To be fair, the answer to this question — Can you be sure your facility is clean and free of the coronavirus (COVID-19)? — may not be “yes” for quite a while. But there are steps we can take to get as close to “yes” as possible.
Every day we see businesses that are strong and determined to show resiliency in response to COVID-19. One thing they have in common is the creation and execution of a thoughtful and purposeful back to business strategy, and a key part of that strategy is a well-defined plan to clean and disinfect buildings and premises.
For businesses that have been operational, staying on top of cleaning and disinfection is paramount. Delay or uncertainty — especially if a case of COVID-19 directly impacts your locations — can endanger the health of those entering your buildings and pose risks for confidence, employee morale, brand reputation and liability. For businesses reopening, a clean and secure facility is essential to ensuring workforce and customer safety while providing peace of mind for all who walk through those open doors.
Preoccupied with new protocols and procedures specific to COVID-19, businesses are looking for assistance when it comes to industrial hygiene, disinfection and cleaning of their buildings and premises. Advance planning, education, tools and support can all make the difference when and if quick response is needed.
Advance planning: Be prepared
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have provided guidelines to follow, but even the most capable businesses may not be able to stay on top of quickly changing knowledge, regulations and practices. It helps to have a framework for action, while allowing for flexibility based on current realities.
With your employees and customers or other visitors in mind, start to outline a company-specific plan.
- Address enhanced daily cleaning and disinfecting processes for each asset of your operations (i.e., customer-facing property and internal operations centers).
- Understand what products to use, and frequency of cleaning.
- Outline specific disinfection efforts for each property type (e.g., high-traffic common areas, specific offices, shared open spaces, areas with sensitive equipment) individually.
- Fit your needs and goals with industrial hygiene standards in mind.
Education: What’s important to focus on – and what NOT to do
Many disinfection practices may only focus on high-touch areas or fail to address the proper methods for disinfecting the area — that can mean missed opportunities, false confidence or money and time wasted by cleaning unnecessary surfaces. It's important to educate yourself or align with appropriate experts to identify areas where cleaning and disinfection is most appropriate.
Did you know?
- High-level transmission floor surfaces are often neglected, or products aren’t used correctly in order to effectively kill the virus.
- For carpeting in a directly contaminated area, it’s important to use proper high-temperature steam cleaning and HEPA vacuuming; standard cleaning methods can exacerbate the issue.
- Industry experts have discounted improper fogging devices as ineffective. Concentrate surface wiping and misting, and use electrostatic disinfection misting only where appropriate.
- It’s important to employ COVID-19 surface testing and to audit cleaning procedures, not to simply rely on surrogate sampling for other microbial material.
In addition to the CDC and WHO, both tried and tested resources for continued education on what procedures and products are most effective in your efforts to maintain a clean and safe facility, Sedgwick’s COVID-19 update center is also aggregating expert knowledge and best practices that can help.
Tools: Think through your personalized checklist
Different cleaning and disinfection protocols may apply based on your facility type and structures. For example, in an office building or even cluster housing such as public housing, apartments or condominiums, and assisted living or senior care facilities, cleaning and disinfection can be optimized for the specific office or living space occupied by an employee or resident infected with COVID-19. This scenario may require fogging of the particular space in which the individual spent time as well as wiping down and deep cleaning of common areas and high-touch surfaces that they may have also come into contact with.
Maybe your operations include more than just buildings. If your business involves transportation or fleet services, shared vehicles could also pose a concern. Focusing on high-touch points in addition to areas of driver or passenger exposure would also be important for your checklist.
In other instances, properties such as daycare facilities, schools or churches may have been vacated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even during this dormant period, a skeleton crew may have remained for operational purposes. Additionally, an asymptomatic person may have picked up packages or made deliveries inside the building. When it comes time to reopen the building, there is a need to clean and disinfect appropriately within the facilities to ensure the safe return of children, students or parishioners.
Consider these space-specific checklists as a starting point for your own facilities.
Offices or workstations
Door and door edges
Floor around office chair
Breakrooms, kitchens, gathering areas (e.g., front desk, reception, conference rooms)
Conference tables and phones
Door and door edges
Microwave, toaster ovens
Soap and towel dispensers
Building common or public areas
Entry/exit doors and keypads
Exterior door handle and keys
Interior high hand touch spots: steering wheel, transmission shift, door handles
Non-touch spots: dashboard, speedometer/odometer, under-dash screens
Other touch spots: radio, interior controls
Support: Partners at the ready
Whether relying on internal staff or industry contractors, it is important that your partners are trained and certified to ensure adherence to public health guidelines. But you don’t have to do it alone. Identifying cleaning and decontamination certified contractors who can provide ongoing protocols and an immediate response is high on the back to business priority list for many organizations.
For example, in locations where an employee tested positive for COVID-19, many businesses need onsite assistance within 24 hours of making such a request. Having trusted providers on speed dial is essential. A designated partner can also tailor procedures to each property scenario and building use.
At Sedgwick, we are working with our clients each and every day in developing back to business plans and strategies. Getting back to business will pose challenges, but we welcome the opportunity to partner with you and use our resources to provide disinfection, cleaning or other industrial hygiene services. Together we will reopen, return and recover from this epic event.
To learn more, check out Sedgwick’s additional resources:
- Industrial hygiene and disinfection:
- Facilities safety and cleaning:
- COVID-19 update center
- Back to business toolkit