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Keep cleaners in the loop on swine flu

29 July 2009

As more cases of swine flu arise, cleaners in offices have a role to play from disposing safely of contaminated tissues to cleaning the desks keyboards and phones of victims as the virus can be active for up to two days.

Peter Clutterbuck, Operations Director of waste management and cleaning company, Waste Efficiency Ltd has issued a plea to employers to keep the cleaners in the loop. As the virus gathers pace, cleaners everywhere are now faced with bins full of potentially germ-laden tissues. Their job demands close contact with these – and other rubbish – and they often deal with rubbish from thousands of people, particularly in large buildings like council offices etc.

But although tissues may seem to be a key focus for contamination, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) the virus only lives on them for about 30 minutes. However hard surfaces like desks and keyboards, and hard items in bins like drink-cans etc, could harbour the virus for up to two days.

Clutterbuck says: “NHS and HPA guidelines say if anyone is unwell with flu-like symptoms then they should self isolate at home to reduce the risk of the virus spreading to other people. However cleaners usually cannot possibly know who is ill in an office, school or factory. They do their job late in the evening after everyone has gone home, so do not know what’s happened in the preceding hours. Our request to employers is to try to keep the cleaners informed by putting a simple desk or work-area sign up if anyone has had to self-isolate. This can alert the cleaners to ensure that all nearby hard-surfaces are cleaned thoroughly as priority.”

Peter Clutterbuck, who directs cleaning, recycling and waste management accounts throughout the country said that he’s received a lot of requests for advice from his clients, “Professional and thorough cleaning regimes are very much a weapon in the fight against the spread of the disease, and by taking just a few seconds to keep the cleaner in the loop, we hope it can make a difference.

Full government health advice on Swine Flu is at : Clutterbuck has augments this with a general guideline for cleaners and employers which his available freely on the waste efficiency website: More Information

The advice to cleaners includes:

1. When wearing rubber gloves it is important to wash hands after they have removed them as one hand will touch the rubber glove and thereby potentially be in contact with the virus. Avoid touching face, mouth or nose whilst wearing gloves or before you have washed your hands. Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
2. Anyone (including cleaners) should self isolate if they are showing flu-like symptoms and seek further advice over the phone from their GP or NHS Direct.

Advice to employers and employees:

1. Should anyone need to self-isolate, consider putting a notice on their desk or workspace to alert the cleaner to ensure that all nearby hard-surfaces are cleaned thoroughly as priority.
2. All disposable tissues should be disposed of appropriately and promptly.
3. It is sensible for bins to be emptied daily as a minimum
4. If possible encourage a DAILY wipe-down of well-used hard surfaces, including door handles, telephones, keyboards, desks, machines, etc, using a cleaning product according to instructions.
5. Offer a supply of disposable tissues for customers and staff to use, and check you have enough bins – it is important that people dispose of tissues promptly –not spreading the virus around by putting them in your handbag or pockets.
6. Encourage people to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene –using disposable tissues to catch secretions caused by coughing and sneezing and to dispose of these promptly to stop the virus spreading.
7. Encourage people to wash their hands regularly, ensure soap is always available in washrooms as ordinary soap and water will suffice to destroy the virus.

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