How can you be sure that your staff’s return to the workplace is as safe as it can possibly be? Jamie Woodhall offers the answer.
Government guidance on returning to work spans 38 pages and covers many elements – it can be hard to know where to start to ensure compliance and safety. One solution is the HATS critical appraisal survey, which focuses on four key areas: Hygiene Factors, Atmosphere, Touch, Social Distancing (HATS).
The cleanliness of a facility limits potential transmission routes for the coronavirus and other microbial infectious diseases and pathogens. There are typically multiple potential hygiene hotspots in business premises, which need to be identified to minimise the risk of cross contamination.
High footfall areas and those with shared touchpoints such as kitchens, canteens, lobbies and washrooms require greater attention so a detailed assessment of a facility should be undertaken, looking at:
- What activities are usually carried out and are there any specific cleaning requirements?
- How many people use this area each day and how often?
- What are the high-frequency touchpoints?
- Are there areas where dust, dirt or grime could build up?
- What waste is produced in this area; are there appropriate disposal facilities and how often are these emptied?
Following this assessment, procedures can be created to outline cleaning processes and frequencies and should allow for specialist deep cleans at regular intervals – including thorough disinfection of high-frequency touchpoints and moving all furniture or equipment away from the walls to get areas missed during standard cleaning processes.
The frequency of deep cleans varies depending on the nature of the facility, its hours of operation and size, but most facilities should be deep cleaned at least twice a year.
HIGH FOOTFALL AREAS REQUIRE GREATER ATTENTION AND ASSESSMENT
Government guidance suggests that a single air change (a measure of how many times the air within a defined space is replaced) is estimated to remove around 63 per cent of airborne contaminants. After five air changes, less than 1 per cent of airborne contamination is thought to remain.
Most facilities rely on HVAC systems to maintain air quality – these must be regularly cleaned and serviced to operate effectively. Not having a good air quality system in place can contribute to further transmission of infections between the facility’s users.
Specialist air purification units can monitor air quality and measure building temperatures, humidity and airborne dust particles so improvements can be made. 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 tackle volatile organic chemicals within indoor areas.
On top of regular cleaning, FMs should promote good hand hygiene and minimise cross contamination by providing antibacterial wipes, surface disinfectants or hand sanitisers near key touchpoints.
Social distancing is an important part of the coronavirus prevention strategy. Traffic analysis of the facility should inform the cleaning regime and the social distancing strategy. FMs need to identify common thoroughfares, peak times, bottlenecks and where people are likely to congregate so they can introduce reminders to building users to practice social distancing.
There are many tools to help ensure safe distancing. Signage, retractable barriers and protective screens are common solutions, but they may not always suit the facility’s aesthetic.
Floor mats are subtler and can be designed with social distancing reminders. These also prevent the spread of mud, water and grit in a building. There are other ways to encourage safe distancing, such as using plants to create natural barriers to indicate an area is off-limits or encourage traffic to flow in lanes.
Making a facility safe for workers to return can be daunting for FMs as the guidance can be complex and changing. The focus needs to be on a strategy that is designed to protect building users by keeping premises hygienically clean as well as supporting social distancing, with the aim of ensuring the safety of all those using the facility, alongside compliance with relevant guidance.
Jamie Woodhall is technical and innovations manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene