Cleaning Guide for businesses
As part of a Covid Safe return to work plan, you might be thinking about your cleaning process. It’s possible your staff will need to take a more active role day to day, even if you engage professional contractors. Here is a 10 step guide to help you put together your routine cleaning plan.
You can also access some great advice for your staff at safework Australia.
1. Cleaning vs disinfecting
For effective hygiene, you firstly need to ‘clean’. This means physically removing dirt, grime, bacteria and viruses from surfaces. A detergent that can break up oil and grease is what’s used for this purpose and there are a wide variety of detergents in various strengths available.
You should start with the cleanest areas first and change your cloths/equipment regularly. You don’t want to spread germs around between areas, so take care to provide colour coded and/or labelled cloths for each area and ensure that staff understand the difference.
Disinfecting is about killing germs on a surface using a chemical. It’s best practice to clean first to give the disinfectant the best chance of working effectively; that’s why just madly spraying disinfectant isn’t an effective process, elbow grease is still required!
A disinfectant containing greater than equal to 70% alcohol, quaternary ammonium compounds or bleach will disinfect when instructions are followed, however check the product label first. Bleach can damage some surfaces so you may need to do some research and planning when stocking your cupboards.
Make sure you check the product label to instructions regarding PPE: gloves and good ventilation are recommended with most products, you may also need eye protection when mixing/diluting into spray bottles. You’ll need to provide that for your staff too.
2. Which areas should I focus on to prevent infection?
Shared touch points such as handles, remote controls and machinery buttons should be disinfected regularly, as should all bathroom areas. Safework Australia states that workplaces should be cleaned at least every day however manufacturers of some disinfectants say they can continue working for up to 5 days, so it’s not necessary to be lavishing chemicals on surfaces 3 x a day if you’re a small office with few visitors. Obviously in high traffic areas or those with lots of touch points, you will need a higher disinfecting frequency.
Anything visually dirty (such as spills around the coffee machine) need to be cleaned up and phones, keyboards, desks etc should be regularly cleaned as part of a good hygiene process. Encourage your team to also clean their own mobile phones and personal items.
Where you have shared equipment or vehicles, these should be cleaned between shifts and users.
COVID-19 is transmitted by breathing in droplets produced by an infected person coughing, sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces. Areas like ceilings and machinery that isn’t touched don’t need to be disinfected. However, a disinfectant mist or fog machine will cover this if you choose to.
3. What if one of our employees tests positive for COVID-19?
Your workplace will need a ‘Decontamination’ clean (AKA Infection Clean or you may hear it called a ‘Termination Clean’) before people can return to the workplace. This is a more thorough process than routine ‘Prevention’ cleaning. If you’re going to do this yourself, you can download instructions from the Safework Australia resource library. Or you can bring in a professional.
4. How long does the virus last?
Research suggests that the virus can survive up to 72 hour, so if there’s an area in your workplace where no one has been for days, you can consider whether this is a likely source of infection. If in doubt, we suggest you clean it.
5. What products do you recommend?
For cleaning, you can either us a premixed product in spray and wipe form, or a more cost effective concentrate that you dilute yourself with water. Detergents will break down grease and grime and some commercial products will be more heavy duty than what’s at the supermarket, so it depends what you need to clean.
Disinfectants should only be used once the surface is fully cleaned and you should clean more often than you disinfect as a general rule.
Check labels on your disinfectant to see whether it’s been proven effective on viruses. ‘Antibacterial’ products are not antiviral unless stated. Take note of ‘use by’ dates, as premixed bleach based products lose effectiveness over time and when exposed to sunlight.
Dilution rates are key to a disinfectant’s effectiveness (more is not necessarily better) so make sure you mix correctly.
We use and recommend Peerless Jal products as they are efficiently bulk packed and made in Australia.
6. What’s the difference between sanitiser and disinfectant?
A sanitiser will kill bacteria and viruses when left on surfaces but isn’t as strong as a disinfectant. This generally makes it less damaging to skin and health. Food Safe sanitisers are commonly used in commercial kitchens as they have no scent.
Disinfectants are stronger and recommended in bathrooms where they need to be harsh to deal with blood and bodily fluids. We don’t encourage over use of disinfectants in small offices and actively avoid them in food prep areas, use sanitiser instead.
7. What about those 2 in 1 products that clean and disinfect?
If you can find one that cleans as required then these can save you some time. Note that disinfectants need at least 10 minutes on a surface to work effectively, so a ‘spray and wipe’ approach may compromise this. If you’re going to use these products, ensure you have a process that lets product sit on the surface for required time.
Note that ‘antibacterial’ products aren’t necessarily effective on COVID-19 because it’s a virus.
8. What equipment do I need?
If you’re setting up cleaning supplies for your staff, you will need to provide gloves and other PPE that the manufacturers of the chemicals you’re using have recommended.
Unless it’s a decontamination clean or you know you have an infection in the area, you wont need full hazmat suits. There are guidelines for disposal of PPE and laundering on the safework Australia site if you are doing a decontamination clean.
To avoid cross contamination, you will also need separate cloths for each area, mops (at least one for bathrooms and a general purpose one) and a register to monitor equipment cleaning and sanitising.
9. Should I be using hospital grade disinfectant for normal cleaning in the workplace?
Not unless you are a healthcare organisation or in an industry such as beauty or veterinarian where this is mandated.
Household and commercial grade chemicals are acceptable for normal workplace cleaning.
10. Do I have to book a disinfectant mist service before my staff return to work?
No, it’s not a legal requirement. When done effectively, misting does enable super small droplets to settle into all nooks and crannies that might be missed or are hard to reach, so can provide some peace of mind and is faster than disinfecting by hand.
However, properly cleaning with detergent and water then carefully disinfecting all touch points (ensuring product is left on the surface for 10 minutes before wiping off) can be a suitable alternative.
If booking a disinfectant mist, always ask for details of the chemical being used to ensure you understand health risks. Not all misting/fogging machines are created equal, a key difference is the droplet size. This will affect how wet the area is left and therefore whether it’s suitable for use around your sensitive electronic equipment. If using a flammable product in a factory environment, be aware of flammability risks.
Ensure you allow adequate time is allowed before safely getting your staff back into the office. And remember, misting/fogging is not a substitute for cleaning.
What else can I do?
- Refer to the safework Australia guidelines
- Put up signage to remind your team about COVIDSafe principles.
- Provide hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser at entry and exit points if possible.
- Refer to Department of Health PDF for advice on mixing bleach
- Ask us to recommend quality Australian made chemicals that are suitable for your site