The spread of the infectious disease COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus SARS-Cov-2, is accelerating at a rapid pace within the United States. As many organizations have already begun to see the effects on their bottom line, they are seeking answers and solutions to help them maintain market share and protect their workers through this pandemic.
Like any natural disaster that creates fear, new companies emerge claiming to provide “solutions” to kill the virus and provide decontamination services for commercial buildings. The limited information known about this novel coronavirus allows these companies to prey on the fear of people and therefore companies jump at the idea thinking that it will help their cause. The realty of their decision is it could put the company and its occupants at further risk. Choosing a company, with the right certifications, qualifications, and experience with micro biological decontamination could be the difference between a success and failure.
Before planning on using your regular janitorial company or in-house cleaning crew, it is your obligation to know the risks and decide if you want to accept them. If they do not have the proper training, you are putting them, the occupants of the building, and the entire organization at risk. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recently issued the following recommendations.
- Develop written policies for worker protection and provide training to ALL cleaning staff prior to disinfecting.
- Have a written respiratory protection plan and train all employees. Included in this plan should be:
- Fit Testing employees with the respirator they are using
- Medical clearance for respirator use
- Proper donning and doffing procedures for respirator use to prevent personal and cross contamination
- Have a written hazard communication plan (HAZCOM Plan) in accordance with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1200 and provide training to employees on the chemicals used and the dangers associated with them.
- Train and comply with OSHA’s Blood Borne Pathogens standard.
- Properly dispose of regulated waste and PPE
History of How Hurricanes Led to New State Licensing Requirements
After the, 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons including disastrous storms such as Hurricanes Katrina and Charley, a similar situation happened within the mold decontamination industry. Unqualified companies began providing “mold remediation” on homes and businesses by spraying chemicals on affected building material and other ineffective techniques as well as providing improper drying services. While the mold seemed to be eradicated at first glance on the outside surface, it was festering behind the walls, cabinets, and other areas that could not be detected visually.
After some time, many individuals would start to experience both chronic and acute health effects as a result of the improper bilogical decontamination. Eventually, either by hiring a professional industrial hygienist to inspect or visibly seeing the mold resurface, they would find that they had severe and hidden mold contamination. When attempting to contact the company that performed the initial remediation services, they would often find that the company had essentially disappeared, didn’t have the proper insurance to fix the problem, or had simply gone out of business.
It didn’t take long for some states to begin enacting mold remediation and assessment laws. They now require companies and/or individuals hold a license to perform both mold remediation and mold assessment services. Those companies would have to undergo state approved training and have a college degree in microbiology or related field or have the necessary experience in order to obtain a license. They are also required to have the proper insurance in order to perform these services. If they did not fulfill these requirements and attempted to provide mold services, they risked fines and potential jail time for repeat offenders.
Biological Decontamination Regulations