Preparing to return to the workplace post-Covid 19

As workers prepare to return to the workplace in the wake of the Coronavirus, steps must be taken to keep employees as safe as possible. The maintenance of a healthy work environment is essential to this preparation. This can partly be achieved through cleaning, disinfecting and the provision of ample facilities, tools and resources to enable employees to routinely clean their work space. To disinfect and decontaminate the workplace from Coronavirus effectively, we must first understand the way in which it works.

Human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces at room temperature for up to 9 days. At a temperature of 30°C or more, the duration of persistence is shorter.

Scientists from the Greifswald University Hospital and Ruhr-UniversitĂ€t Bochum, “Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their interaction with biocidal agents,” The Journal of Hospital Infection

As we continue to learn about Covid-19, it’s imperative that health and safety practices are maintained.

Coronavirus workplace cleaning tips

Based on research from a number of sources including Public Health EnglandThe Journal of Hospital Infection and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we can offer a number of tips to help you prepare your workplace for a return to work after Covid-19. The implementation of new health and safety policies is essential in the short term and, when used effectively, will become common practice in the long term.

1. Disinfecting and deep cleaning the work environment

Understanding the difference between cleaning and disinfecting is vital when preparing the work environment after Coronavirus.

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt, germs and impurities from objects and surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs but, by removing them, the risk of spreading infections is reduced.
  • Disinfecting refers to the process of using chemicals to kills germs on objects and surfaces.

To effectively prevent the transmission of disease, a “deep clean” where surfaces are cleaned and then disinfected, is essential. Although an ambiguous term, deep cleaning has been defined by the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) as;

  1. Using the correct PPE and following the necessary gowning/de-robing procedures for this equipment
  2. Isolating the area being deep cleaned
  3. Using approved disinfectant, particularly on high-risk areas and touchpoints
  4. Cleaning the area thoroughly
  5. Clinically disinfecting the whole area
  6. Disinfecting machinery and equipment if used
  7. Disposing of any contaminated materials and PPE
  8. Cleaning/showering of operative(s) once the deep clean is completed

2. Routine cleaning of touchpoints

Once employees are back in their working environment, regular cleaning of equipment and surfaces will be essential. Employers should ascertain any touch points within the workplace as this is where the spread of infection is most likely to occur. Areas that typically require additional cleaning and should be cleaned frequently include surfaces, desks, counter tops, handles, switches, machinery and tools. Touch points will, however, vary depending on the nature of work and the workplace itself.

Electronics such as mobile phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards and machinery will also need to be cleaned in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions using cleaners created specifically to clean such components. Where possible, covers that can be easily wiped should also be placed on electronics to further protect them.

Electrical Contact Cleaner

The RND Electrical Contact Cleaner removes surface contamination and oxidation from all metallic surfaces. With anti-static properties and compatibility with most plastics, paints and rubbers, this cleaner is ideal and acts as both a cleaner and lubricant in one.

IPA Cleaner

This IPA Cleaner is suitable for cleaning electronic equipment, including printed circuit boards and delicate instruments. With 99.7% pure isopropyl alcohol, this cleaner is ideal for disinfecting viruses.

3. Cleaning materials/facilities

Providing ample cleaning materials and facilities is invaluable post-Covid 19. Employees may feel anxious about returning to work and so having access to disposable wipes and disinfectant may alleviate concerns for staff who are able to properly clean their workstations and disinfect shared tools.

Further, maintaining good hand hygiene is essential and can be facilitated through the provision of:

  • sufficient soap and water
  • alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel
  • paper towels

Additionally, simple measures such as ensuring that employees have regular breaks to wash their hands more frequently may be useful.

4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE protects users against health and safety risks. For maintenance professionals, using PPE is common practice as an inherent part of their work. However, with the new risk and threat posed by Coronavirus, additional provision must be made in the workplace to ensure further protection against infection. Increased PPE in the wake of Coronavirus is required in two ways:

  • PPE for cleaning

In accordance with UK government guidelines, minimum PPE such as disposable gloves and aprons must be worn when cleaning, disinfecting and decontaminating areas. An increase and improvement in cleaning practices inevitably leads to an increase in the need for PPE.

  • Additional PPE during work

Depending on the nature of work, other types of PPE, such as facemasks and shoe coverings, may also be useful. In environments where technicians are mobile and move frequently between different sites, it may be helpful for them to wear disposable shoe coverings to minimise the possibility of transmission. Equally, face masks covering the nose and mouth may provide some reassurance in workplaces with large numbers of employees.

Powder Free Disposable Nitrile Gloves

RND powder free gloves provide protection for both cleaning and everyday use and are compliant to Medical Standard EN455 Class I. These gloves are ambidextrous with beaded cuffs offering added strength and ease when putting on.

Cleanroom Shoe Covering

RND cleanroom shoe coverings are manufactured in accordance with European PPE Directive 89/686/EEC. They have elastic edges, deep non-slip embossing and a dissipative strip for closure.

Disposable Face Mask with Ear Loops

These disposable polypropylene face masks from RND are an ideal form of Class 1 PPE as they offer high filtration capacity. To increase reliability and security, these masks also feature elastic ear loops and an adjustable nose piece.

5. Signage

The inclusion of signs in the workplace can be a simple yet effective way of reinforcing and promoting good hygiene practices. Whilst these are likely to be at the forefront of an employee’s mind in the current climate, signs are a useful way of ensuring that good habits continue in the future.

Ensure staff are aware and signs are visible in the workplace reminding employees and customers not to enter the premises if they have COVID-19 symptoms such as a high temperature or persistent cough (or a member of their household displays symptoms) and to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Public Health England

Additionally, with an improved and more thorough approach to cleaning, the use of stickers to indicate when a deep clean was last carried out may also be useful. This is particularly important for areas where a number of engineers may work collaboratively or where machinery and tools are used extensively by multiple technicians.

Further, as a strategy for limiting the spread of Coronavirus, social distancing has become increasingly prevalent within the last few weeks and looks as though it’s here to stay.

I do think this is going to reshape the workplace. Social distance thinking may be part of our DNA moving forward.

Janet Pogue-McLaurin, principal and workplace leader at design and architecture firm Gensler

Maintaining a safe distance between others may not have been a common practice when employees were last at their place of work and so, upon returning, policies may not yet be in place to account for this new practice. By using signs and floor markings, employers are able to ensure that social distancing continues in the workplace. An ideal measure in both the short and long term, labels can be used out on site and flexibly in locations where maintenance professionals may not be confined to a single work station.

In the wake of the Coronavirus, it is clear that approaches and policies towards cleaning and disinfection need to become more thorough and stringent. For employers, now is the time to start implementing various measures to create a work environment that is clean and safe. As we navigate life after the Coronavirus following revised guidelines and implementing new policies, let Distrelec support you with the resources needed so that you can return to work as safely as possible.

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