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Could vapour and UV-C light keep businesses COVID-secure?

15 July 2020

Tautvydas Karitonas, head of research and Development at Inivos considers what a COVID-secure business looks like and how cleaning professionals can find technological solutions for the environments they’re in. 

With the UK lockdown beginning to ease, many businesses across the country are looking to re-open their doors. But before they do so, companies need to consider how they can prepare and communicate a robust package of safety measures to demonstrate the COVID-security of their business.

Now more than ever before, cleaning and hygiene professionals can play a critical role in reassuring anxious staff and customers.

Manual cleaning alone is not enough 

The BMJ has suggested that as many as 80% of COVID cases are asymptomatic. This, plus the delay between contracting the virus and the onset of symptoms even in those who experience them, means the virus has been able to spread quickly between seemingly healthy members of the public. 

This is why it is so essential that businesses implement measures that demonstrate they are a safe and hygienic environment to be in. 

Cleaning professionals work tirelessly to ensure different workplaces are safe. But this new threat means that ‘manual cleaning’ (cleaning by hand) alone is not enough: more robust measures are required to ensure the risk of viral contamination and spread is kept to an absolute minimum. 

In addition to manual cleaning, commercial cleaning managers can take cues from their colleagues in hospitals, who use technological innovations such as hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV) and ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light to remove pathogenic micro-organisms. 

Unlike manual cleaning, which can lead to viral remnants being left behind by unintentional and unavoidable human error, these technologies have the power to completely decontaminate a space and eliminate the virus”. 

Take a proactive approach

Research has shown that COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for days at a time – with viral particles able to remain for up to three days on steel and plastic – meaning anyone who shares equipment, machinery, or bathroom facilities all risk exposure to traces of the virus on surfaces.

For this reason, a reactive approach to decontaminating – only beginning a deep clean or contracting an infection response service when an employee is discovered to have tested positive for coronavirus – is not enough. 

To break the chain of infection and reassure customers, cleaning professionals can implement thorough decontamination procedures in all public spaces and rooms according to a proactive schedule. 

Taking the time to understand the flow of people through areas and how they’re used can give cleaners the basis for an effective schedule of proactive decontamination.

Cleaning professionals in particularly large or busy work environments should also consider commissioning a Workplace Infection Prevention Assessment. This service helps identify and mitigate the risk factors in the workplace, giving hygiene staff clear actions to make the space COVID-secure”.

Have a PPE contingency plan

Appropriate personal protective equipment plays an essential part in protecting against cross-contamination and the spread of COVID-19.  Where possible, managers should encourage cleaning staff to dispose of single-use items such as gowns and masks after one wear. 

Cleaners who work in a clinical setting requiring PPE, such as a dentist practice or hospital, should also consider decontaminating all reusable PPE between shifts. 

Although decontaminating single-use PPE is not a long-term alternative to the best practice of wearing once and safely disposing, a recent trial at University Hospital Southampton which compared laundering with HPV to a process of laundering alone, has concluded that it is a viable and effective contingency”.

Take an evidence-based approach

Many businesses will likely hire deep-clean or ‘fogging’ services with the best of intentions. However, caution should always be taken. Proof of their efficacy and safety should be clear and available to ensure, beyond any doubt, that they have no potential to leave behind harmful organisms.

To ensure that this does not happen, it is important that commercial cleaning managers cut through the noise to find legitimate, evidence-based cleaning services which avoid customers and employees being exposed to cleaning chemicals – or pathogens left behind by incorrect chemicals or technique.

Cleaning professionals should look for providers that can clearly explain their company’s technology and how it works, and share peer-reviewed evidence on their efficacy. 

As the country moves on from COVID-19, it is vital that businesses develop robust COVID-security policies that ensure spaces are free from harmful contaminants. Cleaning professionals are at the heart of this fight.