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As 2020 comes to a close, it is challenging to try and quantify the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on UK businesses. From office blocks to construction sites, restaurants to retailers, the impact on every type of business is substantial. One of the critical controls to safeguard your workforce and protect your visitors is, of course, thorough cleaning.
However, with contradictory advice, rapidly changing protocols and a continuously developing situation, it is tough for businesses to keep pace with the latest guidance and interpret it into practical advice they can act upon.
In this article, the Clearway team has summarised the regulations as outlined by the government, with a jargon-free explanation of how they impact your premises.
Premises Coronavirus Risk Assessments
Every business is unique, and so the first step to creating a COVID-secure workplace is to identify your risk factors, and how to mitigate the risk of contamination:
- How many visitors attend your premises, how often, and in what numbers?
- Are there surfaces that are regularly touched, and how will you reduce the risk of surface contamination? Think about flat surfaces, postal items, vehicles, door/draw handles and communal areas.
- Can you monitor who is in attendance, for how long, and who they have been in contact with?
- What is your current cleaning regime, and does this need to be reviewed and intensified?
- Do you have a protocol in place should a site attendee be diagnosed as COVID-positive?
Government guidance stipulates that the most common infection method is via sneezing or coughing.
Measures such as implementing social distancing, wearing gloves and facemasks, ensuring unwell colleagues stay at home and having a rapid-response strategy in place can mitigate the potential impact.
However, in the event of a visitor or member of staff becoming unwell, what can you do to ensure that the virus is kept at bay within your premises?
And what should you do to enhance your regular cleaning protocols to reduce the likelihood of contaminants making their way into the building?
Keeping Your Premises COVID-Safe Through Thorough Cleaning Regimes
The UK government has created guides for businesses, both in and outside of the healthcare sector, with advice about how cleaning protocols can reduce the spread.
- Cleaning should be carried out regularly, thoroughly, and with suitable chemical products that are designed to kill virus droplets.
- Increased cleaning is required for surfaces and areas regularly used – such as phone systems, door handles, light switches, remote controls and communal kitchen areas and bathroom facilities.
- If a visitor or member of staff becomes unwell, enhanced cleaning is required for any areas where that person has been in attendance.
- Suitable cleaning products should be used, with the specification of detergent disinfectants being diluted to 1,000 PPM (parts per million), or general-purpose detergents followed by disinfectants.
- Disposable cleaning products must be safely disposed of after every use.
By sourcing suitable cleaning products, and effective disinfectants, businesses can significantly reduce the potential spread, whether or not an attendee has been diagnosed with Coronavirus.
What PPE Should Cleaning Staff Wear During the Pandemic?
Personal protective equipment (PPE) has become more critical than ever. It protects people from infection and ensures that thorough cleaning can be carried out safely.
- In indoor public places, all visitors and staff should wear a facemask or face covering unless they are less than 11 years old, or have a medical exemption.
- Cleaning staff should be equipped with a minimum of disposable gloves, a protective apron, and enhanced handwashing facilities. Space should be allocated to allow cleaning personnel to change clothes and dispose of cleaning products and PPE immediately on completion.
- If your premises carry a higher-risk, advanced cleaning and PPE may be required, such as enforcing mandatory face guards, or more robust PPE for disinfecting processes.
Another essential factor to consider is how cleaning waste is disposed of. If there have not been any identified cases of COVID-19 related to your workplace, then the waste can be disposed of as usual.
However, care should be given to ensuring cleaning products are of suitable strength, and that disposable products are used once, and replaced straight away.
If a case of COVID-19 has occurred, increased disposal protocols are vital:
- All waste associated with the area or place of work of the infected person should be disposed of, including waste bins, PPE or any disposable items that have been handled.
- Waste must be securely tied, double bagged, and identified as potentially COVID-19 contaminated.
- A proficient professional must carry out testing, with secure waste disposal services procured if a positive test is identified.
- Safe waste disposal must be in line with Category B infectious waste, provided by a suitably accredited provider.
Increased Cleaning Protocols for Communal Areas
The highest risk areas are those used regularly by all staff.
In high-traffic businesses, consideration must be given to staggering shifts or break times to ensure such facilities are not used by more staff than can be safely distant.
- Increased frequency of cleaning, particularly for surfaces that are touched such as counters, food preparation areas and bathrooms.
- Items being handled, such as eating utensils, should not be shared between staff.
- Hand driers must be available in line with safe hand washing guidance, ideally personal use towels, or disposable towels to avoid cross-contamination.
- Businesses with food preparation services must follow standards identified by the Food Standards Agency.
By following these guides, and communicating increased safety protocols with staff, businesses can continue to function safely.