With the Omicron wave sweeping the globe, many of our clients have contacted our consulting team to discuss potential ways of increasing the safety of workers as the virus becomes more prevalent in the community. Over the last several weeks since the latest variant of Covid-19 emerged, we’ve been digesting the latest research and trending information on reducing the Omicron at work. While we haven’t found the magic bullet for eliminating the risk, we have identified a few common themes to reduce the risks of workplace transmission. We thought we’d share with our readers some simple tips for reducing Covid-19 and Omicron variant risks.
Tip One – Ensure that you or your staff are vaccinated (where practically possible)
While we all understand that any vaccination has some limitations, many of the current vaccinations available globally have been proven to mitigate the effects of severe disease and death. If your workers are exposed to the virus at work, then you may bear the risk of workers compensation claims in the future. Evidence shows that while vaccination does not eliminate the virus, it mitigates the effect and transmission rates of Omicron at work.
Tip Two – Ensure that you have an adequate fresh air mix in the building.
Research has shown that fresh air can assist in diluting the concentrations of viral loads in the building. Research from the University of Colorado found that “tracking carbon dioxide levels indoors is an inexpensive and powerful way to monitor the risk of people getting COVID-19.”
We are currently monitoring CO2 levels in our and many of our client’s offices with a view to determining fresh air mix.
You might like to read about our Building Safety Audit Services
It goes without saying that the effect of dilution through fresh air is a common-sense approach but, in many offices, or commercial buildings owners have not introduced fresh air mix into their systems. Simple measures such as the use of fans to direct airflow and/or draw airflow into buildings are of value.
Tip Three – Increase filtration within buildings or rooms to reduce Omircon risk
The use of portable or inline HEPA filters in air-conditioning systems has been proven to show some value in the reduction of concentrations of viral loads in air. Low-cost HEPA room filters can make a real difference to the quality of air and help reduce the spread of omicron at work. Alternative measures include the installation of HEPA H13 media in airconditioning returns to improve filtration of aerosols and droplets or the use of UVC in duct systems to provide aerosol sterilisation.
You might like to try out the Omicron ventilation tool to show the effect of filtration and fresh air in buildings
Tip Four – Minimise work in high person density workplaces
There is a range of studies indicating that there are correlations between the density of personnel in buildings and the spread of communicable diseases. It goes without saying that if many people are working in one area, then the probability of transmission is increased. Decreasing density has been found as an effective measure for mitigating the spread of Omicron at work.
Tip Five – Move to P2 or N95 masks as a standard measure at or beyond the workplace
If you have staff working outside the office, have personnel density issues or can’t effectively maximise air quality issues you should consider P2 or N95 masks. Masks that fit the face tightly like certified P2 or N95 afford more protection than surgical masks. P2 masks offer 94% (particles to 0.3 microns in size). If fitted and used correctly the respirators will filter more effectively and prevent outbound transmission ultimately reducing omicron risk.
You might like to watch this video on wearing a mask correctly
University of Auckland aerosol chemist Dr Joel Rindelaub confirmed recently that N95 or P2 masks offered the best protection.
“If we want to do the best we can to try to stamp out Omicron we need the best technology available and that of course would be the N95 or P2 varieties,” he said.
Dr Rindelaub said people who did not have N95 masks could instead wear a surgical mask with a cloth one on top or knot the loops for a tighter fit.
What can Safetysure do for you?
If you or your business need some external support for managing omicron risk at work the Safetysure team may be able to help. We can independently review your existing controls, model building air movements, conduct smoke testing in building spaces, provide CO2 monitoring and work with HVAC installers to provide recommended upgrades to your air handling systems. Call us on 1300 087 888 or chat below for more information.
Face Masks and respirators that are regulated by the TGA. Available online at https://www.tga.gov.au/face-masks-and-respirators-are-regulated-tga
Kriegel, M.; Hartmann, A.; Buchholz, U.; Seifried, J.; Baumgarte, S.; Gastmeier, P. SARS-CoV-2 Aerosol Transmission Indoors: A Closer Look at Viral Load, Infectivity, the Effectiveness of Preventive Measures and a Simple Approach for Practical Recommendations. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 220. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19010220
 University of Colorado at Boulder. “Carbon dioxide levels reflect COVID-19 risk: Research confirms value of measuring carbon dioxide to estimate infection risk.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 April 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/04/210407143809.htm>.