- Applying Chemicals Safely And Efficiently
Infection Prevention Dispensing Technologies
With the advent of COVID-19, more facilities are looking to BSCs for large-scale cleaning and disinfecting services. One delivery option is a fogging device typically used for cases that require extremely high levels of disinfection. The chemical — usually a high level of hydrogen peroxide — is released into the room where it penetrates every nook and cranny.
"The fog can get in anywhere air gets into, so it's able to reach areas that you can't always reach with wiping," says Hicks.
The downside to fogging is that ventilation systems must be closed off and the room must remain unoccupied during the process, as well as one hour afterward.
Additionally, a number of companies offer chlorine dioxide–based products that are released as a gas and, like fogging, penetrate every area of the room. According to Griffin, these types of dispensing methods are fairly new to the cleaning industry.
"We use them a lot in the restoration industry or for trauma or biohazard cleanup," says Griffin. "Making sure that the space is unoccupied, you leave it in the room for a number of hours. The gas is effective on most microorganisms and odors."
Experts agree that fogging and gassing are effective, but best used for specialized cleaning and disinfecting tasks. For routine sanitizing and disinfecting of large areas or entire facilities, consultants recommend the use of portable or handheld units. As a rule, these devices are equipped with adjustable nozzles that allow the user to vary particle size, projecting a mist or spray, depending on the application.
On the plus side, misting or spraying chemicals reduces the amount of product used. Furthermore, custodians are able to cover extensive areas and hard-to-reach surfaces quickly and easily.
Currently, electrostatic sprayers are one of the most sought after dispensing methods for sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces — and one of the most difficult to find due to high demand as a result of the pandemic. As the chemical exits the applicator, it is given an electrical charge and attracted toward the targeted surface, creating a 360-degree wraparound effect.
The beauty of this technology is that the custodian does not have to aim the applicator at every single surface.
"You don't have to get the bottom of the chair or around the handrail," says Griffin. "You just point in that direction and it magnetically wraps itself around those surfaces."
But electrostatic technology isn't suitable for all disinfectant applications, says Wilcox. Despite commonly being used this way, she says chlorine bleach and quats shouldn't be sprayed due to their toxicity. In fact, she warns BSCs against improperly applying any type of concentrated chemical, which can lead to headaches and dizziness, as well as skin, eye and respiratory problems.
To improve safety, respiratory protection may be necessary when using electrostatic technology, depending on the particle size and type of chemical. Dwell time adherence may also be a concern with this delivery method.
"If you're applying a disinfectant, there may be some concern about leaving the surface wet enough so that there is sufficient contact time," says Hicks. "You may have to spend more time applying the product or use a larger particle size."
Wilcox advocates using electrostatic technology as the delivery system for hypochlorous acid, which she calls a game changer. She says hypochlorous acid's composition makes it the safest option for workers, facilities and the public at large.
"It's a food-contact, no-rinse sanitizer, and it kills some of the worst hospital acquired infection-producing pathogens — like C. diff and its spores — in less than four minutes, depending on the concentration," says Wilcox.
Regardless of the product or dispensing method, training is imperative — not only for proper chemical application and dwell time adherence, but for the health and safety of staff.
"It's important that people are educated and have the proper training to use these products — and always read and follow the manufacturer's specifications," says Griffin. "Even if you used the same product a month ago, formulations change."
While Griffin encourages BSCs to protect their employees, he acknowledges that keeping employees safe involves more than handing out personal protective equipment (PPE).
"In the cleaning industry we have it backwards," he says. "When we think about a worker's safety we give them PPE. But when you study science and the law relative to safety, PPE is the last thing you should do."
Instead, building service contractors should remove potential hazards administratively or ensure that employees are not exposed to them. If this can't be done, an engineering solution, such as a barrier, door or ventilation to reduce exposure, is suggested. After all of this, PPE should be used.
"We give employees PPE and believe that we've done our job," says Griffin. "But we need to take these other approaches and train people to see with their minds the hazards of the work they do."
Needless to say, PPE has its place. Without proper protection, caustic chemicals can exacerbate or cause primary asthma if breathed in, according to Wilcox. Additionally, handling chemicals without the use of gloves could lead to skin burns or skin irritations.
Kassandra Kania is a freelancer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits.
Applying Chemicals Safely And Efficiently