Viruses, disinfection, and workplace safety – these are things we used to think about periodically, but likely nowhere near as much as do we now given the current health crisis. In just a few months’ time the SARS-COV-2 virus has completely changed the way we work, recreate, educate, and go about our lives. Used properly, ultraviolet (UV) disinfection presents an opportunity to get back some sense of normalcy by sanitizing public spaces.
Remember that while there are a lot of UV disinfection products out there, we primarily use products that fall in the UVA, UVC, and near UV bands. UV-C is known to neutralize bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but generally can’t be used while an area is occupied. UV-A light can be used in occupied areas and is well known to eliminate various types of bacteria but is still being studied to understand its impact on viruses. Near UV is effective in neutralizing bacteria and can be used in an occupied space.
Every method of cleaning and disinfection — UV disinfection included — must be used according to manufacturer’s instructions in order to get the full disinfection benefit and to protect the health of workers and others using the space. When used and installed properly, UV disinfection lights have a long track record of safety and efficacy. For example, upper-room germicidal UV lights have been used to safely disinfect the air in healthcare facilities for over 70 years.
UV-C Disinfection Lighting Requires Straightforward Safety Precautions
No additional safety precautions are necessary after a UV-A or Near UV light has been properly installed. However, basic safety procedures must be used whenever a disinfection plan includes UV-C lights. The safety measures are unique to each type of UV-C product and application.
Training and set up should be part of the disinfection lighting plan. Instructions and training may include:
1) Workers should place temporary warning signs at access points to the area being disinfected before vacating the space.
2) When using a handheld unit, workers should wear face shields to protect the eyes and face, nitrile gloves or work gloves to protect the hands, and full-coverage clothing with tightly woven fabrics to protect all other exposed skin.
3) If UV-C disinfection will be used in an occupied space, an opaque barrier should be placed between the occupants and the light. All parts of the room that are on the opposite side of the barrier from the light must be sanitized with an alternate method.
4) Access panels for products with internal UV lamps should be interlocked with automatic shutoff switches to prevent accidental exposure.
5) Overhead germicidal lighting should be equipped with timers and occupancy sensors so that they are only used when the room will not be occupied and immediately shut off if a person does enter the space.
Have more questions about the safety and use of UV disinfection?
WESCO Energy Solutions has long-standing relationships with the leading manufacturers of UV disinfection lighting and a high degree of confidence in the products we recommend. As facilities begin to reopen, UV disinfection can be part of a successful relaunch plan that allows for a safe and healthy return to work.