The cleaning approaches that changed during the COVID-19 era aren’t going away. Extra sanitizing stations aren’t going back into mothballs after the pandemic subsides, and managers will need to be creative in their efforts to keep buildings cleaner than ever.

With the annual influenza season just around the corner, and a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on the way, employees and customers will return to facilities with great skepticism, their awareness raised by the dramatic changes of the past six months.

Hand hygiene failures

Helen Larios of The Joint Commission offers some common causes of hand-hygiene failures:

  • Ineffective placement of dispensers
  • Compliance data is not collected or reported accurately or frequently
  • Lack of accountability and just-in-time coaching
  • Safety culture does not stress hand hygiene at all levels
  • Ineffective or insufficient education
  • Hands full
  • Wearing gloves interferes with process
  • Perception that hand hygiene is not needed if wearing gloves
  • Healthcare workers forget
  • Distractions

“I think it would be a mistake for managers to take the foot off the pedal when it comes to the importance of hygiene and cleaning protocols in places of business,” says Sansoni. “Let’s face it, the coronavirus pandemic has been traumatic on so many levels for so many people in businesses. Obviously, the health impact is first and foremost, but certainly the economic impact, too, with social distancing, the masks, everything.”

The re-opening of school districts will also present new challenges for cleaning managers in that industry. As school districts and businesses of all sectors attempt the re-opening process, protocols for cleaning and hygiene will need to be laid out methodically — and a potential vaccine shouldn’t lessen the importance of both. Training is another area that managers can address to help improve the building’s hand-hygiene program. Ensuring that frontline staff understand how disease is spread can help them take protocols seriously.

“If they were working somewhere else and now are in charge of an operating room, what has really prepared them for their role of breaking the chain from one infected person to an uninfected person?” asks Hicks. “We need to teach the frontline workers the ‘how’ and the ‘why,’ and why it is so important. We need to help them make that connection that they’re not just cleaning toilets and sweeping floors, they’re saving lives.”

If managers haven’t already, they should start gathering data about what worked this time, and what doesn’t in a hand-hygiene program. That information will prepare them for the second wave of COVID-19 and/or the next pandemic.

“COVID-19 probably has a little brother somewhere ready to rear its ugly head in the coming months or years,” says Hicks. “It’s kind of the stuff movies are made about, but we need to be vigilant and start training and educating people today for whatever is coming our way. We can’t wait until the wolf is at the door. We have to start preparing now.”

Dave Lubach is a freelance writer and former associate editor at Facility Maintenance Decisions, a sister publication to Facility Cleaning Decisions.

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