We are currently in the midst of unprecedented times. California is in various stages of lifting stay-at-home orders with restrictions and most businesses are left wondering, what are tangible actions we can take to implement a safety plan? Here is a 3-step guide to help you get back in business safely and productively.
Step 1: Get the Facts
Covid-19 is a novel coronavirus which means it is not the same coronavirus that commonly circulates amongst humans (like the common cold). Data is ever evolving at this point and with all of the misinformation floating around on social media platforms, we think it’s best to stick with the CDC’s website. You can find the CDC’s tool for business reopening here and we’ve summed up a lot of their recommendations below.
Before we go into implementing a cleaning protocol it is important to know what these terms are, and which chemicals are effective against Covid-19.
Cleaning removes dirt and some germs from surfaces and is a necessary step before sanitizing/disinfecting. Cleaning does not kill viruses.
Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on a surface to safe levels, as per public health guidelines.
Disinfecting kills viruses and bacteria 100% with the use of chemicals.
When purchasing chemicals for your business, make sure they are on the EPA’s List N. ‘List N’ is a comprehensive list of all products that meet the EPA’s criteria for us against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
And once you get those chemicals it’s important to read the fine print. Most disinfectants require a 3-10 minute “dwell” time, meaning a surface must stay visibly wet for that amount of time to kill any lingering viruses. You know those Clorox Wipes that we all know and love? For those to properly kill viruses on a surface, enough wipes need to be used to keep that surface visibly wet for 4 minutes! Again, always read the fine print.
Step 2: Implementation
First, take an assessment of your business and find the vulnerable spots. In addition to the well-known social distancing guidelines, you can start by identifying high-touch areas and what items exchange hands frequently between team members. Some examples would be copy machines, cash registers, clock in devices, restrooms, and communal kitchens. Also, determine if there are any places in the establishment where it will be difficult to realistically maintain a 6’ distance at all times.
Now that you have a clear picture of where the potential safety risks are, decide what level of personal protection equipment is appropriate for your work setting. PPE would include gloves, masks, shield barriers, or a combination of those items. Some companies have put together “back to work” kits for employees that include hand sanitizer, any relevant PPE, and a flyer stating company infection control protocols moving forward.
One of the most important steps to re-opening and maintaining safety in the workplace as it pertains to slowing the spread of Covid-19 is implementing an increased cleaning and disinfection schedule. Determine if your staff has the time to perform this themselves or if you will need to outsource additional services. At a minimum throughout the day, all high-touch surfaces should be disinfected between use. It is helpful to either assign this task to a specific person on shift or have a singular person oversee that all employees are doing their part to disinfect communal items.
ULV and Electrostatic Foggers are effective tools to quickly and efficiently disinfect entire buildings before or after work hours as well. ULV foggers aerosolize disinfectant chemicals to such a small micron level that they are capable of disinfecting not only surfaces, but also the air. For workplaces that are not able to disinfect throughout the day, this method is ideal so that each day is started with a clean slate. Additional respiratory PPE is required for these, so it is best to have only trained professionals complete this service.
Step 3: Communication
Effectively communicating your new safety protocol to both employees and customers is key. Internally, an email or pamphlet should be provided prior to returning that outlines what additional disinfection steps are being taken, new procedures to expect, what PPE is required of them, and what the course of action will look like if someone becomes infected in the workplace with Covid-19.
For patrons- social media platforms, eblasts, and in-store signage are an effective means of communicating the steps you are taking so they feel safer in your space.
Much like Covid-19 itself, workplace health and safety is ever evolving during these times. With a cohesive plan from the start, businesses can re-open with confidence and have the ability to adapt as CDC and State guideline changes arise.
*Please note that all information in this article may not be applicable or comprehensive to every workplace. Due to the fluidity of the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is our recommendation to further consult with the CDC’s website for the most up-to-date health and safety recommendations.
by Jessy Dokken, CEO of Micron Disinfection