CASE

Keeping people and places safe and productive  during COVID-19

COVID-19 transformed workplaces in ways no one could have imagined, with many facilities forced into partial or full lockdown. Our Technical Services teams have been on hand at every step — supporting customers with strategic advice and planning, and helping them maintain, decommission and recommission buildings safely. 

Group-UK Case Technical
With new business continuity requirements driven by Covid-19, our customers have had to adapt their working practices and building operations at an unprecedent pace. Martin Harvey, Director of Engineering & Asset Management, ISS UK, explains how we’ve helped customers solve technical challenges.

For our Technical Services teams, that has meant taking advantage of ISS’s standard operating procedures and business continuity plans, while at the same time breaking new ground with innovative thinking.“Our engineers’ key role in supporting customers has been to ensure their buildings run efficiently and safely during this time of crisis,” explains Martin. “This has involved using our expertise to carefully plan how to help customers vacate, maintain and then return to their buildings, while helping to keep people safe at work.”

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Global collaboration and knowledge sharing
In each case, our Technical Services teams collaborate with customers to agree the best approach. This involves creating delivery frameworks for planned and corrective maintenance regimes, ensuring realistic and cost-effective deactivation plans, recommissioning areas only where strictly necessary, and putting together comprehensive reactivation plans, as well as programmes which identify future compliance, contractual needs and seamless legal requirements.

The same collaborative approach applies internally. We have a global, cross-industry network of engineers that brings together subject matter experts from different industries spanning transportation, telecoms, financial services and healthcare, to name a few.

According to Martin, this network has proved really valuable. “Our leading engineers have met regularly to share knowledge and ideas as the Covid situation changed. This has meant that we could respond quickly to challenging situations, by using the most up-to-date information and best practice available.”

Flexibility meets systematic approaches
When planning how to maintain, decommission and reopen buildings, our main aim is always to ensure safe, compliant environments that promote physical and mental wellbeing. This is as true during business as usual as it is during a crisis.

The size and scale of the facilities we support vary greatly. How we approach each one depends on our customer’s needs and guidance from local and national governments, industry regulators, insurers and health advisors.

“We take a customer focus to everything we do, tailoring our approach to their needs,” says Martin. “This might involve creating customised plans for customers who operate critical environments, such as healthcare facilities, where patient and staff safety is key, as well as understanding infection control measures to ensure public confidence. Or it may mean drawing on our expertise to make sure washrooms are safe and clean by using innovative products and implementing new cleaning regimes.”

Our engineers’ key role in supporting customers has been in ensuring their buildings run efficiently and safely during this time of crisis. This involved using our expertise to carefully plan how to help customers vacate, maintain and then return to their buildings, while helping keep people stay safe at work.

Martin Harvey, Director of Engineering & Asset Management, ISS UK
Keeping facilities running
In Spain, our local Technical Services team supported pharma customer Grifols with location-specific maintenance plans, enabling offices to close down while keeping production running. Grifols develops blood plasma, and products to help fight Covid-19, so continuing that work was vital. We supported them by resetting HVAC installations, increasing fresh air and increasing health protocols.

It’s also important for ventilation systems to operate safely, ensuring that they can support any additional load. For one of our healthcare customers, our Technical Services teams came on board to help a hospital convert an intensive treatment area (ITU), theatre recovery and reception areas from positive pressure to negative pressure in accordance with official guidance. We installed window extract fans in wards to increase airflow for Covid patients and monitored oxygen levels to help support critical activities.

In the commercial sector, we’ve supported banks – including TSB, RBS and Danske Bank – meet regulatory requirements by keeping their doors open for customers. And we’ve developed customised maintenance plans for corporate HQs, data centres and manufacturing plants to enable them to operate safely.

Closing down
When it comes to decommissioning, our tasks have been many and various. Ranging from isolating and draining swimming pools and major infrastructure – such as refrigeration, AC and electrical equipment – to front-of-house activities such as lighting, refreshment areas and ventilation.

In some cases, we had to keep certain areas operational while closing others. For example, we devised a plan for the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art that allowed the museum to shut down safely, while making sure the environmental conditions needed to preserve the art collections were met during closure.

Opening up again
Returning to normal isn’t as simple as switching on the lights. Every location needs careful preparation to ensure people’s safety.

“To help recommission buildings, our technical teams have been responsible for planning a phased return to safe operations,” Martin explains. “This has involved reducing physical contact by installing touchless washroom facilities; reviewing meeting spaces and breakout areas; rethinking shared areas like restaurants or canteens; and introducing screening where needed.”

Securing safe work environments for the future
As lockdowns are gradually lifted around the world, we’re helping people return to their facilities in safe and controlled ways by combining standard procedures with that we’ve learned during the pandemic.

We will assess customers’ needs to understand the services they’ll be running, and identify the changes needed in terms of cleaning, maintenance and technologies. Many new working patterns are inefficient, so we’re drawing on what we’ve learned from across sectors and applying innovate approaches to mitigate these issues such as using automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) to minimise physical contact.

But it doesn’t stop at buildings. Martin concludes: “We’re looking at how we can improve our customers’ experience in other ways as they navigate the new normal. This includes hygiene, behavioural change, spatial redesign, and even strategies for how people get to and from work, or work remotely.”

In this way, our experts in Technical Services will continue to design new technologies, equipment and services that can help ensure a safe work environment for our customers.

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