As you reopen your facilities, your employees, occupants, and visitors should be reassured that you have done the best possible work to reduce risk of contracting Covid-19 or any virus, especially as we now enter the traditional cold and flu season. As you evaluate cleaning methods and protocols there are a few tips to consider:
First, a well documented and well communicated RTO plan (Return to Office) plan will instill a sense of confidence and comfort for those returning to your facilities. As you develop this plan it’s important to document what ongoing cleaning protocols you have employed, and to further illustrate any new methods you have adopted to deal with Covid-19. This plan will undoubtedly evolve as you deal with the return of staff, but having one published and distributed on a regular basis will communicate that you care for, and will continue to have the health and safety of your occupants in mind at all times.
If your facilities are now open after a shut-down, you probably did a normal cleaning as you re-opened. If the facility was down for any more than 14 days any strains of the virus are long since gone. Once re-opened ongoing cleaning and disinfecting must become part of your overall disinfection protocol. Routine cleaning should happen along it’s normal schedule, but with deep cleaning and disinfection integrated over regular intervals as well. The use of List-N registered disinfectants should be employed at this point. It’s important to understand what disinfectants are most effective on this list and require minimal dwell time to kill the virus. Based upon your environment you may need to use chemicals that are developed for specific applications such as soft surfaces (think padded arms of desk chairs, soft common area seating and such). List-N disinfectants such as Vital Oxide™ are very effective in killing the virus in areas such as this, and other places such as where food preparation is done.
The current guidance from the CDC focus on self-care (ie staying home if you have symptoms or a fever), social distancing, and individual hygiene importance, such as using hand sanitizer, washing hands frequently, wearing a mask and so on. It’s important to check back with the CDC’s website for up to date information as we learn more about the virus and how it is transmitted. A well documented policy and environmental signage to coincide with your branding is a helpful way to communicate and re-enforce the new guidelines. Studies show that brand recall and repetition is an effective way to promote your brand, but this can also work within your facilities to help promote workplace safety and hygiene.
ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, and its Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC) advocate for what they call “confidence cleaning”- a process involving proper risk assessment, followed by implementation of all necessary steps for cleaning and disinfection. This process also requires proper training of all cleaning staff on the determined steps needed, the steps taken, the frequency, and the tools and equipment best suited for the task. In addition to making the best choices for the facility’s needs, confidence is created among your stakeholders due to the fact that you properly communicated these practices and successfully implemented the protocol to provide for the greatest level of protection in your facilities. We recommend that your facilities management staff has at least one member on staff that has completed the GBAC Fundamentals course for cleaning and disinfection protocols. Several of our staff have successfully completed this course and have become certified to educate our clients further in their efforts to maintain a healthy and safe work or school environment.
The 4 Levels of Cleaning
It helps to know the difference between the levels of cleaning you are requesting or performing. This ensures you get what you need in your facility. Here are the 4 main categories:
Cleaning: The removal of “soil” such as dirt, grime, and debris. Often it can provide up to a 90% reduction in disease-causing germs. Cleaning prepares a surface or item for disinfection.
Sanitizing: Sanitizing lowers the overall level of biological agents on an object to a safe level. Known as a 99.9% 3-log reduction of disease-causing germs, leaving behind a small amount of germs deemed safe by health codes. It is gentler than disinfecting and, in the case of SARS-CoV-2 virus, it is not known at this point in time if it is enough to deactivate the virus, which is why disinfecting is recommended.
Disinfecting: A process that eliminates many or all pathogenic microorganisms, except bacterial spores, on inanimate objects. In Europe, it is known as a 5-log reduction, or 99.999%. This is the recommended level of approach by most government authorities to address the Covid-19 virus. Check with your local governing body to determine which log reduction is stipulated.
Sterilization: Is the complete elimination of microbial viability. This process will destroy or eliminate all forms of microbial life. The methods of sterilization include physical and chemical methods. Physical methods include dry heat, steam, or radiation, such as UV-C radiation. Some of these methods are more commonly reserved for surgical, or sensitive research and development environments, but not necessarily recommended for routine commercial environments. In a commercial setting it is highly unlikely you will need such levels to address disinfection for Covid-19.
Creating a level of hygiene comfort within your facility
As our organizations have gradually brought our staff back to work and opened our facilities back up, many organizations have done a great job creating a socially visible awareness campaign to communicate best practices, and welcome back their staff. One local school district went above and beyond in creating a welcome back campaign to highlight the importance of best practices for staff and students. Read more about how they did it here.
Along with repeated social distancing reminders and signs, having a way to keep hands clean with strategically placed hand sanitizer stands can also be beneficial. When combined with informational signage these can also be used to reinforce safe hygiene, and also communicate other organizational messaging.
Remote Thermal Temperature kiosks can also help monitor staff and visitors by recording temperatures of anyone entering your facility. Some models feature employee punch in and punch out features to help track attendance as well. Even more advanced models can later convert to digital signage monitors to help with messaging throughout your facilities.
As with any claims that have health and infection-control impact, common sense, and asking the right questions will help you best determine the right choices to take for your facility. The heightened sense of awareness of Covid-19 will also serve to create a better awareness of personal hygiene and hopefully allow your visitors and staff feel comfortable working in or visiting your facility.