ROCKY HILL, Conn. — Since the first case of 2019-nCoV infection was reported in the United States on January 20, 2020, the Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association (SMACNA) have been working together to help hospitals to purify the air, improve ventilation, manage airflows, provide testing and data analysis, and keep healthcare clients updated as new information comes to light.
Dave Roche, business manager at SMART Local 40 in Connecticut, has been part of the State Governor's task force to reopen Connecticut. He is the only labor person from any industry on this advisory council.
“Being on the task force has allowed me to get the information straight and prevent misinformation,” Roche said. “All the updates from the healthcare sector are shared immediately with not just our 1,000-plus members, but SMART Locals across the country, keeping us abreast of the situation as it unfolds.
“This has been essential to our SMART and SMACNA partners. Our members were already unknowingly prepared before the pandemic hit, having already done the training and working with many of these hospitals' HVAC systems, but being at the table allowed us to keep updated on changes and be part of knowledge sharing.”
SMACNA-New Mexico member Energy Balance & Integration LLC (EB&I) and their Local 49 craftsmen and women have been working with five major hospitals in the state of New Mexico on testing and balancing to provide them with audit reports and pressure gradient setting, room tightness testing, duct leakage testing, and troubleshooting of systems.
“We had already set ourselves up in niche hospital work, so when the pandemic hit we were fully prepared to step up,” Tony Kocurek, EB&I owner said. “It wasn't that much of a shift.”
Ron Landberg, field engineering manager, MacDonald-Miller, works with several hospitals in the Pacific Northwest and has an HVAC data and testing healthcare team. He has been sharing information with his partners at SMART Local 16 in Oregon and SMART Local 66 in Western Washington.
“I heard the other day that turning a floor too negative may not be the best solution to containing the virus and that lower differential pressure is better, so for the last couple of days I have been in seminars with healthcare engineers discussing how best to move forward as more information comes to light,” said Landberg.
With this data, the industry is able to adjust accordingly, and in many cases provide new solutions. Montana SMACNA member Chris Schaff, owner of Air Controls in Billings in Montana, came up with a new purification system very early on in the pandemic.
“The more we learned about how this virus spreads, the more we knew air quality was a necessity and we began the initial examination with ways to implement improvement,” Schaff said.
This resulted in the creation of four new TG-Series Air Purifiers that went into production in mid- April. These are now being used in hospitals across the state. Schaff credits Local 103 Business Manager John Carter for helping spread the word about the benefits of these portable and quiet systems.