“Business as usual” no longer applies to companies worldwide struggling with the effects of the latest bioterrorism threat. Providing a safe environment for employees has become top priority, with information being channeled to us through media outlets around the clock. Understanding the real threat, preparing for evidence of exposure, and providing a straight forward remedy that will ensure a healthy environment and peace of mind is a challenge professionals in the environmental, health, and safety profession are faced with today. Looking for support internally, management will rely on their own EHS teams to offer a game plan for the rest of the company to follow.
The Phylmar Group, Inc. has been asked to perform bioterrorism risk assessments for a number of our clients. Initially, we suggest you use potential routes of exposure as a guide for identifying points of entry into your facility. For example, building ventilation systems can be used to introduce biological or chemical agents into the workplace. In trying to secure the ventilation system you might consider incorporating HEPA filters; you may want to consider using security tape on the doors of your fan rooms and make sure security personnel routinely make inspections to ensure the doors haven’t been breached; you may even consider changing locks or limiting access to these areas. Another route or exposure that needs to be addressed is ingestion. This would mean securing sources of water and food (i.e., water coolers, cafeteria food storage areas, and break rooms).
Mailrooms have been of primary concern with respect to bioterrorism. One strategy to try to limit the exposure and provide protection for employees would be to utilize a small glove box hood for opening suspect mail. The glove box hood should be equipped with a HEPA filter and a disinfectant must be readily available in the event that suspect material is released in the hood.
Most important in a situation like this is to have an effective communication plan in place to make sure that accurate information is related clearly. This is your best strategy to combat misinformation spread by word-of-mouth and will help to eliminate hysteria.
To help you further understand bioterrorism, we suggest you visit the following site and its associated links: