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Temporary Labs and Testing Clinics-The Covid Response from Flooring Manufacturer SelecTech

Thomas Ricciardelli, President of SelecTech, Inc. writes ….

At the beginning of the pandemic, during the lockdown, hospitals and testing clinics were running out of space. The scramble to find or, in some cases, create space led to some rather innovative ideas. One of those ideas, a proposal to convert a hockey rink into hospital space, put it out there that any and all ideas for temporary hospital and lab space were being considered.

As a flooring manufacture who features an interlocking product, we are very familiar with facilities in need of temporary flooring. A great example of that is one of our longtime customers, Alaska Structures. Temporary facilities are what Alaska Structures does—e.g., engineered fabric buildings used for turnkey camp systems, modular buildings for workforce housing, field offices, aircraft hangars, on-site warehouses, etc. And we’ve been providing them flooring for years. Yet there’s something about providing the flooring for a medical facility or lab at the height of a pandemic that raises the stakes.

Essential Status

In the early days of the pandemic, there was a lot of focus on ventilators. There simply were not enough. Since several of our ESD flooring customers are electronics manufacturers and build ventilators and other testing equipment needed for the Pandemic response, our company received essential status. This enabled us to keep production going and be available for temporary facilities.

Our Covid Response

For many Americans, the response to the Covid pandemic was staying at home and social distancing. For our company, it meant getting the word out to organizations who were part of the COVID-19 response that there is a flooring solution out there that works very well for the temporary testing clinics and hospitals that were suddenly popping up.

Requirements for Temporary Flooring for Testing Clinics

The urgency of the pandemic in the spring of 2020 made speed and ease of installation a critical factor for flooring. The preferable option was for lab and clinic flooring that could be installed on top of most surfaces with little or no floor prep. Many lab floorings do not meet this criteria and need the existing floor to be removed. For a temporary facility, this will not work.

SEFA Testing

Even in a temporary setting, it’s important that the flooring be able to withstand any chemical spills. The FDA has requirements for flooring used for temporary clinics. No such guidelines exist for labs.

Our company joined the Scientific Equipment and Furniture Association (SEFA) a few years ago. Part of our interest in being a SEFA member is being involved with an organization that sets the standard for lab requirements. For example, as a flooring company, we abide by the Scientific Equipment & Furniture Association SEFA 8-M-2010 Recommended Practices For Metal Laboratory Grade Furniture, Casework, Shelving and Tables.

In that document, SEFA lists the 49 chemicals recommended to test for on lab furniture, casework, shelving and tables. After all, a chemical that can splash on the floor as easily as any of those surfaces, right? But does that mean you have to test your flooring for all 49 chemicals? Particularly for a temporary facility?

The answer to that is yes and no. It really depends on your comfort level and current and future work being done using the lab flooring. If you think it’s possible your floor could be exposed to a chemical now or down the road, test for it.

Seal the Deal

In a traditional lab, the floor needs to be watertight so that spilled chemicals do not seep through and damage the surface underneath. For interlocking tiles, a seam sealer treatment is needed to maintain a liquid-tight surface.

Static Electricity

Human beings can generate more than 3,000 volts of static electricity just from removing a sweater or fleece. With some of the smaller, more sophisticated electronics being used in labs and clinics these days, this level of static electricity can damage these machines and compromise data. That can directly impact test results and patient care. During a pandemic, margin for error is very small and can literally cost lives. Any flooring used for even a temporary facility must be tested for static electricity. If necessary, ESD flooring or other mitigative measures must be taken.

Maintenance

During a Pandemic, cleanliness is imperative with all aspects related to patient care. It’s also important in a lab setting where you don’t want anything to compromise test results. A flooring that’s easy to maintain is extremely important.

Wear and tear on flooring is less of a problem for a temporary facility. Yet the length of a time a temporary setup will be needed can vary and there does exist the possibility that tiles might need to be replaced. Tiles that use an interlocking option not only save time on installation but replace easily as well.

When the Temporary Need Ends

The definition of temporary is that at some point there will be an end to the need for the lab or clinic. Selecting a flooring that can be re-used or recycled should be part of the decision. This is another area where interlocking flooring offers multiple benefits–glues and harsh solvents are not required for installation.

Conclusion

While flooring is but one part of a temporary facility, it’s a critical one. And thankfully, the development of vaccines and better therapeutics have slowed the Covid pandemic down so temporary facilities aren’t needed. Still, it’s nice to know that in a time of crisis, there exists the resources—including flooring—to create these types of facilities in fairly short order.

Editor’s Note: About Thomas Ricciardelli

Thomas Ricciardelli founded SelecTech in 1993 with the mission of creating valuable products from recycled materials. He has more than 20 years’ experience with developing unique polymer blends to meet demanding technical requirements and holds several patents for products and processes using recycled materials. He was the first to conceive of and develop an adhesive-free, interlocking static-control flooring system which paved the way for the StaticStop line of industry-leading ESD flooring products.

Mr. Ricciardelli has an MBA from the Sloan School of Business Management and an MS degree in Chemical Engineering from MIT. Prior to founding SelecTech, he managed the design, installation, and start-up of a $5 million facility to recover and recycle plastics from medical waste. Mr. Ricciardelli also worked at the Business Development Group at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., and as an environmental consultant with HMM Associates.