As many businesses prepare to return to the office, as an employer it’s your responsibility to ensure that your office is COVID-safe. While a professional office cleaning service is vital, cleaning and sanitising measures should be enacted throughout the day to minimise cross-infection. Without careful cleaning measures your business could be severely affected by virus outbreaks, employee illness and potential fines from government bodies.
Understand how the virus is transmitted
Before you begin planning your COVID-safe cleaning strategies, you need to understand how the virus is transmitted. This way, you can determine the most appropriate measures to take.
The virus is primarily transmitted by aerosols. These are the minute particles that are expelled when someone coughs, sneezes or even talks. These aerosols can then be inhaled by someone else, potentially passing on the infection. Studies have suggested these aerosols can linger in the air for several hours, meaning an infected person does not have to come into close contact with someone to transmit the virus.
These aerosols can settle on surfaces. The latest research suggests that the COVID-19 virus can last for almost a week on some surfaces, like wood, glass and metal, and a few hours to a few days on plastic and cardboard. The virus can be passed on by touching these infected surfaces then touching your face. While this is a less common method of contracting the virus, it is still a risk.
So how do you use this knowledge to keep your workplace COVID-safe?
COVID-19 Cleaning Tips
While your office should be regularly cleaned by professionals, it is up to you and your staff to supplement these cleaning measures with additional strategies throughout the day.
- Clean and then disinfect
The current pandemic has highlighted that many people do not understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning removes dirt and grime from a surface. It also physically removes germs from the surface but does not necessarily kill them.
Disinfecting though, neutralises the germs. However, disinfectant is not as effective if there is dirt and grime present. Therefore, cleaning needs to happen first and then disinfectant can be used to get the best results.
Additionally, the disinfectant needs time to work. It is not instantaneous. The disinfectant’s label will have specific information on waiting times. However, a good rule of thumb is giving the disinfectant 10 minutes on a surface for full effect.
If your employees are sharing equipment or spaces, they should be cleaning and disinfecting before someone else uses the equipment or space. This may include keyboards, desk surfaces and even door handles. Explain to them that they need to clean and then disinfectant. This can help reduce cross-infection between employees if someone has the virus but is asymptomatic.
- Ensure employees wear appropriate safety gear when cleaning
To minimise the risk of cross-infection while cleaning throughout the day, your employees should be wearing disposable gloves. The gloves act as a barrier between a potentially infected surface and your employee as they clean. Your employees should then dispose of the gloves once they’ve finished cleaning to avoid contaminating any other surfaces.
Currently in Victoria, masks are required to be worn at all times when outside the home. This includes at work. As the virus is transferred through aerosols, a mask is an important piece of protective equipment. Therefore, your employees should be wearing them while at the office as the close conditions increase the likelihood of cross-infection.
Even without this regulation, masks should be worn while cleaning to reduce the spread of aerosols from the employee. If not, the employee may spread aerosols as they clean, making their efforts pointless.
- Use appropriate cleaning products
To ensure employees are able to effectively spot clean and disinfect throughout the day, they need the right cleaning products. Cleaning solutions need to be of a high grade to effectively cut through dirt and grime. Similarly, disinfectants need to neutralise as many germs as possible.
Your employees will also need access to disposable cleaning cloths to correctly use cleaning products and reduce the chance of cross-contamination.
- Ensure employees have access to masks and hand sanitiser
If employees have access to masks and hand sanitiser, they can help reduce the likelihood of cross-infection. These should be freely available and in all parts of the office.
As part of your returning to work strategies, remind employees to regularly sanitise their hands throughout the day and wear a mask while at work. The mask will drastically reduce infection via aerosols, and hand sanitiser will limit cross-infection through touch. These strategies are just as necessary as regular cleaning and disinfecting as they will help limit the virus’ spread.
- Have cleaning protocols for suspected COVID cases
Although the number of COVID cases throughout Australia has fallen, you and your employees will need to remain vigilant. Therefore, you need to have special cleaning protocols for when you know or suspect someone with COVID has entered the premises.
If the person is still on the premises, isolate them from others until they can be taken home or to a medical facility. Once the infected person has left the building, you can begin a COVID deep clean.
Your deep clean will need to include cleaning and disinfecting anything that has been in contact with the infected person. You will need to direct employees to stay away from this area to avoid cross-infection, unless they are wearing gloves and a mask and helping with cleaning.
Once the immediate area has been cleaned, you then need to identify any people in the office who may have been in contact with the infected person in the last 24 hours. These people should leave the premises and isolate at home as required by local guidelines.
You can then clean and disinfect any areas where these close contacts of the infected person have been. Therefore, if you have a small office, the entire premises may need to be deep cleaned. This may mean temporarily changing work arrangements for a short time. However, shutting down work isn’t always required — it depends on the size of your office and where the infected person went within the premises.
Finally, notify your commercial cleaning service that there has been a suspected case on the premises. This way, they can do a more thorough clean to help ensure that the virus does not spread.
While it may take a little time to get used to the level of care required to ensure your office is sufficiently cleaned and disinfected throughout the day, the effort is well worth it. You can do your bit to help stop the spread of the virus in your area and ensure your workers’ good health.