NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
In its ongoing fight against COVID-19, Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) has found a new way to protect its employees with a little common household chemical solution: three percent hydrogen peroxide. Typically found in bleaching agents and even naturally occurring in the human body, NNSY’s Reactor Engineering Division (Code 2310) and Nuclear Material Division (Code 2305) have used the diluted chemical combination to make a cleaning solvent that has less restrictions than the current disinfectant being used at the shipyard.
According to Code 2310’s Ventilation Support Branch (Code 2310.4) Engineer Cynthia Raines, the hydrogen peroxide initiative began when certain spaces in the shipyard needed better cleaning agents than the ones being used at the time: Strike-1-N and alcohol dampened cloths. “Although the two cleaning solutions being used at the time were effective, the Strike-1-N cleaning solution sometimes caused irritation to the upper respiratory tract upon inhalation,” Raines said, “and alcohol dampened cloths posed a flammability hazard.”
With the goal to find something that effectively eliminated COVID-19 surface contamination without posing health and safety risks, Code 2310.4 looked in the Naval Sea Systems Command Fleet Advisory’s Guidance for Surface Ships Coronavirus Disinfectant Products and Procedures—and found their solution. Raines explained, “This guidance indicated that hydrogen peroxide at a minimum of 0.5 percent has the power to disinfect COVID-19 when sprayed on surfaces.” She added that the new disinfectant is more affordable, easier to obtain, and nonhazardous; it also will be powerful enough to kill COVID-19 contaminants on impact, provided that the three percent hydrogen peroxide remains on surfaces to be disinfected for a minimum of ten minutes, without wiping.
As simple as implementing a new cleaning agent might seem, the task did not come without obstacles. “The greatest challenges during this process were determining where three percent hydrogen peroxide was acceptable for use,” Raines said, “and who would perform the work necessary to implement it as a cleaning solution for areas potentially exposed to COVID-19.” Thankfully, her team’s devoted members were able to overcome this and implement it.
While the Mid-Atlantic Regional Materials Test Laboratory (Code 134) is in the process of diluting and bottling hydrogen peroxide for the new disinfectant, the only thing left in the codes’ endeavor to put it into action is the green light. “Once we receive the sign-off, we will issue the change to our procedure and three percent hydrogen peroxide can be implemented for COVID-19 disinfection in work areas,” Raines said. “Additionally, the Nuclear Facility Maintenance Branch (Code 2380.5) is in the development stage for their procedure to implement three percent hydrogen peroxide as the primary disinfectant in their work facilities.”
Raines stated that the three percent hydrogen peroxide spray initiative would not have been possible without the help of multiple departments. “Code 2310.4 led this initiative,” she said, “but between Nuclear Material Analysis Branch (Code 2305) Head Gerry Zaner obtaining hydrogen peroxide and spray bottles from suppliers; Job Readiness Cell (Code 530) lead and COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Zone Manager Mark Ragsdale maintaining bottles of three percent hydrogen peroxide for general shipyard use; Occupational Safety, Health, Environmental (Code 106) providing safety background knowledge; and Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department’s (Code 2300) Department Director Curt Hart, Division Head Mike Kwiatkowski, and Ventilation Support Rob Harrington who propelled the process forward, this was a true product of team effort!”
In working to put the spray into effect, the opportunity to demonstrate the C.O.R.E. value of Care and protect others from the virus was not lost on the team. “We have this virus going around and it is tough because you may not even know if you have it for a two-week period of time,” Raines said. “That’s why it is important that we have this disinfectant spray because not only is it cheap, safe, and easy to obtain, but also it enables us to effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19.” A product of care and teamwork, the new peroxide spray will help keep the virus away and allow employees to stay safe at NNSY!