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Reducing the risk of infection in facilities

30 March 2020

With increasingly more demanding measures emerging to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus and limit the movement of people in all areas of the UK, PFM has sourced expert advice on infection control.

Holchem technical director John Holah advises that, as yet, there is no evidence that Covid-19 is transmitted by food and says cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and processing environments should continue as normal.

He further states that it may survive on surfaces for up to nine days, however.

“If members of staff are subsequently diagnosed with Covid-19 (and should self-isolate) it is recommended to decontaminate surfaces they could have come into contact with and the following is advised: Firstly, wear appropriate PPE and secondly, if a surface is dirty, 10,000ppm available chlorine should be used to wipe it down,” he continues.

“If the surface is clean, 1,000ppm of available chlorine should be used. Then decontaminate or dispose of PPE as appropriate and wash hands thoroughly.”

Surfaces that are frequently contacted by a number of staff (door handles, rails, soap dispensers) should be cleaned and disinfected at a frequency greater than normal, says Mr Holah.

“Suggested products to use in order of priority are alcohol wipes and sprays > 60% alcohol, disinfectant wipes, sprays and other disinfectant products approved to EN1276 and EN13697.

“In addition to staff entry and exits to food manufacturing areas, food operatives may wish to wash their hands more frequently, particularly if they are touching multiple personal contact surfaces.

"Suggested products to use in order of priority are: soap and water, alcohol gels containing >60% alcohol, alcohol wipes containing >60% alcohol, disinfectant gels with appropriate bacterial approvals, disinfectant wipes with appropriate bacterial approvals,” Mr Holah concludes.

One of the most effective ways to promote good health and discourage the spread of infection is with clean air and water, says Swiftclean managing director Gary Nicholls.

Cleaning ductwork has a beneficial effect on indoor air quality, reducing the amount of microscopic airborne pollutants and depriving bacteria of places in which to multiply.

“In response to the current pandemic, the BESA has issued a COVID-19 and air conditioning systems advice note on prevention, stating: ‘any airborne contaminants can be minimised, if not eliminated, by proper and effective filtration and regular cleaning and maintenance of ventilation systems. A clean ventilation system is an essential part of a healthy building and it is essential that any system serving a building where confirmed cases have been diagnosed are sanitised in accordance with best practice, and that any buildings where no cases have been confirmed have their system cleaned to industry best practice as a preventative measure during this time and on-going.’

“We therefore recommend that it is a sensible precaution to carry out a ventilation system deep clean, using a medical surface disinfectant which kills the Covid-19 coronavirus and almost all other known viruses and bacteria, as there is little extra cost if done during a ventilation clean.

"This can be done at the same time as a regular TR19 compliance clean, or as a separate service as part of Covid-19 precautions,” says Mr Nicholls.

InnuScience marketing director Paul Twiss offers thoughts on cleaning regimes for both the current situation and “when coronavirus is but a dim memory”.

The first point to consider is that products are not specifically virucidal, but the pathogens can be removed from a surface using soap and water.

“Soap works by dissolving the fat (lipid bilayer) membrane that surrounds viruses, which then renders the virus inactive. Our products have this amphiphilic ability, which is why effective cleaning with a detergent will have a positive impact.

"This is also why soap and water on hand washing is sufficient treatment to help prevent transmission. So ”killing the virus” shouldn’t be the only goal, he continues, as this is a short-term reaction, and we should instead focus on limiting the spread of the contamination by cleaning surfaces thoroughly, which means effective and regular cleaning and not just a superficial wipe, while practicing good hand hygiene.

“There are valid reasons for cleaning more often and limiting the disinfection to high contact points only.

"The reason for this is that as soon as a living organism appears in a sterilised environment, someone touching the surface contaminates it and the original disinfection is meaningless.

“Simply put, you’d need to disinfect after every person, visitor, traveller, guest, etc, which is neither practical nor does it create sustainable conditions for life on the planet,” says Mr Twiss.

Awareness of the link between hand hygiene and health has rocketed recently, says GoJo Industries-Europe European marketing and product development vice president Chris Wakefield.

“The spread of Covid-19, and other highly contagious viruses, can be prevented via good hygiene practice,” he says.

“Hand hygiene can break the chain of infection, help prevent the spread of germs and create healthier spaces. However, for this to be effective a combination approach is required, including access to easy-to-use dispensers, effective formulations and awareness-raising signage.”

As well as washrooms, FMs should consider high traffic areas such as reception, waiting rooms, outside lifts and eating areas, where the risk of contamination is greatest, Mr Wakefield continues.

Studies suggest that coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours or several days.

“As well as placing hand sanitiser dispensers in these areas, businesses should pay particular attention to sanitising surfaces to help stop the spread of infections.

"There are highly effective sprays and wipes available, specifically designed to meet surface sanitising needs. “When used in combination with hand hygiene, the ease of use, speed and efficacy of surface sanitising products can play a significant part in infection control,” says Mr Wakefield.

Sitemark managing director Mark Boxall says FMs are in a unique position in reacting to the coronavirus outbreak.

Their processes and decisions are under the microscope as businesses look to mimimise the impact.

“This responsibility could feel overwhelming, so it’s imperative that FMs identify and implement robust control measures.

"Using an assessment tool will have the dual benefits of being able to methodically track control measures, while also giving peace of mind that everything is being tracked and recorded,” he continues.

A thorough workplace risk assessment tool will consider a range of control measures, including site control, cleaning provision, signage and education, building user behaviours and business continuity.

Within these areas, there are numerous assessment points to consider. For example, FMs can look to shut down access points to make control measures easier to implement and increase compliance. When reviewing cleaning provision, simply removing rugs and mats can make cleaning and disinfection of floors much easier.

Each measure may seem small by itself, but once a large number have been implemented it can make a huge impact.

Of course, each business and site is different so any assessment tool should be flexible, used in conjunction with existing risk assessment policies and reviewed weekly to react to any new government guidance.

“The hope is that with frequent assessment, FMs will be able to enact strong control measures and keep their workplaces safe and employees healthy,” says Mr Boxall.

Additional features published by PFM to assist with the impact of the Covid-19 virus include The art of managing facilities remotely and FM sector centre stage in reopening of facilities.


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