Industry partnerships help UW-Platteville respond to pandemic

Ullsvik Hall

Thanks to partnerships forged between industry and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Construction Management and Construction Safety Management programs, custodial staff at UW-Platteville have been able to use advanced equipment to ensure their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Industry partner Miron Construction Co., Inc., in Neenah, Wisconsin, recently provided the university with a Powered Air Purifying Respirator, or PAPR.

A PAPR is a type of personal protective equipment that uses a blower to pass contaminated air through a filter and then supplies purified air to the face piece.

Although there has not been a documented case of COVID-19 at the university, the facilities staff has been proactively preparing for several possibilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic that took over the world created a unique situation for UW-Platteville,” said Mark Miner, assistant professor in UW-Platteville’s Construction Safety Management program. “It became apparent that our custodial staff and maintenance staff were still on duty doing the important things they have to do to keep our university operational. During the evaluation phase of the training and equipment that was needed to complete the job safely, it was determined that there were three different scenarios that they could be challenged with.”

According to Miner, these scenarios included the continuation of custodial staff’s day-to-day disinfecting duties; the need to deep clean any space where a person tests positive or shows symptoms; and the need for the custodial staff to provide services in one of the facilities designated as an isolation facility – if that scenario should become a reality.

“After careful consideration of the proper PPE to utilize, it was determined the best course of action was to utilize powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs),” said Miner. “As one can imagine, the availability of this type of equipment was almost zero. This is when we put our contractor networking process into place. A phone call was made to Miron Construction on Friday, April 10, and David G. Voss, Jr., president and CEO of Miron Construction agreed that UW-Platteville was in a tight spot and gave direction to his warehouse operations manager to locate a PAPR unit and prepare it for use. It was ready and in-hand on Saturday, April 11.”

On Monday, April 13, Miner trained the custodial staff to use it, reviewed the work procedure, and a space was cleaned before noon of that day.

“Hats off to the wonderful folks at Miron Construction for helping us keep our fellow Pioneers safe,” said Miner.