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C2C examines guidance on creating COVID-secure labs and research facilities

Jun 04 2020 Read 553 Times

To support companies in creating COVID-secure workplaces, integrated cleanroom service provider, Connect 2 Cleanrooms (C2C) has thoroughly reviewed the UK Government guidance for laboratories and research settings.

Reintegrating operators to the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for all cleanroom users to reinforce standard ‘best practice’ whilst introducing additional safety measures.

Cleanroom validation & air handling

To re-establish the workplace, the guidance recommends “restarting and testing equipment which may have been unused for a longer than usual period of time.” Cleanroom facility owners will need to consider how to qualify that equipment is operating in accordance with the regulatory guidelines it was built to comply with.

Practical steps:

  • Full re-validation to re-commission facilities
  • Using monitoring equipment to conduct a series of tests, i.e. airborne particle counts

People and their behaviours

Using a risk-based approach, it is recommended that organisations should review who needs to be in the cleanroom and how they flow through the facility. A one-way path is encouraged as it prevents face-to-face passing and it makes achieve social distancing achievable, even in narrow spaces such as corridors or change areas.

The guidance recognises that R&D settings may need to share equipment, but it asks that it is shared by the “smallest number of people” who should keep 2m apart.

Practical steps:

  • Create a barrier between workstations with lab and cleanroom work protection screens
  • Increase cleanroom footprint with a modular cleanroom or extension
  • Increase workstations with laminar flow units or with additional benches and chairs
  • Arrange people “to work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face to face”
  • Stagger shifts and review entry procedures and storage space in change areas
  • Implement one-way system
  • Increase hand sanitising stations

Cleanroom maintenance

There is increasing evidence that although the virus itself is sub-micron in size, it is predominantly spread through droplets and not as an aerosol. On this basis, HEPA and ULPA filters should assist in removing these airborne particles.

This highlights that the filter media must be operating at the efficiency level they were designed to. Filter media failure could mean that contaminated air is being introduced through the air handling system, putting people and process at serious risk.

Practical steps:

  • Appoint a cleanroom and validation specialist to conduct filter integrity testing 
  • Consider routine filter media replacement to reduce failure risks
  • Take regular particle counts to identify any increases which could indicate filter failure

Cleaning and disinfection

In labs and cleanrooms, the focus usually lies on protecting the process, so there may be some adjustments that need to be made to shift the emphasis onto protecting people.

Practical steps:

  • Frequent cleaning of workstations between uses, using usual products
  • Determining cleaning processes or protection for personnel and equipment
  • Frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces
  • Clearing workspaces and removing waste and belongings after each shift

C2C’s dedicated consumables and equipment, cleanrooms and validations teams can support businesses in implementing the results from their risk assessment to create a COVID-secure workplace.

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