CTEH, an environmental consulting firm based in North Little Rock, is providing pandemic response strategies to companies, governments and communities around the globe. Utilizing tailored solutions, CTEH provides services to manage risks, respond to threats and recover from disasters.
“Whether we’re working to support an industry partner, a government agency, a municipality or even a private group, our number one goal is to protect people using sound science and to develop tools that allow them to protect themselves in normal or dire circumstances,” Scott Skelton told Arkansas Money & Politics. Skelton serves as the senior industrial hygiene and emergency response consultant at CTEH.
The services CTEH offers are in high demand as the nation is grasping for response strategies to the global COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, 1.2 million people have been diagnosed with the disease in the United States, and more than 4,000 cases have been confirmed in Arkansas. For CTEH, pandemic response strategies are not a new concept.
“COVID-19 is a biological hazard, and we’ve treated it as such,” said Skelton. “Because [COVID-19] is so significant on a global scale, we have optimized our biohazard and pandemic response strategies that have proven successful with notable pathogens, such as Ebola, SARS and the avian flu, to address the unique features of COVID-19.”
In regard to the procedures and adjustments made by CTEH as a company, their day-to-day has remained as intact as possible. The company operated pre-pandemic with the majority of employees working on the road, as customer needs are atypical and call for a more flexible work format. That remains the same amidst the coronavirus. However, only essential personnel have access to their offices now. Both in CTEH’s company response and in their response to customers, Skelton claimed they were prepared when the pandemic hit.
“We were as prepared as any group could be,” Skelton said. “When you work in the capacity of advising your customers, the public or your workforce on how to protect themselves from chemical, physical, biological and radiological hazards, you find a shared theme among all hazards: there is a strategy to assess the hazard, to understand its scope or magnitude, but also to have the skills to prescribe those solutions and ensure they’re communicated properly and incorporated and implemented correctly.”
The company’s pandemic response plan includes strategies such as contact tracing, creating an online platform for documentation management, bio-monitoring services and disinfection protocols. CTEH even offers to deploy qualified medical physicians and registered nurses to enable them to conduct their services as efficiently as possible. However, Skelton expressed that not every pandemic response strategy outlined is required when assessing a client’s response to COVID-19. Instead, the plan should depend on how prepared for or experienced the client is with bio-issues or pandemics.
In addition, CTEH’s scientific experts have developed a solution that will reduce the urgent demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic. The system is clinically tested and known as the Skelton Barrier. It uses a non-airtight system to create a small enclosure on a single hospital bed, serving its purpose of catching projectile aerosols from patients, which will protect attending healthcare workers.
“When we saw our country grappling with the overwhelming shortage of N95 respirators and surgical masks, we immediately began devising possible solutions,” Skelton said. “We’re proud to unveil this effective, scalable and low-cost barrier system that will protect health care workers and patients on the front lines of this pandemic.”
Looking to the future, Skelton said that CTEH itself is prepared for possible recurrences of the coronavirus. As the company has intentionally made it a practice to database all work, CTEH will be able to assess a new outbreak and incorporate past winning strategies to deal with it. As for other companies however, Skelton stressed the importance of preparing now, rather than waiting for the storm.
“In anticipation of the next outbreak, it is important for a company or organization that has been shaken by COVID-19 to look at their capital investments with respect to engineering controls,” Skelton said. “They should be looking at how they can take to the next step in their ability to protect their workforce with more sustainable and reliable means of exposure prevention.”