Never in living memory has the cleaner been so highly valued and appreciated. We are now no longer the “silent service”, only working out of sight say Phil Jones (Prochem Trainer) and Adam Jankowski, Tech IOSH (Consultant Trainer & Director of The Restoration Academy UK Limited).
Everybody acknowledges the challenges that the Coronavirus pandemic has brought to the door of every home and workspace the world over and how tirelessly we have worked to keep it from entering.
But the fact is that a strategic return to a ‘normal’ (whether we define it as ‘new’ or ‘old’) is fast approaching. But firstly, we have to make premises clean and secure and to restore much-needed confidence in the building user that going back through that door is safe.
That’s why businesses, schools, healthcare environments and more are turning to the cleaning industry for guidance as to how to take those first steps back to work.
Our industry is about to be one of the most appreciated and highly visible in the country when perhaps in the past, it used to be “invisible” or the the silent service.
This is not going to be a straight-forward transition.
From biohazard remediation (or as it’s mistakenly but more commonly known – infection control) to a deep clean, planning and negotiating with the customer prior to the job commencing is going to be required.
Pre-cleaning of offices, floors, carpets and toilets are top of the building manager’s agenda right now.
As they make their own risk assessments as to the levels of cleaning required, they will look to cleaning contractors for advice.
However, the building manager should also be responsible for checking the credentials and certification of the cleaning company to ensure they are trained and capable of managing the clean, be it infection control or deep clean. They will also be checking into the credentials of the contractor before asking them to quote. Everybody will be under scrutiny.
Likewise, the domestic/residential property sector will see an increase in demand for deep cleans as families are gradually allowed to re-group again under one roof.
Prochem is an established provider of specialist cleaning solutions and technologies. Unsurprisingly, we have been inundated with questions on infection control cleaning, fogging and sanitising from building owners and managers as well as from our customer base of cleaning operatives.
So, what’s happened? Initial demand for fogging systems has slowly subsided as, with no conclusive proof of infection or contamination, a site’s carpets and hard floors may only require a deep (extraction) clean (subject to a risk assessment) using Prochem products such as D500 Microsan® and B125 Clensan® and the market has started to move forward with growing demand for these solutions.
D500 Microsan® is a multi-surface biocidal cleaner for use on washable surfaces, carpets, fabrics and floors and has been approved to EN14476 standard as being effective against many bacteria and viruses including the Coronavirus Coronaviridae family (including MERS-CoV). Now WoolSafe approved.
B125 Clensan® is a multi-surface biocidal sanitiser that may be used on carpets, fabrics and hard surfaces and has also been approved to EN14476 standards. It is effective against a wide range of bacteria and enveloped viruses, including Norovirus. Now WoolSafe approved.
So how can we decide if we should go back to work and under what conditions?
Firstly, we should operate within the most up-to-date government guidelines ensuring that we can maintain social distancing until the current crisis Coronavirus SARS-CoV2 pandemic is deemed to be over. If we cannot maintain social distancing in our work, then we need to “Stay at Home” unless you are a key worker and safe working practices are put in place by the employer.
Secondly, as would our customers, we should carry out a risk assessment.
To remind you, a Risk Assessment is a legal duty under Section 3 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. No business is exempt from this regulation regardless of whether you are a self-employed sole trader, sub-contractor or a business with employees regardless of the number of employees.
There are exemptions for how the risk assessment may be carried out depending on the number of persons employed by a business, but you would be ill-advised not to have a written risk assessment when carrying out high risk decontamination work like bodily fluid clean-ups (e.g. blood borne pathogens or trauma or crime scene), mould, water damage and other biohazard jobs.
The five stages of a risk assessment are as follows:
- Identify the hazards. Currently, one of them is obviously COVID-19 and the possible spread if not addressed correctly, but this could also include power cables, mould/mildew, heavy objects/furniture, chemicals to name by a few.
- Identify who may be harmed and how. Identify anyone who could come into contact with the work area, be it a contractor, members of the company in a commercial property or of a family in a household environment.
- Identify the level of risk. For example, is the level of risk high, medium or low?
- Record your findings. Put in place the control measures necessary to reduce the level of risk to “as low as is reasonably practicable” and record what you have done (in writing)
- Review the risk assessment as often as is necessary.
Also, a risk assessment is not just a form filling exercise as if it were a necessary evil and because somebody told you that you need to do one. This is a task which must be carried out by law to ensure that accidents at work do not happen or that the persons doing the work or any persons affected by the work do not suffer any short term or long term exposure and harm.
If you are undertaking work specifically to deal with biohazards, you will require appropriate levels of training including health and safety training, the correct use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) including how to select the correct respirator for a task, the process of being fit-tested for a respirator and donning and doffing of your PPE to avoid cross-contamination and infecting yourself and others. You should also learn how PPE is the last line of defence in the hierarchy of controls and what you must be doing in addition to PPE to reduce the risk of exposure.
If you do not already carry out risk assessments and you do not understand the hierarchy of controls and you have not had some of the basic training described above, you should do the training and avoid performing any form of biohazard work altogether until you have done so.
Examples of risk assessments can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website: www.hse.gov.uk
If you are already competent, then your risk assessment will tell you whether you should be undertaking the work being offered (assuming that you have passed the client’s criteria for selecting you).
Once you have decided that the work falls within your competencies, consider the following to decide if the risks are sufficiently low:
Ask if the customer or anyone in the property has shown any visible symptoms over the past few weeks.
- Even if a property is empty, ask if any user is returning to check such postal and courier deliveries, in which case, adjust your risk assessment.
- Ask users to vacate the property while cleaning is taking place. If declined, decide whether the job is safe to do through your own risk assessment.
- Consider where you actually place your extraction machine in the building. They are designed to create a vacuum at one end which also creates an exhaust port at the other, so potentially contaminated air is being blown out of the machine and re-contaminating the environment. If possible, place outside with the exhaust pointing towards a previously identified neutral area.
Normally, pre-vacuuming is a vital part of the carpet cleaning job, but consider firstly whether disturbing soil and dust may potentially result in its being inhaled by a cleaning operative.
Consider HEPA standard filtration for your vacuum cleaner – HEPA is a filtration standard which achieves 99.97% filtration of particles to 0.3 microns.
If you are planning on deep cleaning, then pre-treat the carpet, fabric or floor with a suitable diluted biocidal cleaner or biocidal sanitiser, such as Prochem’s D500 Microsan® or B125 Clensan® from a sprayer and then, after allowing for the suitable dwell time for the product to break down the bacteria or virus, wipe, mop or extract away.
After the suitable dwell time, carry out deep cleaning with a suitable prespray and detergent rinse. Once that is completed, re-apply the sanitiser, leave to dwell and wipe, mop or extract if required.
It is important to always read the instructions on the solutions labels – and no more so than in these situations.
The idea of this layered, structured clean is to firstly protect the technician with a preliminary sanitation, then to carry out the clean and then finally re-sanitise ready for the “hand-over” to the customer.
If you think about it, it is the same procedure as hand washing – break down the lipid, greasy coating of the virus, wash away and then hand sanitise with a gel.
Remember not to hide what you do.
Be visibly seen by the client to sanitise your equipment following cleaning their property before departing. This will give them the confidence that you carry out this safety procedure after every job and it was done before you entered their house or office.
- Be seen to disinfect your wheels and any touch points on your machine and wipe them dry.
- After cleaning your wheels, consider covering them with cling-film as you enter or exit the property.
- Wipe down your power cables and hoses as they would have been touching part of the indoor property.
- Disinfect your hose and wand by sucking a diluted (warm water) solution of a biocidal cleaner or sanitiser (D500 Microsan or B125 Clensan) through the wand, hose and into the waste tank of the extraction machine.
Finally, to cover yourself – It might be advisable to check with your insurance company to ensure that you are correctly insured to carry out cleaning during this period. You may require extra cover if you are planning on getting into biohazard remediation cleaning.
Be seen to do everything for your customer – because more than ever, you are needed and valued.