Coronavirus: Cleaning your workplace before re-occupations

Outsource Safety LtdSafety newsCoronavirus: Cleaning your workplace before re-occupations
April 6, 2020 Posted by Roger Hart

At some point, we will need to plan for the return to our workplaces and with that, the question arises of Coronavirus and cleaning your workplace before re-occupation.

There’s some good guidance already available from the government here but we thought it would be useful to boil down both that and other guidance we see from experts and so we’ve provided that below.

The planning stage. Coronavirus: Cleaning your workplaceCoronavirus: Cleaning your workplace

Before you begin let’s define some terms;

  • Cleaning is the removal of visible and invisible soiling. Cleaning prepares a surface or item for sanitising or disinfection;
  • Sanitising is the process to lower the level of biological agents on an object to a safe level;
  • Disinfection is a process that eliminates many or all pathogenic microorganisms (with the exception of bacterial spores) on inanimate objects.

The aim of disinfection is to kill and destroy any and all bacteria and viruses, sanitising is gentler and aimed at lowering the level of biological agents on an object to a safe level. However, it is not currently clear what a safe level of sanitising for COVID-19 is. and so disinfection may currently be the better route.  Let’s also remember that the chemicals in use are likely to be harmful so don’t forget to consider the PPE you need to protect yourself from them.

Where to begin

A good place to start is the most commonly used communal items, think door handles, welfare facilities and keypads used for entry and exit and any other specific areas in your business touched regularly by a number of staff.  Please remember that the chemicals used for disinfection will require a ‘dwell time’ which is to say they must remain on the surface for a period of time in order to do their work.  A good example fo this is the suggestion to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to allow soap to do its work against the virus – use the same process for disinfecting surfaces in the workplace and allow time for the chemical to act on the surface you are cleaning.

A two-stage, three-step process

The advice is to first clean the surface in preparation for disinfection, you then apply the disinfection itself, if you search around you may well find items which are capable of doing both simultaneously – saving you time. These are typically known as a detergent disinfectant.  A dilution which allows 1000 PPM available chlorine is recommended (ref.)

  1. Protect yourself from the chemical and from potential infection risks;
    1. Put these on in a known clean area if you have concerns about the presence of the virus in your workplace.
  2. Allow adequate dwell time for the product you are using – see its instructions;
    1. Spraying chemicals means you might inhale them – use a mask and eye protection.
  3. Use disposable towels which are then bagged and sealed in a second bag before being disposed of.
    1. Store your waste somewhere safe and, non-communal, for 72 hours before disposing of it.

The truth is for most workplaces you are looking at a lot of cleaning and some disinfection.  It should be based on your risk assessment.  If you have a high number of vulnerable people or you have been occupied for a significant period of lockdown through being an essential business (or through contractual wrangles) you ay well need a more thorough clean and disinfection.  If you have been shut for over a week it is unlikely that viruses will remain but do consider those areas that will still have been touched such as exterior door handles.

We hope that this information helps you.  If you have any questions relating to Coronavirus please contact your retained safety consultant if you are a member of our Safety~net competent person service. We have a number of documents available for retained clients including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation, administering first aid and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day.  We’re still open, our phone lines are live and we’re ready to help when needed.