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Social distancing with access control in high-tech manufacturing

Social distancing with access control in high-tech manufacturing
High-tech manufacturers are faced with the new challenge of social and physical distancing requirements while also needing to effectively and efficiently maintain productivity.
Social distancing is one of the biggest changes in the aftermath of COVID-19, and figuring out how to implement this in the workplace is a new challenge for high-tech manufacturers. Security and access control systems are playing a key part in addressing this and other health-related concerns in high-tech manufacturing facilities.

Setting guidelines for a healthy facility

Gareth O'Hara Paxton
Gareth O’Hara, CSO, Paxton Access
To operate safely in the workplace and ensure buildings are “COVID-secure,” Gareth O’Hara, CSO at Paxton Access, explained businesses must update their facilities to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees and visitors.

“The addition of electronic access control to key entry and exit points, along with the ability to limit access to groups and individuals via the access control software helps decrease people interaction, limit crossover points and therefore limit the potential spread of the virus,” O’Hara said. This also includes reducing to a minimum (where practicable) the use of common touch points, specifically keypads and door handles.

Other measures O’Hara recommends manufacturers undertake include, but are not limited to: further increasing the frequency of surface cleaning and hand washing; using screens or barriers to separate workers and visitors; implementing back-to-back or side-to-side working practices wherever possible; using markings, signage and electronic access control to implement one-way flow of traffic across the site; and managing the use of high traffic areas including corridors, lifts, turnstiles and walkways.

Occupancy management

There is an increased interest in occupancy tracking/management in high-tech manufacturing facilities. Occupancy management features in access control systems are an effective way to manage and monitor social distancing. Occupancy trackers can provide facility mangers with quicker counts of who is on-site to ensure proper social distancing is happening.

People counting systems, which can be done via video analytics or access control (or a combination of both), can also be used. By setting a safe occupancy level, controlling access and only granting further access once people leave, can help with social distancing, according to John Davies, MD of TDSi.

Another consideration is staggering work shift times to minimize the density of people. “We’ll likely see access levels be written around that, with people grouped into teams based on their work schedules and smart scheduling tied to access control systems to enforce them,” said Ken Poole, Senior Director of Commercial Sales at Johnson Controls.

Contact tracing

To limit the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, major access control players have developed scripts for contact tracing.

Another potential approach is using physical tags that trigger a personal alarm when they are in too close a proximity to one another, Davies said.

“At TDSi we have taken the initiative and launched our Track and Trace solution, which uses access control data to provide an illustration of the movements and potential contact points of somebody showing COVID-19 symptoms (or who has been diagnosed with it). Handled sensitively, this data can be used to help contain the spread of infection by quickly identifying potential issues and informing those potentially affected,” he explained.

Using remote management

Most manufacturers are already utilizing remote management and monitoring capabilities to manage facilities; however, in the COVID-19 era, some providers have seen more requests to demonstrate how the existing capabilities work.

“Getting more comfortable with remote management will be more important as staggered work schedules become common and knowing exactly who and how many people are on-site is more important than ever,” said Poole.

Remote management is particularly well suited to operations on large or remote sites, where it would take time and effort for a human operator to complete tasks in person. It is also useful in extreme conditions (e.g., extreme heat or cold) or in proximity to dangerous substances, where a human team would be put at risk, according to Davies.

“These systems are also perfectly placed to deal with the social distancing required post-COVID-19 as they help to further reduce any potential contact and contamination,” Davies added. Furthermore, these systems can often be monitored from any secure internet connection, ensuring security operators and managers can be based virtually anywhere, including working from home.

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