Making safety and hygiene a priority in your facility
24 February 2021
The UK is once again in a national lockdown to try and slow coronavirus transmission while the rollout of the vaccine programme hastens. With many essential workers around the country continuing to work in factories, warehouses, supermarkets, and other important businesses, Jamie Woodhall warns it is vital that facility managers ensure the highest levels of hygiene and safety are maintained to protect employees and members of the community.
FOR BUSINESSES that had to temporarily close their facilities and manage a remote workforce it is also important to consider how hygiene measures should be updated for when it’s possible to welcome employees and customers back albeit perhaps with a limited capacity.
Many premises will have learnings from the last year’s lockdowns, and will have a good understanding of the key guidance around hand hygiene, surface disinfection, the importance of a routine cleaning schedule and social distancing. However, good air quality is now seen as critical in the fight against Coronavirus and there are new considerations for businesses in this field.
So, how can they maintain safety and hygiene across their entire premises?
Understand the importance of air quality
One of the more pressing issues businesses should think about is the hygiene of the air in their premises to protect employees and customers. The World Health Organization has updated its guidance surrounding airborne transmission of coronavirus, and a study in Korea found that a person caught coronavirus at a restaurant through infected air, created by a person breathing more than 6.5metres way.
Academic research from Cambridge University found that a supply of fresh air can disperse the virus and cut the risk of coronavirus transmission by 70 – 80%. The science clearly says that clean, safe air is vital in the buildings that continue to operate. This is especially true when social distancing isn’t always a practical option, such as in factories and on production lines.
Air purification solutions could play a vital role to reduce the risks associated with airborne viruses and bacteria, helping to protect staff and visitors indoors. Rentokil Initial is distributing a solution called VirusKiller, which kills 99.9999% of viruses with a single air pass, including coronavirus.
Unlike traditional air purification systems, the UV-C technology provides a photochemical deconstruction of the RNA and DNA of microorganisms. This deactivates their reproductive processes so that the coronavirus and other viruses can no longer spread before the clean - purified air is released back into the room.
VirusKiller was originally created in response to the 2003 SARS outbreak. The technology has been tried and tested for more than 15 years and can effectively eradicate airborne pathogens from indoor environments. Unlike traditional air purifiers that ‘trap’ airborne particles and microbes, the solution also decontaminates the air. It not only traps, but also kills airborne viruses, bacteria and fungi. Thanks to its unique filtration process, reactor chamber and UV-C technology, when placed correctly the unit takes control of the airflow in a room, drawing contaminated air in from the ‘breathing zone’ and then releasing fresh, clean air back into the facility.
The solution uses patented ultraviolet-C (UV-C) lamps, surrounded by a mesh of chromed nano titanium dioxide tube filters that are polished with activated carbon. The emitted UV light reacts with the mesh, and in a process called ‘photocatalytic oxidation’ produces hydroxyl radicals, which acts as a disinfectant and breaks down the organic molecules.
Adopt a holistic approach to hygiene
While air quality is a vital consideration, it is not the sole route of transmission for coronavirus and other infectious illnesses as there a three main transmission routes (person to person, surface to person and air to person). Consequently, it’s more important than ever that a business’s overall hygiene standards are not allowed to slip in any area.
With government guidance and legislation changing constantly as a result of the pandemic, a holistic approach to a facility’s hygiene and safety is a must. We recommend undertaking a HATS critical appraisal survey to assess the key elements of a food and drink facility. Unique to Rentokil Specialist Hygiene, HATS is used by our experts to survey premises in order to assess risks and implement solutions that ensure safety and compliance. It focuses on four key areas – hygiene factors, atmosphere, touch and social distancing.
‘Hygiene factors’ looks at the potential transmission routes for coronavirus and other microbial infectious diseases and pathogens, so the first thing to do is to assess the overall cleanliness of your premises and develop a cleaning regime that is fit for purpose. This should take into account the size, use and hours of operation. It should also factor in areas that require more frequent cleaning attention. The most common hotspots include main entrances, waiting rooms or lobbies, washrooms, kitchens, canteens, and administrative areas.
When considering ‘atmosphere’, professionals help assess the quality of the premises’ air. It’s important that air conditioning units and ventilation systems are regularly cleaned and serviced, and that advice is given if new air ventilation systems are recommended, and where they should be installed. Air purification technology is also considered as part of the ‘atmosphere’ element of the HATS assessment. Recommendations will be given to help determine the right solutions for the facility and where these technologies should be deployed.
‘Touchpoints’ looks at high-frequency shared touchpoints within premises and ensures they are incorporated into a regular cleaning regime. Due to their different sizes, usage and sometimes 24-hour operations, facilities can present a disinfection challenge. There is a range of innovative disinfection techniques used in these more complex cleaning areas such as ultraviolet (UV) lamps. These are handheld and cause the photochemical deconstruction of the DNA of microorganisms, deactivating reproductive processes so that viruses can no longer spread. Because this option doesn’t require the use of chemicals or liquid disinfectants, it’s perfect for sensitive electrical equipment too.
Finally, it’s important to consider ‘social distancing.’ Where possible, facility managers must assess the immediate working area and layout plans to mitigate the risk of individuals coming into close contact with others. There are many tools to help ensure safe distancing, such as signage, retractable barriers, floor mats with guidance and reminders as well as protective screens being common solutions.
The importance of regular deep cleans
On top of a regular cleaning regime, facility managers should book a minimum of two deep cleans per year. This may need to increase based on the nature of the business and its hours of operation, so we recommend that all businesses contact professional cleaning companies to work out the best service and frequency schedule for them.
Professional deep cleaning should be managed by specialist cleaning companies with professionals trained to tackle hard-to-reach or rarely seen areas where potentially harmful micro-organisms might be hiding. A deep clean should include a thorough disinfection of high frequency touchpoints, as well as moving all furniture or equipment away from the walls to make sure no areas are missed from the standard cleaning routine.
Businesses operating during the lockdown should update and review their cleaning regimes to ensure they meet best practice. They should also consider proactively preparing in case a deep clean is required, such as in the event they have a suspected or confirmed coronavirus diagnosis onsite. This would require a contingency survey of the premises, typically offered by experts to gather key information in advance including a site-specific risk assessment, to enable a quick response in the event of Coronavirus being reported on the site at a later date.
If there are no confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus on a site, an all-purpose specialist disinfection may be appropriate to help protect against microbial infection, and to help maintain a high level of hygiene in a facility.
With guidance constantly changing and new scientific evidence showing that airborne transmission must be seriously considered when people are indoors, a proactive and effective cleaning strategy should go hand-in-hand with air purification and ventilation as part of a holistic approach to safety and hygiene. Vigilant cleaning and disinfection regimes, along with technology such as VIRUSKILLERTM can help to create a safer environment and break the chain of airborne transmission. These should be used in conjunction with hygiene and social distancing protocols to encourage those in the facility to play their part to create a safer environment.
Jamie Woodhall is technical & innovations manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene.
For more information, visit www.rentokil-hygiene.co.uk