How to Stop the Spread of Germs to Prevent Office Outbreaks
An illness outbreak can have a magnitude of negative effects on a business. It puts employees at risk, reduces productivity, and can damage the brand. With cold and flu season lasting a majority of the year, plus other viruses that surface, it's critical that businesses actively work to prevent outbreaks. Below is a prevention and action guide on how to stop the spread of germs in the workplace.
Create a Prevention Program
A thorough cleaning program dually serves as an active prevention program. Here are some tips for making sure your staff has a strong cleaning program.
- Create a Schedule
Develop a regimen that specifically outlines cleaning tasks and frequencies for the entire facility. Train employees regarding proper use of equipment, cleaning solutions, and safety precautions for each area. It's important to reinforce and inspect the execution of the program to confirm that the facility is cleaned correctly.
- Target Touch Points
Flu viruses including H1N1 can survive on hard surfaces for 24 to 48 hours. Alarmingly enough, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that stomach bugs including norovirus can survive on surfaces for much longer. Create a list of common touch point areas (CTPs) to be cleaned daily. These include door handles, desktops, drinking fountains, keyboards, coffee pot handles, and phones.
- Choose the Best Chemicals
To truly rid hard surfaces of germs, select an EPA-registered multipurpose cleaner. Choose a solution with a short dwell time to reduce the risk of human error. The solution should have the power to combat viruses and bacteria that often multiply in public facilities.
- Select Efficient Tools
Many organizations are now opting for no-touch cleaning systems to prevent cross-contamination and remove germs. For restrooms, use a no-touch cleaning system that removes soil, bacteria, and other contaminants with a high-pressure water spray and vacuum. Floors should be cleaned with an autovac that captures grime and bacteria, rather than the mop-and-bucket method that can actually spread contaminants around. For flat surfaces such as tabletops and windows, select a system that combines a microfiber window squeegee with chemical injection technology to quickly and thoroughly clean large areas.
- Make It a Team Effort
According to the CDC, proper handwashing is one of the most effective ways to limit the spread of infection. Place signage throughout the building to remind employees and patrons of the benefits of proper hand hygiene and how to stop the spread of germs. Also, provide disposable wipes to enable staff to clean their personal CTPs, including keyboards and phones. Encourage staff to receive all recommended vaccinations, as well.
An Outbreak Occurs: Now What?
If an outbreak does occur, it's important to act quickly and take extreme cleaning measures. First, notify and inform all building occupants of the disease and symptoms to watch for. Send all sick people home immediately. They should not return for 48 hours after all symptoms have cleared.
Similar to cruise ships, businesses should have an outbreak prevention and response plan in place. The plan should outline procedures, tasks, staff assignments, and a checklist to ensure the building is successfully cleaned. Arm the cleaning staff with personal protective equipment. This should include gloves, goggles, and masks. Immediately clean all hard surfaces, restrooms, floors, tabletops, and CTPs. Continue cleaning aggressively, focusing on CTPs, around the clock until the outbreak has cleared.
Outbreaks can and do happen. With a detailed daily cleaning plan and an outbreak response plan in place, business owners can protect both their staff and their organization.
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