Preparing your Facility for the Return to Work
Health, Safety, Security & Environment, Workspace Management, United Kingdom, Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Jamie Woodhall, technical and innovations manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene, explains how the company is helping employers and facilities managers ensure people return to their workplaces safely.
After months of lockdown measures to stem the spread of Covid-19, many countries are starting to emerge from quarantine. In the United Kingdom, a recent appeal by the Prime Minister for more employees who're working from home to consider returning to work has concentrated the minds of their employers on guidance on social distancing and hygiene requirements that has (equally recently) been issued by his government in a 38-page document.
Achieving building safety compliance requires a shift of mindset away from reactive cleaning and disinfection to a more planned and proactive approach, however.
The HATS model
Rentokil Specialist Hygiene’s HATS critical appraisal survey is helping to get businesses back to business safely. When our experts survey premises to assess risks and implement solutions to ensure safety and compliance, we focus on four key areas; namely: Hygiene Factors, Atmosphere, Touch, Social Distancing (HATS).
- Hygiene Factors: Poor hygiene creates potential transmission routes for Coronavirus and other microbial infectious diseases and pathogens, so the first thing to do is to assess the overall cleanliness of your premises and develop a cleaning regime that is fit for purpose. This should take into account the size, use and hours of operation for the facility. It should also factor in areas that require more frequent cleaning attention. The most common hotspots include main entrances, waiting rooms or lobbies, washrooms, kitchens, canteens, and administrative areas.
- Atmosphere: Coronavirus can be transmitted by respiratory droplets which are expelled when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, or speaks. The latest advice from www.uk.gov suggests that a single air change (a measure of how many times the air within a defined space is replaced) is estimated to remove 63% of airborne contaminants. After five air changes less than 1% of airborne contamination is thought to remain. This means that air quality is a vital consideration to help protect workers. It is therefore important that air conditioning units and ventilation systems are regularly cleaned and serviced, to ensure they are operating as they should. Air purifiers can help improve air quality – they should have a HEPA filter to tackle bacterial and fungal matter, and an activated carbon filter to help tackle volatile organic chemicals, within indoor areas.
- Touchpoints: When reviewing a facility’s hygiene hotspots, it’s important to consider high-frequency shared touchpoints. Once identified, these should be incorporated in the cleaning regime and hand sanitiser or surface disinfection stations should be installed nearby.
- Social distancing: According to government guidance, businesses must ensure workers maintain social distancing. Wherever possible, facility managers must assess the immediate working area and layout plans to mitigate the risk of individuals coming into close contact with others. There are many tools to help ensure safe distancing, such as signage, retractable barriers, floor mats with guidance and reminders as well as protective screens being common solutions.
Transitioning to a proactive cleaning strategy
A cleaning procedure or regime should mandate cleaning routines as well as specialist deep cleans at regular intervals. A deep clean should include a thorough disinfection of high frequency touchpoints, as well as moving all furniture or equipment away from the walls to make sure no areas are missed from the standard cleaning routine.
There is a range of specialist tools and methods of application that can be used in deep cleaning, in order to eradicate pathogens such as Coronavirus, including:
Electrostatic Disinfection: This is a powerful disinfection treatment that involves adding an electric charge to liquid droplets of disinfectant when they are sprayed. This process allows these droplets to effectively wrap around surfaces within the area and just like a magnet; the process draws the droplets and the surface area together. Our studies show that when using this method, it resulted in a faster application.
Mist Blowing Space Treatment: This treatment has been designed for very large, open spaces. The speed of the jet and the volume of air that is generated means that liquid disinfectant is powerfully blown out into large areas, effectively disinfecting these areas quickly and in a much shorter time than more conventional methods.
Ultraviolet (UV-C) light: UV light in the form of a handheld lamp causes the photochemical deconstruction of the DNA of microorganisms, deactivating its reproductive processes so that viruses can no longer spread. It is best suited to the touchpoints and sensitive equipment used regularly by staff e.g. computer keyboards, cash registers and card payment machines.
Ultra-Low Volume (ULV) disinfection fogging: Involves using 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. Studies have shown that fogging reduces the number of pathogens present when compared to manual surface cleaning alone.
It’s also important that if a worker or visitor to your premises contracts or is suspected to have contracted Coronavirus, you react quickly to decontaminate the premises. In this situation a thorough survey of the site would be conducted by a service manager wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Then a team of technicians will meticulously, manually 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.
All waste generated by the disinfection process will need 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.
With offices beginning to reopen across the country, hygiene and cleanliness is at the heart of government guidance. Making a facility safe for workers to return can be daunting for FMs – as the guidance can be complex and is constantly changing, but we are here to help. We provide a unique combination of consultative knowledge and hygiene services, which are designed to protect building users by keeping premises hygienically clean as well as supporting social distancing to ensure the safety of all those using the facility and compliance with relevant guidance.