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BioCommunique Article

If you missed our Facilities and EH&S virtual event on adapting your facility to COVID-19, FPBA has provided a thorough recap of key takeaways.

Ferguson Pape Baldwin Architects Recaps Biocom’s Adapting Your Facility to COVID-19 Measures Event

  • 2020-07-09T19:00:00.000+0000
  • California
  • Author: FPBA

As part of The Path Forward: Biocom's Return to Work Event Series for California's Life Science Industry, Biocom held a Facilities and EH&S virtual event on June 23rd to help life science companies adapt their facilities and follow best practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The discussion was moderated by Jeana Renger, Vice President at Ferguson Pape Baldwin Architects, and included the following panelists: Jessica Francis from Fate Therapeutics, Taylor Gifford from Cultura, and DJ VanSlogteren from Siemens, plus Biocom Facilities Committee Co-Chairs Jason Moorhead from ARE and Andy Darragh from FPBA. Panelists went into depth about workplace design to accommodate physical distancing; people flows, monitoring density, and limiting occupancy; seat assignments with staggered shifts; smart cleaning; digital contact tracing; touchless entry; and sterilization through UV lighting.

If you missed the virtual event, the following is an excerpt from FPBA's recap and provides an excellent summarization of what was discussed:

A Model of Excellence: COVID-19 Onsite Operations at Fate Therapeutics

Fate Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company that develops cellular immunotherapies for cancer and immune disorders, was early to respond to COVID-19. According to Jessica Francis, Executive Director, HR & Operations at Fate Therapeutics, the company prohibited business travel in January, increased facility cleaning in February, and rolled out a work-from-home plan and staggered schedules for essential workers in early March.

At the beginning of June, Fate doubled its capacity to perform lab and manufacturing work, from 35 percent to 70 percent, while work that can be conducted from home remains at home. To accomplish this capacity increase, Fate is expanding office space at a new location to allow for physical distancing, as well as implementing the following infection control practices:

Physical Distancing: Maintain 6 feet distance when possible, prohibit discussions in tight areas, increase space between workspaces, reassign seating to limit close contact, temporarily close off conference rooms

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Requirements: Use facial coverings in all on-site areas, unless in an office area alone, or eating with no one else around

Disinfection, Sanitation and Airflow: Day porter wipes down surfaces twice daily, janitorial staff disinfects every evening, hand sanitizer and disposable wipes are placed throughout

Managing Traffic Flow: Place maps, signage and recommended routes for entering and exiting labs, break rooms and offices; prohibit congregating in shared areas; use outdoor spaces for breaks; and temporarily convert conference rooms to desk spaces

Meetings: Conduct meetings virtually when possible, limit in-person meetings to two people for no more than 30 minutes, prohibit business travel, report personal travel, limit visitors to essential workers such as UPS and vendors

Health Monitoring/Reporting Requirements: Screen on-site employees daily, prohibit going into work if an employee or household member displays symptoms or has been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, maintain confidentiality

Case-by-Case Accommodations: Employees encouraged to contact HR if they are unable to return to on-site work, work that can be conducted from home should continue to be, ergonomic solutions provided as needed

Incidence Response: Create incidence response plan where incidence response team is informed of potential employee exposures, directly exposed employee to self-isolate, conduct contact tracing, notify potentially exposed employees, close impacted areas of the facility for 24 hours to conduct deep cleaning, maintain confidentiality

Francis recommended communicating constantly regarding the proper use of masks and conference room closures, providing a dedicated place for these communications.

“We developed a COVID-19 resource page on our intranet and we update the Frequently Asked Questions and post all communications there,” Francis said. “Regular email messaging wasn’t enough.”

Comeback Strategy: Supporting Wellbeing, Preserving Culture, and Transforming the Furniture Plan

While Francis gave a comprehensive look into the operational side of adapting to COVID-19, Taylor Gifford, Vice President at Cultura, presented options for how to make adjustments to accommodate physical distancing while supporting wellbeing and preserving company culture in various spaces.

“You want to establish a sense of confidence with your organization through the space that you’re utilizing,” Gifford said. Effective policies and procedures that outline what employees can and cannot do will give them the confidence to come back to the office.

To start out, Gifford brought up a floor plan overlaid with green and red. Green areas were “Good to Go,” meaning those workspaces already accommodate a 6-foot distance. Red areas meant they “Need Attention” and must be rearranged to account for 6 feet of separation. Most red areas were meeting rooms and shared spaces, but some benching system workstations were also culprits of closeness.

“It’s not uncommon to find a lot of red, and this can seem overwhelming at first,” Gifford said. You have to analyze who these workers are, what they are doing, and whether they are splitting their time between their desks and the lab. Once you have a better understanding of how the spaces are used, you can reassess the floor plan and consider shift scheduling.

Reconfiguring the space does not necessarily mean shutting down the open office or benching spaces. Instead, Gifford says, it could be assigning workspaces diagonal from each other with a staggered schedule, removing some chairs from conference rooms, rotating chairs away from each other, and adding divider panels to workstations for privacy and protection.

Flexible furniture such as conference tables that can be pulled apart into smaller pieces allows for separation and put the power into employees’ hands. “People want some user control right now,” Gifford said. “It’s a good way to give them a sense of confidence and safety.”

Cleanability of furniture materials should also be considered. Hard and seamless surfaces are easier to clean than porous ones, while Alta, a water and stain repellent, can be applied to fabrics to enhance cleanability.

Ultimately, Gifford emphasized that companies should gather information from employees on what makes them feel safe before rushing out to buy a bunch of plastic dividers.

Cultura was a major contributor to The Path Forward: Biocom’s Return to Work Guide for California’s Life Science Industry, which offers a deep dive into preparing for the return to work.

Continue reading the full recap from FPBA here.