Your facility may look clean, but if it hasn't been disinfected, commonly touched surfaces throughout the workplace could be harboring germs. Reducing the risk of disease transmission on the job means taking a new approach to cleaning, with a greater emphasis on disinfection. These seven tips can help your business begin disinfecting effectively:
- Clarify Your Goals
Your facility’s cleaning is likely focused on the dirtiest areas. Usually, when we say “cleaning,” we mean physically removing dirt and dust. Your custodial staff may spend most of their shift mopping floors, wiping down splatter, and cleaning spills in the production area.
But to control dangerous microbes that can cause illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking specific action to kill germs before they can move between workers. A two-step clean-and-disinfect process is recommended, using a detergent-based cleaner to physically remove dirt from surfaces, followed by a wipe-down with a separate disinfectant, like a bleach solution, that will kill the remaining germs.
A focus on disinfection means paying attention to surfaces that may not appear dirty at all. The CDC advises workplaces to routinely disinfect every surface that is frequently touched—door handles, machinery control panels, and even the break room TV remote. All can become hotspots for germs.
Keep in mind: time is not a disinfectant. Germs can easily survive on surfaces until the next shift arrives. A study on the H1N1 influenza virus published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that droplet-borne viruses can live for 48 hours on wood surfaces, one day on plastic and stainless steel, and over eight hours on fabric. Once a surface is contaminated, assume it will stay contaminated until it is disinfected.
- Protect Your Crew
When your custodial staff is focused on cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas, they will be at high risk of exposure to the germs they are working to eradicate. The CDC advises strict adherence to PPE protocol to protect cleaning crews in potentially contaminated workplaces from getting sick. Ensure that gloves and eye protection are readily available, and reinforce training on safely putting on and taking off protective equipment.
- Design for Hygiene
In the long run, design choices can make disinfecting the workplace easier. According to the CDC, for hard and non-porous materials, visibly dirty surfaces should be cleaned prior to disinfection. Then the EPA’s list of disinfectants specifically for use on hard, non-porous surfaces should be consulted. You should consider removing soft and porous materials like carpeting, rugs or materials in high traffic areas and disinfect the materials if appropriate products are available.
And remember, pathogens can colonize in hard-to-clean crevices. Be sure to replace chipped and cracked fixtures as soon as possible—they can be extremely difficult to disinfect. When selecting new door handles and equipment controls, opt for simple designs that feature large, flat faces and smooth surfaces that can be wiped down on a single pass.