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Using technology to keep Covid-19 at bay in the workplace

By Ken Wong - 29 Nov 2021

Using technology to keep Covid-19 at bay in the workplace

Cliff Tong, CEO of Ecosparks. Image source: Ecosparks.

We’ve gotten used to heightened cleaning measures brought about by Covid-19 concerns. Beyond the frequent use of hand sanitisers, our office spaces are disinfected regularly as well.

But there are tools we can use to ease the workload on cleaning staff. But as most companies aren’t don’t own the building they work in, what can they do to ensure staff are safe as we head back into our offices?

Ecosparks is a Singaporean company supplying things like air disinfection and ultraviolet disinfection solutions for companies and building owners. We spoke to Cliff Tong, CEO of Ecosparks to find out this and more.

 

An air disinfection solution from Ecosparks. Image source: Ecosparks.

How regularly and thoroughly should high-touch surfaces be sanitised? What's the schedule/cleaning routine like? What processes and cleaning agents/disinfectants are currently in use? Are there any concerns around hand sanitisers or other personal cleaning utilities present in the office?

High-touch surfaces should be disinfected at least twice a day given that the virus that causes Covid-19 can survive for 28 days on common surfaces as research states.

Current or conventional cleaning routines should be reviewed to emphasise more on disinfection. There should be a paradigm shift in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) where an automated disinfection routine is introduced before manual cleaning processes begin.

Aside from the existing cleaning agent and disinfectants widely used in the forms of liquid and gas, technologies such as Ultraviolet (UV) have been increasingly adopted.

Hand sanitisers or cleaning utilities should be used with care as some can be harmful to children or individuals with allergies. The number of accidental poisonings involving hand sanitiser and children has drastically increased since the pandemic began as compared to previous years.

 

How can we be sure janitorial and maintenance staff are keeping up with more stringent cleaning routines? Can we be sure that they aren't being overworked and are efficient? 

Training for janitors and facility maintenance staff should be focused on targeted high touch surfaces and human traffic within the premises.  

With the current labour shortage faced by the industry, it is inevitable that they end up with long working hours. This leads to a compromise on their efficiency and productivity, especially without the help of technology.

The disinfection routine should be clearly segregated from cleaning. Personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks or UV-protective glasses and wear should be used when operating or servicing the device at all times.

 

An Ecosparks UV cleaning solution. Image source: Ecosparks.

How can we be sure that circulated air is clean and not recycled? Given that most times, the business isn’t a landlord, how do they ensure that the air circulation is managed properly?

Businesses could check with their landlord on how the centralised air handling unit (AHU) conditions and distributes the air within the building. They may procure fresh ambient air from the outside, clean it, heat it or cool it, may even humidify it and then force it through some ductwork around to the designated areas within a building.

Given that the AHU manages a large amount of air and the air flows are usually fast, air circulated within the premise may not be fully cleaned before it is distributed through air ducts. Additional protection systems within the business are recommended, with the air exchanges occurring among the occupants within the premises.

 

Do ceiling filters or air purifiers provide suitable protection?

Air purifiers could effectively capture the particles within the premise. However, the ability to disinfect the air circulated is in question. Studies show that Coronavirus and most other viruses are well below the particle size that the usual filter can trap.

Even if the filter manages to trap the virus, it may stay alive on the filter surface for several hours or even days. Nonetheless, the virus will most likely die on the filter, unless the filter is being removed when the virus is still alive, which may well release the virus back into the air or onto one’s skin.

 

An Ecosparks UV cleaning solution. Image source: Ecosparks.

What toxic chemicals continue to be used in Singapore’s fight against Covid-19? What sustainable alternatives exist in the marketplace?

Ozone generators, UV lamps with high mercury content are among those that continue to be used as disinfection solutions combating against Covid-19. 

The introduction of UV-C LEDs has a profound impact on the water, air and surface disinfection markets as we continue to seek more reliable, efficient, and environmentally friendly light sources for disinfection applications. UV-C LEDs have enabled the creation of new disinfection applications due to a number of different characteristics:

  • Mercury-free – Conventional UV lamps contain up to several hundred milligrams of mercury in a liquid or amalgam form. However, UV-C LEDs are mercury-free to prevent spillage in the case of any breakage or disposal.
  • Compact footprint – High-power-density UV-C LEDs and advanced controls allow for a much smaller footprint compared to traditional UV sources and their electronic drivers.
  • Instant-on/off – Unlike gas discharge lamps, UV-C LEDs can be switched on and off without any warm-up times. This enhances power savings and leads to prolonged lamp replacement intervals in batch process applications.

 

A solution deployed at an Ecosparks customer. Image source: Ecosparks.

How are Air and Surface LED UV-C Disinfection Solutions able to destroy up to 99.9999 percent of airborne and surface pathogens and leave a smaller carbon footprint as compared to other solutions?

LED UV-C disinfection solutions are able to generate UV-C radiation to deactivate bacteria, viruses, and other microbes by attacking their DNA, penetrating the cells of microorganisms and disrupting the structure of the DNA molecules. This will lead to a loss of their reproductive capabilities and they will eventually decrease in numbers.

Customers who understand and plan for applying UV-C Disinfection in the right dosage to thoroughly deactivate the microbes can achieve a high degree (99.9999%) of disinfection, which is referred to as a log reduction.

LED disinfection solutions are longer lasting and use less energy, with the average LED lasting more than 20,000 hours while only consuming as low as 8 watts. By switching to LED UV-C, fewer conventional UV bulbs will end up in landfills, which leads to less waste produced. 

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