also consult with your insurance provider.
[Erika] Thanks for this discussion. Now let's move to Bill to talk about cleaning and disinfecting.
Bill, can you talk to us about cleaning and disinfecting as businesses prepare their facility to reopen?
[Bill] Well, the good news is the CDC states, “If your workplace, school or business has been unoccupied for 7 days or more, only your normal routine cleaning will be needed to reopen. This is because (at this time) the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than this amount of time.
[Erika] That is good news indeed. What about facilities that have been occupied more recently?
[Bill] If it has been less than 7 days, you should clean and disinfect using an EPA List N disinfectant in accordance with instructions for use.
[Erika] Where can facilities find List N?
[Bill] HA! Funny you should ask. It's 2020 so I would start by typing "EPA List N" into a web browser. . . . you should be able to quickly locate it on the Environmental Protection Agency website.
[Erika] So clean and disinfect?
[Bill] Yep, currently, the CDC says, "Proper use and application of EPA-approved disinfectants should be sufficient.“
[Erika] So I heard a lot of great information to help business follow that PATH to reopening their facility and preparing for employees to safely return to work – from everything from planning for the reopening of the building itself, making sure systems and equipment are operational and in working order, to making sure that cleaning, disinfecting, and physical distancing measures are in place.
By using the principles to first PLAN for re-opening your business and second, ACT by putting into place control to reduce the transmission in the workplace, you are of right PATH to managing risk!
I’d like to thank Dale, Bill, and Jeff for sharing your knowledge today. And thank you for listening.
[Bill] Well, the frequency of cleaning/disinfection should be proportional to the number of people in the space and the frequency of contact with surfaces—in other words, more congested more frequently touched areas should be cleaned/disinfected more often. . . . .
Oh, and don't forget: personal protective equipment for cleaning and disinfection should be used in accordance with the product label or safety data sheet—and at a minimum should include reusable or disposable gloves.”
[Dale] While we’re on the topic of using cleaners and disinfectants to reopen a facility, be mindful of how much you are storing of hazardous materials and where. Storage of chemicals such as liquid hand sanitizer contains alcohols which are flammable liquids. Flammable liquids should be kept in designated areas, typically fire rated flammable liquid storage cabinets. If you have a question about what is in your chemicals consult the manufacturer or reference the Safety Data Sheet.
[Erika] Such a great discussion and so many things to think about as businesses follow that PATH to reopening as they prepare their facility to get back up and running, and make it ready for employees to return safely.