Following the coronavirus lockdown, governments and local health authorities are reviewing and recommending new measures to allow businesses to be able to start opening their doors again.
This brochure explains how to prepare, plan and implement any changes you may need in order to adhere to social distancing measures and other advice from the government or health authorities.
Although the transmission of the virus is mainly through respiratory droplets generated by coughing, sneezing and through contact with contaminated surfaces, there have been no special cleaning measures recommended for ventilation and cooling systems.
However, where any systems have been idle or running at a reduced load it is best practice for these to be serviced and cleaned prior to reoccupation.
During this time there are many possible situations that have the potential to occur in buildings and water systems i.e. stagnation, poor turnover, poor temperature control. These situations may cause outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.
As a general principle, outlets on hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week to maintain a degree of water flow and to minimise the chances of stagnation.
It is essential that when buildings reopen following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, that any water system is not simply put straight back into use. There is an increased risk when individuals start using water systems that have been stagnant for a period of time, which may lead to exposure of Legionella and other waterborne pathogens. During the period of shutdown, it would be sensible to formulate a recommissioning plan for each water system to allow safe start-up and provide assurance to users that it is safe.
With the risks posed by COVID-19 you must review if you need to make any changes to the scope of cleaning programs/schedules or any additional services.
Common contact points will need additional surface cleaning above that what was previously ‘normal’. This includes areas such as door handles, lift buttons, telephones or IT equipment.
Communicate with your suppliers to ensure you can maintain a suitable stock level of janitorial and cleaning materials to remain operational. Due to potential supply chain challenges, there may be delays in deliveries or changes in stock.
Where cleaning supplies are required, ensure you have a suitable stock level, and these can be supplied to you regularly.
Hand sanitiser (with an alcohol content 70% or more) should be available at all touch-points and desk areas.
You must also ensure you have a cleaning procedure in place if a staff member, visitor or contractor shows symptoms of COVID-19 whilst on site. Such areas should be isolated until cleaning takes place.
Speak with your supplier and ensure you have a comprehensive plan for emergence decontamination and ongoing preventive measures in place.
Following the preparation of the building, the next steps a business should take is to prepare the workforce for returning to work. You need to create a plan to decide who will return to work and when.
There is no set way to do this, but the following should be considered in the decision process:
The needs of the business itself in regards to who needs to return first e.g. managers first, employees second etc.
Any employees that are considered vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, including individuals they may live with.
Which employee groups are able to continue working at home and which need to return to work.
The plan should be documented, clear to follow and communicated to all employees. Employees who must continue to stay at home due to either being vulnerable, highly vulnerable, living with those who are classed as vulnerable or need to stay at home due to other COVID-19 factors should be supported to do so.
Employees returning to the business will be returning to a new, unfamiliar world.
It is vital to ensure any new working practices, office layouts and expectations are discussed with all employees before they return to work.
Some may have concerns and need further reassurance that the new control measures are suitable and sufficient.
To reduce the risks to your employees, you should consider limiting visitors and contractors to your sites/premises. A suggestion is to only allow business-critical visitors and contractors access.
Social distancing is reducing day-to-day contact with other people as much as possible.
In the first instance, businesses and workplace should encourage and enable their employees to work at home wherever possible. This will not be the case for everyone and as an employer, you must ensure social distancing measures are followed in the workplace.
Within office environments you can include the following measures:
Maintaining high levels of hygiene at your businesses premises and by your staff will minimise the spread of COVID-19. You may need a deep clean of the premises prior to opening but most likely, and dependent on the nature of the business, regular deep cleans will need to be undertaken.
It is also important that staff keep high levels of personal hygiene to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
Ensuring all sneezes, coughs or blows of the nose are caught in tissues that are disposed of, and hands washed immediately afterwards. The UK NHS refer to this as “Catch it. Bin it. Kill it”.