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Reducing the spread of infection in the workplace

In these unprecedented times, it’s more important than ever that businesses take the right measures to ensure their facilities are hygienic and that employees are safe. Those businesses that have temporarily closed and are starting to plan for when they can reopen, should think about what the workplace will look like post lockdown, and proactively take steps to ensure they reopen in the most hygienic way possible, according to Jamie Woodhall, Technical & Innovations Manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene.

Regular cleaning is essential

With large numbers of people sharing space and equipment, workplaces can be places where infection spreads quickly. It is essential that those managing offices, construction sites, manufacturing plants and heavily populated workplaces make sure they doing everything they can to ensure their premises don’t serve as a hotbed for viral infection.

Areas of the workplace with high footfall such as kitchens, dining areas and washrooms should be subject to vigilant daily and weekly cleaning routines. Rentokil advises that this regular cleaning process is scheduled and tracked, ensuring that it takes place consistently and on-time.

It might sound simple but encouraging proper handwashing, something that has been repeated constantly on the news in recent weeks, will also help to prevent the spread of germs. Hands are a natural breeding ground for germs and one of the principal carriers of harmful pathogens – in fact, 80% of infections are spread by hand. Ensuring employees have access to the essential handwashing tools – warm water, soap, drying facilities and ideally, hand sanitiser – goes a long way. There should be ample supply of these products in the washrooms, breakout and kitchen areas throughout the premises, paired with handwashing reminders to encourage best practice.

Proactive prevention

On top of a regular cleaning regime, businesses should book a minimum of two deep cleans per year. This may need to increase based on the nature of the business and its hours of operation, so it is recommended that all businesses contact professional cleaning companies to work out the best service and frequency schedule for them. Professional deep cleaning is also especially important during a period of illness outbreak, preferably managed by specialist cleaning companies with professionals trained to tackle hard-to-reach or rarely seen areas where potentially harmful micro-organisms might be hiding. 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 standard cleaning routine.

With regard to the coronavirus outbreak, businesses that remain in operation would be wise to review and update their cleaning regimes.  They should also consider proactively preparing in case a deep clean is required, such as in the event they have a suspected or confirmed Coronavirus diagnosis onsite. This would require a contingency survey of the premises, typically offered by experts to gather key information in advance including a site-specific risk assessment, to enable a quick response in the event of Coronavirus being reported on the site at a later date.

If there are no confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus on a site, an all-purpose specialist disinfection may be appropriate to help protect against microbial infection, and to help maintain a high level of hygiene in a facility.

Reacting quickly

In addition to prevention, it’s also important that if a worker or visitor to your facility does contract, or is suspected to have contracted coronavirus, 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 specialist disinfection service that your premises will need.

For businesses with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus on the premises and where the site needs to be up and running quickly, a service manager can implement stringently risk assessed infection control measures that go beyond the minimum World Health Organization guidance.

Firstly, they survey the site wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Then, guided by a site-specific risk assessment, method statement and safe operating procedures, Royal Society for Public Health qualified staff meticulously disinfect rooms and areas that pose a threat of causing cross contamination, using a high-level surface disinfectant on surfaces such as floors, walls, ceilings and any objects. ULV disinfection fogging, may also be used to allow for the treatment of large areas in a short space of time.

All waste generated as part of the disinfection process needs to be segregated onsite and then disposed of in a safe and legally compliant manner, in line with guidance set out by Public Health England, to help eliminate cross contamination.

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