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Managing visitor operations during the coronavirus outbreak

Managing visitor operations 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. 

Coronaviruses consist 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, the new strain, novel coronavirus (nCov) has “not been previously identified in humans.” As of February 13, there have been over 60,000 cases of infected people (the majority in mainland China), and nearly 1,400 deaths worldwide as a result. There, has been no indication of the virus slowing down - there were 15,000 new cases and nearly 300 more deaths as of February 11, 2020.

From airports to schools to hospitals, people have been taking the recommended measures (ie washing hands, wearing masks, staying home when sick, etc.) to combat the spread. Workplaces, where there are steady streams of employees and visitors, are also taking precautionary steps. 

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

With several dozen novel coronavirus cases in North America and Europe, the approach needs to go beyond limiting international business travel and encouraging sick days. Visitors (contractors, vendors, potential employees, delivery personnel, etc.) can present potential risk to organizations if they recently travelled to China or interacted with someone who has. This kind of vulnerability can result in the further spread of the virus at the facility. 

Visitor management systems (VMS) enables effective enforcement of security protocols. 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 help prevent the spread of the disease, enforce health and safety best practices and limit liability when it comes to the novel coronavirus:

  • Visitor screening with questions about recent travel to China (stated track record of visitor travel)
  • Visitor screening about possible symptoms: respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, breathing difficulty
  • Sign-off on legal documents confirming the travel to affected regions or association/exposure/being in company of someone that travelled to China
  • Setting the alerts to EHS officials if symptoms are noted for secondary evaluation
  • Providing visitors and getting sign-off on personal protective equipment (PPE) precautions or best practices
  • Providing visitors with a training video on any required precautions or procedures

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 virus spread. Above all, this goes beyond risk mitigation. It is about keeping communities and employees safe.