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SMH Products Ltd

Emergency responses to infection control

Over the past decade, the UK has had to deal with a number of incidences of infection in both human and animal populations – foot and mouth, avian flu, SARS – and the recent Ebola crisis has renewed interest in our preparedness for dealing with these outbreaks.

However, as we have seen with Ebola, in an emergency situation, the standard approaches to infection control and decontamination are not always practical: the limited number of permanent facilities are rarely where the outbreak occurs, moving infectious patients presents a number of risks, and the lead time for creating new facilities often cannot keep pace with the spread of infection.

 

Hazard control and decontamination at source

We believe that lessons can be learned from the specialised solutions developed for the asbestos removal industry. Asbestos is the biggest cause of occupational disease in the UK, killing over 4,500 people a year in the UK alone, and so effective control and decontamination for those potentially exposed to it is critical. However, these facilities must be deployed where the asbestos is found – in houses and public buildings, on nuclear plants, oil rigs and in factories – so solutions must be responsive while still delivering high levels of hazard control.

Filtration at the right level

At 5 microns, the fibre size of asbestos is equivalent to most bacteria (0.3-60 microns), and while viruses are much smaller (0.005-0.3 microns), they are often aerosolised in larger liquid droplets (typically 2-5 microns). For asbestos, contaminated air is filtered through HEPA 14 filters and water is passed through high efficiency microfiber filters so that they can be vented safely into the environment. Portable negative pressure units and water filtration systems enable this, however remote the site.

Isolating the hazard at source

When asbestos is identified, it must be contained. Temporary airtight working enclosures, typically constructed of heavy gauge polythene, are kept under negative pressure using specialist air filtration units to suppresses airborne fibres and prevent them being vented into the environment, while disposable airlocks secure the area.

Flexible decontamination facilities

Trailer-based decontamination units provide mobile solutions for small-scale work, modular-build systems can convert any room into a decontamination facility, and systems built into shipping containers or similar can provide semi-permanent facilities for a larger through-put of personnel and equipment. These facilities can be completely stand-alone, with on-board generators, water tanks and boilers. Ancillary items, such as ‘H’ class vacuum cleaners, can supplement the decontamination process.

 

Learning the lessons of asbestos

SMH has been at the forefront of asbestos decontamination supplies for over 30 years, and our knowledge and experience has helped us to develop a market-leading range of highly specialised decontamination equipment, products and services. The process for controlling infection is the broadly same as that for containing any hazardous substance, and we want agencies involved in emergency infection control to recognise how the expert solutions for one industry can be quickly and cost-effectively adapted – perhaps requiring no more than a different filter medium, or an additional decontamination stage– to provide a response that, combined with the right protocols, might just outpace the rate of transmission of infection and save lives.

For more information, and to discuss your requirements direct, please contact our team - 0191 456 6000 or click here.