The challenge of maintaining cleanliness has been thrown sharply into focus because of Covid-19. But more can be done to ensure clean air and water, and healthier living and working spaces, says Gary Nicholls.
The hygiene and safety of our nation has rarely enjoyed so much media attention. Yet despite this new focus, some of the less prominent areas of our managed properties – our air and water systems – can still suffer from neglect.
Now, when our greatest concern is for those with underlying health conditions, it is important to ensure that ventilation systems comply with TR19, the leading industry guidance document on ductwork hygiene, issued by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).
Coronavirus and additional cleanliness requirements
We would recommend strongly that the ventilation system should be sanitised with a medical surface disinfectant, which destroys almost all known viruses and bacteria. This includes the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus, which we are all trying to combat. This deep clean of the ventilation system can be performed either as an addition to a routine TR19 compliance clean or as a special one-off service as a precaution against the spread of the virus.
As indoor air quality will have a big impact on the recovery of coronavirus sufferers, we do not recommend postponing TR19, although obviously it is vital that work is carried out while meticulously observing social distancing guidelines. Work can be scheduled out of hours – but it ought not to be delayed.
Let’s not forget legionella
Legionella bacteria causes the potentially lethal Legionnaire’s Disease, a ’flu-like illness that can be fatal for the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. Once the coronavirus has been brought under control the last thing that we – and especially the NHS – will need, is a spate of legionella outbreaks.
The coronavirus crisis itself has given rise to potential legionella risks that some FMs might not have considered. The good health and cleanliness of most domestic water systems is, in part, reliant on frequent or constant use. Now, however, we have significant areas of buildings, and entire properties that have been shut down in favour of staff being furloughed or working from home. This is a wise approach, but it needs to be managed.
Unused water outlets
As water outlets are not being used for long periods, as part of the decommissioning of your property you will need to examine your legionella risk assessment. You will almost certainly need to instigate weekly flushing routines to ensure ACoP L8 compliance. Similarly, once the crisis has passed, you must make sure that you comply with ACoP L8 to protect cleaning teams and end users as the premises are recommissioned.
Covid-19 cases on site
If you have a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19 infection in the premises you manage, take extra precautions. Coronavirus can live on a variety of surfaces for 72 hours, so we need to protect any key staff or residents.
We can eliminate the virus from hard and soft surfaces with a solution of medical surface disinfectant applied using a fogging method. This can be used to treat hard surfaces such as toilets, telephones, desks, chairs, door handles, hand rails, IT equipment and switches, but critically can also tackle soft furnishings, blinds, carpets and upholstery – anything to which the virus might adhere.
Gary Nicholls is managing director of Swiftclean