As the coronavirus (COVID-19) makes its way across the globe and into the United States, it’s important for building management professionals to understand the proactive steps they must take to prevent the spread of illness in their facilities.
In this article, you’ll find seven best practices to follow throughout the year to minimize health hazards and risks, and protect your building’s occupants against contaminants — even after COVID-19 isn’t an immediate concern. Follow these sanitation protocols to keep occupants healthier, happier and more productive.
How to Protect Your Organization from the Coronavirus
1. Seek resources and education from trusted organizations.
Misinformation can be dangerous in a health crisis, especially in the early stages of a pandemic. Remember to seek information only from credible organizations. For the most current information on the latest health and safety precautions, turn to the following organizations as a starting point.
2. Order an audit of high-touch areas in your building.
High-touch areas of your building can harbor millions of bacteria and should be regularly cleaned and disinfected to encourage a healthy workplace. Order an audit that notes any surfaces in your building that are most likely to harbor germs. Use the following list to jump start the investigation.
3. Clean and disinfect identified high-touch areas in your buildings.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifies that there is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning solutions are great for removing dirt and grime, while disinfecting solutions work to kill germs and bacteria. If you’re looking to properly sanitize contaminated surfaces in your building, you’ll need to use a combination of a cleaning product and sanitizing product, or find a cleaning solution that specifically performs both functions.
PRO TIP: Do not immediately wipe off the disinfectant from a soiled surface. Most disinfectants need to sit for five to ten minutes to eliminate illness-causing bacterias. Have cleaning personnel check the labels of their cleaning products to learn how long they should wait before wiping off the solution.
4. Encourage proper hand washing techniques.
Proper hand washing is one of the best defenses against the spread of illness, not only for employees but also for visitors and occupants. Instruct employees to wash their hands before starting work to prevent more pathogens from entering your building. Hang up posters that demonstrate proper hand washing techniques in restrooms, kitchens and other high-traffic areas. Lastly, provide hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol (according to the CDC).
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5. Follow proper sanitary methods when handling cleaning equipment.
Using fresh, clean sanitary supplies is crucial to preventing cross-contamination in your building and protecting occupant health. Instruct custodial teams to use microfiber cleaning cloths in a variety of colors. One color should be used for toilets and urinals, another color for sinks and soap dispensers, and so on. Mops should be laundered after each use, as should cleaning cloths. Even better, invest in a spray-and-vac system, which dispenses fresh cleaning solution for each application.
6. Implement a cleaning schedule that encourages frequent sanitation.
Organizations should rely on a strong cleaning program with written procedures when cleaning and sanitizing their buildings. A strong custodial cleaning plan should identify what surfaces need to be cleaned, who is responsible for each area, what products should be used, and how to clean the area to prevent cross-contamination.
PRO TIP: Choose disinfectants that are EPA-approved against pathogens such as cold viruses, influenza, norovirus and MRSA. In the case of COVID-19, the EPA’s Emerging Viral Pathogen policy is designed to help consumers make quick determinations of whether or not a product will prove effective against such pathogens.
7. Create an outbreak preparedness procedure.
Outbreak preparedness procedures are an essential part of a business continuity plan, especially when outbreaks could negatively impact your employees, occupants and operations. Your plan should specify any extra cleaning measures that should be taken during a crisis, as well as how to identify the signs and symptoms of an outbreak infection. Employees should understand the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and how to determine which sanitation products to use in a given situation.
The safety measures listed in this article are important to follow throughout the year. Not only will you help protect your organization from outbreaks like the coronavirus, you’ll also help prevent the spread of the flu and other pathogens. By following these action items, you’ll increase employee productivity and provide a sanitary workplace where employees can continue to perform their daily tasks as planned.
Tools to Prepare your Organization for Disaster
In an emergency, time is of the essence. A business continuity plan (BCP) is a process that outlines the potential impact of disaster situations (like the coronavirus outbreak), creates policies to respond to them and helps businesses recover quickly so they can function as usual.
Use this business continuity plan outline to get ahead of crisis situations and get key stakeholders involved in your organization’s preparedness procedures. Business continuity planning will enable your organization to better protect its people and assets — before, during and after an emergency.