How can you protect your people?
By Kristiana Greenwood, Director, Strategic Relationships as published in Healthcare Facilities Magazine – Volume 43, Number 4, December 2020 addition
We are in the midst of a one in a 100-year event that has rocked the world and changed our future forever.
COVID-19 has shown just how essential cleaners are in ensuring public safety and nowhere more important than in hospitals. Cleaning professionals have been frontline workers during the pandemic, and they will be crucial in making a successful transition into the post COVID-19 context.
We are in the midst of a one in a 100-year event that has rocked the world and changed our future forever. It has had a massive hit on our economy, a huge impact on our wellbeing and sadly it has caused unnecessary loss of life. It has also taught us a very valuable lesson – we must plan and prepare for the unexpected and not be complacent.
The cleaning industry has had to pivot and change as fast as the medical industry because they are the ones protecting us from needing medical care. Standard cleaning is no longer an option – new processes, new products, new training, and new strategies have had to be developed and adopted within an extremely short amount of time and suddenly the cleaning industry is getting some attention.
To be fair, the medical industry has always understood the importance of good hygiene, but we have all had to step it up. Hospitals have had to partner with experienced cleaning professionals that can carry out these increased measures without disrupting patients, visitors or staff. That means carefully scheduling cleans, so they take place either side of high use periods, and having plans in place to ensure high touchpoints are disinfected as often as required. Simply increasing the frequency of cleaning and hygiene only adds to cleaning costs so a strategic and targeted approach will keep patients and staff safe with minimal disruption and expense.
Before COVID-19, visitors and patients had a passive role in ensuring that the hygiene of the hospital was maintained. Now, education is paramount in ensuring that everyone is adhering to personal hygiene standards. Facilities also need to ensure they have adequate stocks of hygiene supplies, such as hand sanitisers, gloves, masks and other PPE. Effective hospital cleaning and hygiene procedures will be undone in personal hygiene protocol isn’t followed.
The cleaning industry has had to get innovative! Products that meet EPA’s criteria to disinfect against the coronavirus were developed in weeks, new cleaning strategies had to be created right away, deep cleaning became standard and personal protective equipment was suddenly the norm. Although PPE has long been a practice to some areas of hospitals in order to adhere to work safety standards, now gloves, googles and masks are the bare minimum everywhere. Depending on the risk level of the place being cleaned, personnel are now expected to wear not just cleaning uniforms, but PPEs akin to hazmat suits.
Single use items in hospital cleaning have become a must – single use does not have to mean disposable. Cloths and mops and other cleaning materials can b changed after each use. Changing and washing after use will drastically reduce the risk of transferring infectious agents without having to throw materials away. To ensure user and patient safety, some PPE does need to be disposed of. Masks should be changed regularly, and gloves need to be changed after every task – even during tasks in high-risk areas.
A ‘single use’ will vary from task to task, but cleaners need to be careful not to transfer potential infectious agents from one surface or area to another. Mops and cloths should be changed when moving between rooms or zones and even surface types.
Scientists are still discovering an average of two to four new species of virus each year and as such, hospitals have come to expect higher quality and standards from commercial cleaners. This not only applies to the work itself, but also to the workers who perform the service. The industry has had to adapt and adapt fast to keep up with demand and to keep us safe.
The good news is that we have adapted and we are now prepared. Complacency is not a word any longer in our vocabulary and professional commercial cleaning companies are now being viewed with a different lens. It’s important to find a cleaning company that can adapt and pivot with the new challenges that are thrown at us and who can work in partnership with customers to truly understand their needs and deliver them – whether that means offering professional advice to the customer or listening to the advice of the customer.