Returning To Work And The New Not-So-Normal
Contributed By Heidi Wilcox
There are many articles in our industry — and in general — on how we are all supposed to get back to work and life during the pandemic. I have been thinking about this for myself, as well as for clients and colleagues. For businesses and for personal, however, it is a bit different.
For businesses I want to make things easy for people, dispel the myths and to try to help people with their anxiety and stress around returning to "normal." I am a microbiologist and engineer, so solving problems is where I live.
My first piece of advice is that returning to business doesn’t have to be complicated, overly costly or require you to do anything way out of your comfort zone. You also don’t need to jump on costly training, certifications and the like. Professionally, my advice to clients and anyone else is the following:
- The returning to work process starts with what you are or should be doing: training, planning, cleaning and disinfecting properly — with the correct standard operating procedures (SOPs) written down. If you aren’t doing that then do it.
- COVID-19 is easy to kill if it is on surfaces and in your facility. That is a microbiologically- proven fact. You don’t have to stand on your head or get hird-party accreditation - just do your job.
- Succeed by getting back to basics, investing in your people, company and facility, and doing things right.
- Use a good green cleaner. Good training, good equipment and the right disinfectant is all it takes.
- Again, make sure to write SOPs down. Now is the time to have a plan.
- Take a breath and ask an expert, your peers and vendors for guidance. Use your online resources like Cleanlink.com, publications like Contracting Profits, Sanitary Maintenance and Facility Cleaning Decisions, trade association resources, and online training mediums to arm yourself with knowledge.
If your facility doesn’t have COVID-19 cases, then you must focus on social distancing and wearing facemasks to stop people from being infected. If you have a facility that is closed or with a skeleton crew, keep it this way.
If you are cleaning, disinfecting and doing deep cleaning jobs, please don’t chemical bomb your facility. Pick up the cleaners that are more natural — with less dyes and fragrances — and safer for everyone. Just because a product is third-party certified doesn’t mean it’s the safest. Take time and do your research.
For sanitizers and disinfectants and their application, learn about spraying, misting, fogging and dry-fogging. They are all unique methods with different droplet sizes that make them applicable for different things. You may want to do more than one of these jobs.
The act of spraying involves a larger droplet size involves putting solution into the air and on items. It will wet surfaces and is for broad application. It’s not a very directed or controllable way to apply disinfectant.
Electrostatic spraying is more direct. It charges the droplet and directs it to surfaces that have a natural charge-less solution, goes into the air, and is a great way to apply product to surfaces. It is a fine layer of wetness that doesn’t generally pool up.
Misting is in the realm of spraying. Generally, it involves a smaller drop size, but the same type of action with no charging of the solution.
Fogging is generally for whole-room, air and high surface disinfection. It is a smaller droplet size, raising concerns with inhaling products when doing this in the past. This is no longer an issue, however, because many companies are making fogging carts allowing you to set it at a particular intensity and leave the room with no exposure to anyone.
We know that COVID-19 and other pathogens are small, can ride on droplets and aerosols in the air, make it to other rooms or just hang around for some time and land on people and surfaces. For this reason, disinfecting the air in facilities is more important than ever. Fogging is a small drop and dry fogging is even smaller. So in actuality we are able to disinfect, but we aren’t wetting high surfaces as they can potentially drip down and harm electronics and surfaces. The drop size for dry fogging is around five microns.
As for cleaners and disinfectants or sanitizer, you may want to look into onsite generation of aqueous ozone and hypochlorous acid. These two products are made on site with technology, so they don’t succumb to any supply chain disruptions like concentrated or ready-to-use chemicals. It’s something to look into now during the pandemic when supply chains are being disrupted.
In general, my advice is to not jump on new products and trainings until you research them. Some are good, such as training sessions that are a few hours long, give you more on a topic and are inexpensive. But others will promise things that don’t seem logical, and tell you they will certify and accredit you in something with no real merit in it.
From the products side, there are certainly chemicals and equipment that are worth looking into and can solve problems, but still others that aren’t worth the time or monetary investment.
Lastly, you will be fine if you train, have SOPs, good equipment and chemistry, and know how to clean and disinfect. There are many people in the industry who genuinely want to help and work with you. Just reach out.
HEIDI WILCOX is an applied microbiologist, presenter, educator and trainer in the cleaning industry. She is also the president and founder of Wilcox EVS, a consultancy specializing in “cleaning and disinfecting for health.” Working in the worlds of science, engineering and commercial cleaning, she examines challenges within facilities and provides solutions to streamline processes and protocols. Wilcox advocates for reduced use of synthetic chemicals, which will also decrease hazards and exposures to staff and building occupants. Heidi has been integral in working with facilities to set up proactive infection/mitigation protocols for infection control.
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