Connecticut Companies Pivot, Address COVID-19 Needs
Connecticut companies are continuing to pivot, retooling production lines and leveraging new technologies to address COVID-19 needs.
One manufacturer that donated hundreds of thousands of metal nose clips for face masks recently opened an online store.
Another that began producing personal protective equipment to benefit its community is launching a new venture to manufacture PPE.
Information technology consultants are staying busy helping clients adjust to working remotely.
And companies that provide health and environmental services are adopting new technologies to help customers clean and disinfect workplaces.
Loureiro Engineering Associates, an employee-owned business in Plainville, is designing and installing air purification systems that use ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, or UVGI, to damage the DNA of viruses, bacteria, and microbial organisms, rendering them inactive to replicate.
UVGI has been used for pathogen sanitation for more than a century, and common applications include treating food and water and purifying air.
“It’s a spectrum of ultraviolet light at wavelengths that can inactivate pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and fungal species,” said Brian Geissler, senior project manager and certified industrial hygienist for Loureiro.
There are several approaches to UVGI for sanitizing air.
The primary systems are in-duct and upper-room units, but UVGI can also be applied to HVAC cooling coils, which reduce costs and prolong an HVAC system’s life.
For the in-duct designs, the UVGI lamps are generally installed in the HVAC return ducts since it has the slowest airflow, providing the most contact time to inactivate the pathogen.
“As the air passes by the bulbs, the particles pass along with it,” Geissler said.
“A properly designed system, in terms of length and intensity, can inactivate any pathogen on a single pass.”
UVGI alleviates any worries of the virus spreading through a building’s HVAC system, said Nathan Strong, Loureiro vice president and a certified energy manager.
“It’s entirely plausible that it could spread the virus that way, but the UV bulbs render the virus inactive,” he said.
Loureiro has also developed a portable UVGI prototype unit capable of treating a 10,000-square-foot manufacturing floor, said Ryan Polizzo, vice president of EHS and facility services.
“This unit can accommodate a variety of shop footprints, it’s not loud, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space,” Polizzo said.
“It’s a new application of an old technology,” he said, that can be used to protect people working on shop floors, office cubicles, and many other spaces.
Chapco, a Chester precision metal fabrication company, made and donated over 120,000 metal nose pieces to people across the country who were making homemade face masks, company president Brian Weinstein said.
The company saw an immediate need and opened an online store featuring metal products like those nose clips and hand sanitizer.
It also started a new business that specializes in cleaning the air and surfaces, Weinstein said.
Unable to import PPE, Industrial Heater Corp. of Cheshire began producing tens of thousands of nose clips for N95 face masks for frontline workers.
“We realized that we needed to make those masks here, we needed to use domestic material, and we needed to use our own resources in this country to do that,” company vice president Tom McGwire says.
Industrial Heater Corp.’s foray into PPE led it to start a new venture manufacturing surgical and N95 masks, he said.
“We’re still making progress on it,” McGwire said. “We’re a few months out.”
The pandemic has kept companies like West Hartford consulting firm IT Direct busy advising clients on working remotely.
“We looked at their critical work flows and determined what can be done remotely and got them set up for that,” IT Direct’s Ari Santiago said.
“What we found is that while a lot of people had some remote work capacity, we had to expand that quite significantly.”
People didn’t anticipate this level of sustained remote work, he said.
IT Direct even encouraged its manufacturing clients to embrace remote work as much as possible.
“The main thing we’re talking about is how to keep people healthy and productive,” Santiago said.
Disaster restoration is the specialty of ServiceMaster Restoration By Willis, which serves the entire state, but the pandemic enabled the company to increase business by expanding its services.
“COVID disinfection was a new service offering spurned directly by the pandemic,” said Jeff Lame, senior operations manager for ServiceMaster’s Hartford and New London offices.
“We had a stark uptick in business directly connected to the COVID pandemic,” he said.
“In the spring and early summer, we disinfected over 15 million square feet of commercial property.”
Among ServiceMaster’s services are crime and fire scene cleanup so the switch to COVID-19 disinfection wasn’t difficult, Lame said.
Farmington-based HRP Associates has provided environmental, health, and safety consulting services for nearly 40 years.
So helping clients clean and disinfect workplaces of COVID was not a stretch, HRP Regional Office Manager Jason Beach said.
“This pivot was easy for HRP because COVID-19 planning in the workplace has a lot of the same elements and associated equipment used for preventing exposure to hazardous chemicals and situations, which is a major element of our EHS practice,” he said.
HRP helped its clients address a number of concerns, he said, including protecting employees and preventing exposure, proper cleaning methods and products, and finding reliable vendors.
Beach said HRP is also helping clients prepare for a second coronavirus wave by using its vendor network to acquire rapid COVID tests, PPE, disinfectants, infrared thermometers, ambient air cleaning systems, and UV sanitation.
“By developing and exercising a plan, our clients are in a better position to prevent an incident or deal with an incident and maintain business continuity,” Beach said.
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