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How to protect your facilities, visitors, and employees during the coronavirus outbreak

How to protect your facilities, visitors, and employees during the coronavirus outbreak Photo

The global impact of the coronavirus outbreak has been significant, as countries, organizations and the medical community have been scrambling to understand, control and prevent the spread of this new, but potentially devastating virus. 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has had a significant impact on countries around the globe as organizations and the medical community have been scrambling to understand, control and prevent the spread of this new, but potentially devastating virus.

This particular instance of coronavirus is just one part of a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe respiratory diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the new strain, novel coronavirus (nCov) has “not been previously identified in humans.” As of April 1st, there have been over 900,000 cases of infected people, and over 45,000 deaths worldwide as a result.

Luckily, there are already countries making strides towards recovery with nearly 190,000 recovered cases of April 1st, 2020. Thanks to coronavirus prevention strategies implemented by governments like reduced store hours, limitations on group gatherings, and shelter-in-place, the curve has been flattened for many.

On the individual level, people have been taking the recommended coronavirus protection measures (ie washing hands, wearing masks, staying home when sick, etc.) to combat the spread. Workplaces, where there are steady streams of people coming in and out, are also taking precautionary steps to protect their employees, facilities and visitors from the coronavirus.

At the end of January, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) surveyed Security Managers in the U.S. about the effects that the coronavirus spread has had on their business operations. Based on the findings, most security directors recommended restricting business travel (particularly to countries where there is a Level 4 travel advisory security risk), providing health related items to staff and mandating remote work.

With the coronavirus outbreak now hitting countries globally, while most organizations have gone remote there are essential services that simply do not have that option. Visitors for the Manufacturing, Food and Beverage, and Healthcare industry (contractors, vendors, potential employees, delivery personnel, etc.) can present potential risk to organizations if they recently travelled to affected geographical areas or interacted with someone who has. This kind of vulnerability can result in the further spread of the coronavirus at the facility.

Visitor management systems (VMS) enable effective enforcement of protective coronavirus screening measures. Companies concerned with improving onsite safety can screen who is entering their facilities, proactively evaluate visitors risk levels through pre-registrations, and highlight required safety precautions.

Here are ways VMS can be configured to help employees stay protected from the coronavirus, and help promote health and safety best practices:

  • Visitor screening with questions about recent travel to specific levels of travel advisory countries (stated track record of visitor travel). This can be completed as part of the invitation process before the visitor travels to the facility. Preventing visitors with recent history from a Level 3 (widespread, ongoing transmission) or Level 4 (do not travel) country from visiting the facility and arranging for a meeting to be conducted remotely.
  • Configuring visitor experience with questions about recent travel prior to PII (personally identifiable information) being collected. This ensures that before the person is even identified or asked to give their name, you can assess their eligibility to come into the facility while keeping high privacy standards.
  • Visitor screening about possible coronavirus symptoms: respiratory signals, fever, cough, breathing difficulty. Those that confirm symptoms or show symptoms while waiting to see a host should be re-evaluated immediately, with designated people on the team alerted and notified.
  • Alerting EHS officials if coronavirus-related symptoms are declared for secondary evaluation or preventative action is needed.
  • Sign-off on legal documents confirming travel to affected regions or exposure to someone that has travelled to affected countries. While it is understandable that visitors may need to be the primary caretaker for somebody who has the coronavirus in their family or travelled to a Level 3 country before the travel advisory was declared, protecting your employees comes first.
  • Constant updates of travel advisory watchlists and evaluation of symptoms. With the widespread transmission and spread of the coronavirus, more and more countries are being moved up from lower risk travel advisory warnings to higher risk ones everyday. Organizations need to be conscious of the rapidly evolving situation to ensure they have accurate and effective coronavirus screening.
  • Getting sign-off on and providing visitors with personal protective equipment (PPE) precautions (masks, protective gear, gloves) and conduct best practices.
  • Providing visitors with a training video on any required protective coronavirus precautions or communicating COVID-19 related messages about business operations with a video address by company’s CEO.

Visitor management systems allow organizations to adapt quickly to unexpected situations like a disease outbreak. It empowers security and facility managers to have greater knowledge and control over who enters their premises, and to take preventative actions that would minimize coronavirus spread. Above all, this goes beyond risk mitigation. It is about protecting communities and employees.