by James Moburg
Founder of Arise Diagnostics, Lead Project Consultant | Environmental Risk Mitigation | Connect with me on Linkedin
Analogies are great ways to increase communication effectiveness. Most of the engineers I know prefer to skip the analogies and go right into the data. If you don’t like analogies, feel free to skip the first couple of paragraphs. I’m using a sports analytics analogy to convey the usefulness of data, as compared to the lack of data that exists in environmental hygiene and risk mitigation, ie, considerable drivers behind the answer to “is my ______ (office, classroom, restaurant, prison, store, dorm, etc) safe for my employees/customers/students/residents.”
Safety has been the common denominator focus for how individuals, organizations, leagues, and governments have made their decisions. The deployed strategies vary greatly because we all make different decisions based on risks. Some health minded individuals will skip desert not just because of self control, but the underlying risk and assumed consequence associated with that decision (or accumulative decisions). There is a spectrum of speed among drivers on the same highway, some drive at the speed limit, others drive over and others drive under the speed limit, often correlated to their perception of perceived driving risks. The way the story of data has been portrayed in this world of the novel coronavirus greatly dampens or fans the flame of concern depending on the source of the story. Statistics are great, but the same statistics can be used for and against a cause, depending on the method of communication. At Arise Diagnostics, we try to generate relevant data, so our customers can make data driven decisions. We’ve had different customers, in the same industry, with nearly identical scores make very different decisions based on the data we generated from environmental baseline assessments. I’ve observed companies using disinfectant products who now wear white zip up PPE gear and respirators who in their training videos from 12+ months ago never wore any personal protection equipment and are using the same applicator technology and chemicals (technically the gear may be for COVID risk exposure, but multiple cleaning companies have said they need it for the chemicals).
Some of the current strategies to increase safety, ie, reduce risks, have included masks, quarantining if you’re positive/have symptoms for COVID19, social distancing and the emphasis on washing our hands. A major driver into the usefulness of these or any strategies include the execution of an effective effort within any of these strategies. The parent who sends a kid to daycare out of convenience who has experienced a fever, isn’t practicing great judgement on quarantining. The person who uses an ineffective mask as their mask isn’t really reducing risk. Someone who barely washes their hands isn’t reducing much transmission risk. Someone who buys an air filtration system designed for 1,000 sq feet but has a 10,000 sq foot building isn’t likely getting an effective risk mitigation from the device purchased nor harnessing the manufacturers claim. Someone buys a great disinfectant product but doesn’t give it the proper dwell time isn’t potentially maximizing risk reduction, or someone uses a great disinfectant product but uses a dirty rag to apply it isn’t being effective.
Pro sports are full of analytics. There has been a surge in jobs surrounding analytics, but particularly important is determining what to measure, generating meaningful data, interpreting that data, and ultimately making better decisions because of the sight from the data. Everyone is seeking a competitive edge. Scores, ratings, and grades are the summaries of measurement. Key sport metrics are used to compare athletes and often used to determine player value such as in a contract, or situationally who or what play might statistically make the most sense. Wins and losses are easy to track. In a team sport, accumulative individual performances factor into the overall team outcome. Different metrics may help paint the data behind an outcome as well as indicate future performance. You will also find fans of one metric vs another, and outliers where the ratings don’t add up to visual perception. Passer Rating and QBR measure quarterbacks differently, but are both used. The book and movie Moneyball, based off the real world early 2000s Oakland Athletics baseball team, made famous SABRmetrics and how data driven decisions helped a limited budgeted organization be competitive through discovering value.
A person can observe if someone has the arm strength to throw the football 60 yards. To take it up a notch, those who can throw the football 60 yards accurately are more valuable at the quarterback position. Adding in elements of an accurate 60 yard throw, such as synergistic timing with the receiver, ability to throw while on the run and/or while simultaneously being chased by NFL defenders trying to annihilate you, the element of being under pressure (and many other elements), all factor into the likelihood of a successful outcome. Factoring all of these elements are a form of risk mitigation, reducing the likelihood of an undesirable event. An undesirable event in sports would be a strikeout, or incompletion or worse an interception-- one event can lead to the ultimate undesirable event, ie, a loss. Those who play the lottery are statistically going to lose, and big winners are indeed anomalies defying the ridiculous odds. In sports, there are athletes who were once unknown who factor into the outcome of a big game. For the Kansas City Chiefs, while playing the Superbowl, Patrick Mahomes, by the amount of consistent data Mahomes had previously put on display, was far from an unknown. Mahomes was already statistically great, demonstrating consistency of being great for both his first and second season as the starting quarterback for the Chiefs. Facing a large score deficit against the San Francisco 49ers in Superbowl 54, the Chiefs dialed up and executed a huge 3rd down conversion. (a great review of that play can be seen here) The Chiefs didn’t just attempt a lottery ticket play, they leveraged capability plus consistency (a well practiced play). Mahomes is capable of throwing the 60 yards in the air, on the run, accurately, against defense trying to sack him, and his synergy with Tyreek Hill as an incredibly fast receiver, plus many other factors, the outcome wasn’t unthinkable, but rather it was a calculated risk. That positive event in the game was the turning point towards a Superbowl victory for the Chiefs.
What does a 3rd and 15 throw during a Superbowl have to do with the safety of employees, customers, residents, and students within a facility? You can’t execute consistently what you’re not capable of doing. Similarly, you can’t defend against SARS-CoV-2 without being able to defend against it, and you can’t defend effectively unless you have the capability and the ability to be capable consistently. Capability to mitigate environmental risks with the novel coronavirus is not a gut feeling or merely an intention, but rather an implemented proven strategy and/or measured effort demonstrating capability. Lots of different teams want to win the Superbowl. Only 1 does. At least at the pro level, the caliber of athlete capability is clearly in a league of its own. At Arise Diagnostics, when we visit with facilities, we see a wide range of confidence and a wide range in effectiveness. Some in-house janitorial staff are concerned over the expectation of their efforts. Some facility managers are worried about if their in-house or 3rd party cleaning efforts are adequately cleaning the facility. Even if they see someone working hard or the place looks clean, the looming question remains, is it safe? We try to take these unknowns off the table. Measuring air quality, and assessing the cleanliness of a facility (ATP, Microbial Gram Stain and Counts, and PCR) are some of the methods we use to assess a facility, providing them a baseline. Evaluating their chemicals, and measuring the effectiveness of their efforts is part of determining capability. Scoring high grades consistently (effective efforts) contribute to the likelihood of consistent risk mitigation.
Is any cleaning, disinfection virus risk mitigation system perfect? No. Are layered strategies better than singular strategies? Yes. Should my facility spend $20,0000-250,000 on a system being presented to us? It depends. While I personally enjoy and appreciate ethical marketing and business development, I get frustrated with bogus manufacturer claims, sales people misleading decision makers, and poorly designed risk mitigation strategies. I'm a doubting Thomas out of the gate, so much that I’m constantly testing the claims of products I can get my hands on. I’ve called fancy water dispenser manufacturing companies who advertise the cleanliness of their water yet test poorly across multiple locations, I’ve personally tested ice from soda machine dispensers at big convenience store chains, mom and pop stores, and regional groups (Quick Trip or QT has great ice, consistently across all 8 stores I’ve tested without asking permission), we’ve tested chemical companies products and found them to need to adjust manufacturer label claims, and I’ve tested disinfection processes extensively to warrant validation of the effectiveness of their process (see the report on the musical instrument company that effectively disinfects their rental instruments). From a limo company wishing to measure the effectiveness of installed equipment to a restaurant seeking answers after numerous employees tested positive for COVID-19, to a fitness studio wanted to convey to members the cleanliness of their facility, to a school trying to understand if their facility was safe, Arise Diagnostics can guide your organization towards custom tailored solution and data to help your organization make data driven decisions.
As school districts and parents are trying to make the decision on if in-person student learning should be offered, or if they’re considering what equipment upgrades will make it safer, or hospitals, businesses, or governments are trying to be accurate on the spectrum of safe vs risky, Arise Diagnostics can be a great data generator, providing an impartial baseline, the cleanliness analytics, and begin filling out the rest of the story to determine if an organization or facility is adequately mitigating risk or merely “ramping up their cleaning” efforts.