Employees working in essential services, from healthcare to retail still need to turn up for work. So how can you protect them? Jamie Woodhall, Technical & Innovations Manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene offers some essential advice on keeping the spread of infection at bay
Winter is a common time when people get ill as temperatures drop and we spend more time indoors. The flu (influenza) is particularly spread during this period, which brings a chorus of sniffs and sneezes as people across the UK battle through illness. While flu outbreaks come as no surprise, this year the world has come face-to-face with a new virus that has spread to UK shores – coronavirus (COVID-19).
Amid unprecedented circumstances caused by COVID-19, it’s more important than ever that businesses take the right measures to keep their facilities clean and employees safe.
REGULAR CLEANING IS ESSENTIAL
Workplaces can be challenging environments to prevent cross contamination due to the large number of people, shared spaces and equipment. It’s essential that businesses take action particularly during a time where illness is rife, to ensure their workplace doesn’t serve as a hotbed for viral infection.
Kitchen, dining areas and washrooms must be subject to vigilant daily and weekly cleaning routines. We advise that standard cleaning is scheduled and tracked, ensuring that it takes place regularly and on time. Organisations with hot-desking policies should also provide antibacterial wipes and encourage staff to wipe down their desks at the beginning and end of each day.
It might sound simple but encouraging proper handwashing as we have heard constantly on the news recently, will also help to prevent the spread of germs. Our hands are a natural breeding ground for germs and one of the principle carriers of harmful pathogens – in fact, 80 per cent of infections are spread by hand. Ensuring your employees have access to essential handwashing tools – warm water, soap, drying facilities and ideally, hand sanitiser – is key. There should be ample supplies of these products throughout the building, paired with handwashing reminders to encourage best practice.
On top of a regular cleaning regime, booking in a deep clean is important during a period of illness outbreak, preferably managed by a specialist cleaning company that is trained to tackle those hard-to-reach or rarely seen areas where potentially harmful micro-organisms might be hiding.
With regards to the coronavirus outbreak, businesses that are remaining open would be wise to review and update their cleaning regimes. They should also proactively prepare in case a deep clean is required, in the event they have a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis on site. This would require a contingency survey of the premises to assess the operational needs and cleaning process as well as the financial cost of a deep clean, should an outbreak occur. All-purpose specialist disinfections are also advised during unprecedented times, to ensure your facility is as clean as possible at a time where cross contamination potential is hard to mitigate fully.
To perform a deep clean, experts will have access to specialist multi-purpose biocidal cleaners, which can decontaminate surfaces by killing bacteria, fungi, spores, yeasts and viruses. A deep clean should include a thorough disinfection of high frequency touch points, as well as moving all furniture or equipment away from the walls to make sure no areas are missed from the cleaning routine. One powerful tool in the deep cleaning arsenal is Ultra Low Volume (ULV) disinfectant fogging. This involves specialist technicians generating a mist of disinfectant which settles on top of, underneath and on the sides of objects, enabling technicians to disinfect a large area in a short period of time.
In addition to prevention, it’s also important that if a worker or visitor to your premises does contract or is suspected to have contracted COVID-19, you react quickly to decontaminate the premises. Under government guidance, in most circumstances the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surface is likely to have significantly decreased after 72 hours. This is a key consideration to determine the type of deep clean service that your premises will need.
For businesses with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 on the premises that cannot afford to close for 72 hours, it is essential that this situation is handled with care and caution. The safety of technicians and the safety of the general public is always of paramount importance, and for this reason carefully risk assessed infection control measures which go above the minimum World Health Organization (WHO) guidance would be employed. For example, RSH technicians’ use of full-face respirators rather than half face respirators for their safety. Technicians will meticulously manually disinfect rooms and areas that pose a threat of causing cross contamination, using a high-level surface disinfectant to help minimise the risk of infection. This includes all floors, walls, ceilings and any objects.
Businesses with remote working capabilities, who can afford to wait 72 hours, can request our specialist disinfection service to disinfect their premises. This uses the same processes and includes cleaning common touch points, such as door handles and kitchen surfaces.
It is also extremely important that any waste is disposed of in a safe and legally compliant manner, to ensure there is no further cross contamination. Rentokil Specialist Hygiene follows the COVID-19 infection prevention and control guidance as set out by Public Health England, which states all waste will be handled as clinical waste and we ensure that all resulting waste is correctly segregated, transported, and disposed of in line with clinical waste regulations.
When it comes to cleaning regimes, proactivity is essential to help prevent the spread of disease, particularly during an illness outbreak such as coronavirus. While hand hygiene will help stem cross contamination, specialist deep cleans will offer that extra level of protection and businesses should consider booking one in.