PROTECTING WORKERS: COVID-19 IN PLBG AND HVAC SYSTEMS
Published on Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Guidelines to Protect Worker Health Related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Other Potential Infectious Material (OPIM) in Plumbing and HVAC Systems United Association (UA)
March 18, 2020 (Updated March 25, 2020)
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To provide guidance to protect the health of workers performing work on plumbing and HVAC
Understanding Coronavirus Exposure for the Mechanical Trades
It is important to understand that Coronavirus is a large family of viruses found in humans and
animals. Coronaviruses are responsible for upper respiratory infections, which range from a
common cold to death. In 2002-2003, a new animal coronavirus called SARS (severe acute
respiratory syndrome) emerged in humans in Southern China and spread throughout 29 counties
around the world. A total of 8,098 individuals were infected, resulting in 774 fatalities.
In 2019, a pandemic outbreak of another coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China. This new
coronavirus is called SARS-CoV-2 which causes the disease known as COVID-19. This new
coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is spreading much quicker than the 2003 SARS outbreak. To date,
Johns Hopkins reports that over 190,000 people worldwide are infected with over 7,500
fatalities. Because this virus can be easily transmitted between humans, the World Health
Organization (WHO) has qualified this virus as a pandemic. All predictions are that this
pandemic is going to continue to spread quickly.
How do you get infected with COVID-19?
The disease is spread by close person-to-person contact. It usually occurs from a cough, sneeze,
or when someone exhales. This releases infected droplets that can get into another’s mouth, nose,
or lungs. Most of these droplets fall onto nearby surfaces and objects like desks, tables or
telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and
then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. It is unclear how long a virus can remain contagious
when exposed on a surface. COVID-19 spreads in a way like the flu.
What are the symptoms?
Most infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover. However, some
experience more serious illness and may require hospital care. Risk of serious illness rises with
age. Those who are elderly are at a higher risk. People with weakened immune systems and
people with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to
serious illness. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
Can it be spread through drinking water?
According to the CDC, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has not been detected in drinking water.
Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection should remove or
inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
Can the virus spread through sanitary drain and vent systems?
According to the CDC, the virus can survive in human feces. How long it will survive and how
contagious it remains is unclear. The Chinese government identified an outbreak in a sanitary
drain and vent system in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong outbreak took place in a 30-story high-rise
building. The sanitary drain and vent systems were “altered” which resulted in open vent
connections within the building. The building was evacuated after numerous COVID-19 cases
Therefore, for as long as the pandemic is still active, it should be assumed by anyone
working on a sanitary drainage system that the virus is present. (IAPMO, 3/12/2020)