COVID in the Workplace is Inevitable. How this Manufacturer Prevented a Super Spread.
Lessons Learned for Wisconsin Businesses as COVID Cases Surge and CDC Guidelines Change.
It had been less than 3 months since the workforce at EmbedTek, LLC, a Waukesha-based IoT company, implemented a proximity monitoring system when three employees within two weeks learned they had COVID-19. One of the employees was Dan Aicher, CEO of EmbedTek.
“My first concern was for the people that I had close contact with, and I immediately thought of people I work with that may be at high risk,” Aicher said. “Another concern was that there was an active spread within our facility.”
The proximity monitoring system EmbedTek deployed was one they developed themselves, called PariRange™. Employees wear the PariRange device on a lanyard, in their pocket, or on their belt loop. As they perform their job duties, they receive a vibration alert if they come within 6 feet of another employee wearing the PariRange device. The close contact is tracked on the device with date, duration of contact, and the device that the employee came into contact with.
Because of this technology, EmbedTek was quickly able to access the previously downloaded data from each infected employee’s wearable PariRange device. EmbedTek was comforted to know that the employees with COVID did not have close contact with each other (meaning the cases were isolated incidents). In addition, the data showed their close contacts did not have contact with each other. All close contacts were able to be identified immediately and isolated, eliminating the risk of any spread. All employees are now back at work, with no other COVID cases to report.
There are proven ways to minimize the spread of COVID within the workforce, but not every business is utilizing them. Successful implementation of these practices can mean the difference between relieving part of a shift and shutting down an entire plant.
“We have seen the impact COVID has had on manufacturers, food processors and other businesses in Wisconsin and across the country,” said Aicher. “With the outbreak worsening in Wisconsin these last few weeks, we want to do everything we can to help neighboring organizations protect their employees and stay open.”
EmbedTek is sharing the following lessons learned from their involvement and experience with the COVID pandemic:
- COVID in the workplace is inevitable. Business owners are better off focusing on avoiding a super spread that could shut down shifts, departments, or in some cases, an entire plant.
- Time matters when it comes to contact tracing. It is a race to get close contacts isolated to prevent further spread throughout a workplace.
- An investment in wearable technology means employers don’t have to choose between protecting employees and keeping their business open.
- Timing matters when it comes to deploying proximity devices. Systems need to be in place before an employee is impacted by COVID in order for them to aid in successfully mitigating a spread.
PariRange uses peer-to-peer communication and Ultra-wideband technology, offering measurement accuracy within a few inches without the privacy concerns of Bluetooth and GPS. PariRange can be deployed to a workforce within one day – no infrastructure is needed and no training is required for the people wearing it.
“New CDC guidance now considers close contact as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes over the course of 24 hours. It’s not realistic to expect anyone to aggregate the time of multiple contacts with individuals from memory for any given day,” Aicher said. “For about the per employee cost of the cancelled Holiday party, businesses can implement a technology like PariRange quickly and effectively.”