Emergency Preparedness, Human Resources, Safety

How Digital Contact Tracing Could Help Facility Managers Limit COVID Outbreaks

From implementing new cleaning and sanitization guidelines to dealing with labor shortages and supply chain issues, facility managers are handling more moving parts than ever before because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the virus transforming communal areas into new opportunities for infections, facility managers have a newfound responsibility to protect the health and well-being of those working throughout the building.

Conducting manual contact tracing to reduce the risk of infection can be an administrative nightmare. So difficult, in fact, that traditional methods are close to impossible. However, new Bluetooth contact tracing could change this. It can mitigate the risk of exposure between workers without storing location or privacy data. By rapidly identifying and isolating sick individuals and notifying those they’ve been in contact with, this solution prevents the spread of illnesses and preserves the health of the larger community—simplifying what’s been a daunting task for the facility manager.

How COVID Outbreaks Complicate Facility Operations

For many in-person companies, a COVID infection forces a pause in operations and loss of productivity, often resulting in significant fiscal impact. When businesses don’t know exactly who has been in contact with whom, they are forced into a position where they need to isolate their whole workforce. Not knowing who was exposed by that sick individual can mean stopping large-scale operations for days—and even worse, putting lives at risk. While manual contact tracing can be tedious, complicated, and ineffective, new digital contact tracing solutions can pinpoint who is sick and who they’ve potentially exposed, allowing leadership to take appropriate actions to protect the safety of the remaining workforce and keep operations running.

New Digital Contact Tracing to Limit the Spread of Infection 

According to research from The Conference Board, the top two concerns for employees about returning to the workplace are the risk of contracting COVID-19 (51%) and the risk of exposing family members to the virus (49%). While digital contact tracing is an effective solution to ease these concerns, there has been apprehension around location tracking and privacy concerns.

This uneasiness originates from a few misconceptions about contact tracing, one being that a person’s private information and data are stored and shared with the contact tracing company and other organizations. The reality is Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing solutions can effectively identify and isolate individuals without recording any sensitive information. By using wearable technology powered by a “Bluetooth handshake,” facility managers can effectively prevent the spread of illness within an organization or ecosystem by logging individuals’ day-to-day contacts—not their location or personal data. In fact, some wearable technology has a unique encryption that resets every 15 minutes, meaning if someone found the card and they were not the owner, it would be useless to them. This data is then stored and accessed only if an employee tests positive or there is potential exposure—and only accessed by a designated HR person, not the third-party provider—allowing organizations to react quickly, limit infection, and minimize disruptions. 

Implementing These Safety Measures and Looking Ahead

Ensuring a company remains operational is beneficial to the organization and helps ensure employment and subsequent economic stability. Keeping people in the building is one thing; using digital contact tracing as a tool to attract newcomers is a whole other level of success for facility managers. Having a contact tracing system in place demonstrates care for the building occupants. Facility managers can also avoid the stress of ever-changing restrictions or a new variant emerging by implementing this solution before an outbreak occurs. Having this system ready to activate at a moment’s notice can proactively mitigate the risks and provide a constant sense of ease and security to the people who work or live there. The return on investment of implementing contact tracing is not just a safer workplace. It will show up in the bottom line.

Protecting building occupants from COVID-19 doesn’t have to be a complicated and arduous process. Digital contact tracing allows facility managers to track down sick and exposed individuals quickly and effectively so the larger group can remain in the building safely. Whether it’s COVID-19 or another illness, preparing for outbreaks is an inevitable part of the future. Contact tracing solutions can simplify many logistical challenges for facility managers and ensure operations continue to run smoothly. 

Clint Van Marrewijk is Founder and CEO of SaferMe, a contact tracing and software solutions provider focused on improving the safety and well-being of workers.