Just as airports and ANSPs prioritise safety and cybersecurity in their planning and delivery, they will now need to prioritise biological safety too, to address diseases such as COVID-19. While guidance material from relevant bodies suggests a variety of solutions, the specific measures depend on the local physical environment and the operations—i.e., human behaviours—that occur in it. No one-size-fits-all solution exists, and health measures require an assessment of local gaps to ensure adequate infection control.

Specific attention needs to be paid to the analysis of local behaviours as these influence the blocking or facilitation of infection routes. Whether you are responsible for a control room or an airport, a Biological Safety Assessment will give you a systematic and rational basis for decision-making and target funding where it will be most effective.

Observational analysis

The first step is to define the operational facilities and the people involved: who do you need to protect? Then identify the operational areas and activities to assess. In an airport, this will likely involve passenger flow, from arrival at the airport, check in, security check, passport control, to visiting toilets, waiting/walking to the terminal and boarding. For an ANSP, the assessment will look at the arrival of an air traffic controller at the control centre, walking to and entering the control room, handover, operations, rest and maintenance, etc.

For each phase, it is important to understand and assess factors such as the physical environment, including equipment and layouts, entry/exit points, type and location of high touch surfaces, ventilation system and air movements, and specific human activities.

To that analysis add an assessment of current infection control measures, including cleaning, use of personal protective equipment and behavioural measures such as combinations of signage, procedures and communications to promote healthy behaviours.

Note that this is not a theoretical exercise. It is a systematic, observational exercise aiming at mapping all critical interactions between humans, pieces of equipment and the environment. In turn, this enables us to identify infection hazards that can activate specific infection routes, such as infection from indoor air, from loss of social distancing or a contaminated surface, and the associated causes. We then classify the hazards in terms of severity and define recommended controls. The focus here is on a feasible and balanced hierarchy of controls that can effectively mitigate infection routes.

User-centred development of behavioural measures

This hierarchy or combination of controls is one of the key benefits of the work so far. It helps avoid focussing overly on expensive technology, while failing to pay attention to behavioural measures, such as procedures and training, or ignoring how passengers/staff respond to signage or the working environment.

We know that poor procedure design often translates into lack of compliance and increased potential for human error, two conditions that will compromise the best safeguards and lead to unnecessary biological risk exposure. That’s why it’s important to engage people early in the development of behavioural measures and involve local operational experts alongside human behaviour experts. Based on sound human factors principles, this approach increases user acceptance and improves implementation. To discuss an Egis Biological Safety Assessment for your places where people gather, please get in touch.

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