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DES Pursues Field Safety While in Pandemic Lockdown

While the rest of the world scrambled to stock their homes with basic commodities, the DES safety committee jumped into action, keeping essential field operations safe and compliant.
May 21, 2020

The surreal week in mid-March when Pittsburgh moved abruptly to near-total lockdown will stay in our memories for a generation. That disbelief in watching household commodities disappear off the supermarket shelves, playgrounds blocked off and busy thoroughfares turning eerily quiet.

While everyone was scrambling to stock their homes amidst dire bathroom tissue shortages, the DES Safety Committee put their common efforts together to keep business open and compliant. As a technology integrator, DES was classified as an essential service and was permitted to remain operational during the COVID-19 lockdown. However, operations were contingent on a laundry-list of compliance requirements. All technicians must be masked and gloved, job sites required a method for hand sanitization, and a protocol for daily temperature readings had to be addressed.

Yet – how does one secure the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face masks, gloves, eye protection and hand sanitizer when that is the nation’s most wanted commodity, second only to bathroom tissue?!

According to David Boger, DES Project Manager and chair of the DES Safety Committee, it takes a total team effort.   “We had to collaborate as a Safety Committee to thoroughly understand CDC, OSHA and State requirements and organized these requirements into a DES policy framework to put into action,” he explained. Part of the plan was for every DES technician to be equipped with a COVID-19 Protection Kit that was assembled by Brandon Oskin of our Materials Management Team.  Each kit includes a face mask, gloves, disinfectant spray and disposable towels for hand sanitation.  As for procuring those masks, here is where our people and our business relationships rose to the occasion. DES controller, Teresa Cockeram, was able to leverage her contacts to line up a healthy supply of face masks; DES project manager, John Stewart, had a line on latex gloves, while David Boger knew a company who supplies hand sanitizer stations.

By March 23<sup>rd</sup>, DES crews were out at a local hospital installing patient phone lines. Later in the week, our technicians were on the frontlines of the coronavirus response force, installing structured cabling at a temporary COVID-19 testing site.

To ensure smooth execution of safety protocols, the City of Pittsburgh required each job site to have a Pandemic Safety Officer (PSO). DES facilitated the training and all DES foremen and key project managers are qualified to be PSOs. Whether the job is for structured cabling or multimedia, these PSO are the eyes and ears in the field to ensure safety.

Meanwhile, on the home-front, the DES Safety Committee prepared the offices for safe re-entry of our on-site staff. All surfaces and carpeting were deep cleaned, followed by more frequent janitorial cleanings.  A COVID-19 monitoring station greets employees and visitors upon entry, offering masks, gloves, Clorox wipes and a thermometer for personal temperature readings.

Communication is key when orchestrating a system-wide policy change. To that effect, DES president, Bob Dagostino, shared policy updates to the company on a regular basis. The DES Safety Manual, a detailed compilation of safe policies and practices, now includes a chapter on communicable diseases. Informative posters hang in high-traffic zones around the DES building.

As we move to Phase Green, we want to give a shout-out to all of our technicians who went – and are still going – to our customers who are providing essential services during these challenging times. While our field workers do engage in work that typically necessitates wearing PPE, the rigors of COVID-19 protection are considerably less comfortable. PPE must be worn continuously on a job site, and when the task requires technicians to work in close proximity with one another, at some job sites the mandate is stricter. Each worker must wear foam-backed glasses or goggles as well as the face mask and gloves.

Thank you to our frontline workers for keeping Pittsburgh safe! We hope that our caution and responsiveness to safety keeps you safe, too.

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