3 phases for enhancing workplace hygiene in preparation for employees' return

Industroclean MD Emma Corder offers tips that will reduce the chance of infection in the workplace.

Many employers set to reopen for business next week, with level 3 restrictions permitting trading under strict hygiene conditions, while others are preparing and strategising on reopening slowly. Employers must adhere to strict Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations in the workplace. 

Emma Corder, Managing Director of industrial cleaning equipment manufacturer Industroclean says daily cleaning methods and regimes are going to be a priority and implementing cleaning initiatives can reduce the chance of infection in the workplace.

“The OHSA requires employers to review and update risk assessments on a regular basis but Covid-19 poses new hazards and the basic measures to eliminate and minimise the risks specific to the transmission of the disease is highlighted in the recently issued Directive,” she says, adding that all employers are required to undertake a risk assessment in order to give effect to the minimum measures required by this Directive.

Phase 1: Prepping for returning to the office

Emma says the first obligation is to make sure that deep-cleaning of all workplaces must be done before staff can return to work. Although there is still uncertainty over how long the virus can survive outside of a host, for organisations, the cleaning of work chairs, carpets and blinds, floors and meeting rooms as well as shared equipment such as photocopy machines should be focus areas.

Employees’ workstations will need to be re-arranged to ensure minimal contact between staff. As far as possible, there should be a minimum of one and a half metres between workers’ work areas. 

Companies should also get equipment to scan the temperatures of employees, visitors, and contract workers to keep a logbook of visitors’ temperatures.

Regarding equipment, the Department of Health also requires that every employer provides each of its employees with a minimum of two cloth masks, free of charge which staff are required to wear at work at all times as well as during their commute to and from work. 

Phase 2: Ensure surfaces stay clean        

Throughout the day and before changing of shifts, all work surfaces and shared equipment must first be cleaned by washing surfaces with soap and water and then disinfected with sanitisers and disinfectants, including door handles, screening areas, elevator buttons and escalator handrails as well as water cooler buttons and other surfaces in heavily-trafficked areas.

Also, in addition to hand sanitising stations especially at reception and near high contact surfaces. Soap dispensers and the actual hand sanitising units should also be cleaned daily.

“Staff should regularly clean their laptops and cell phones as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Employees must ensure that their desks are regularly cleaned and avoid eating at their desks and leaving food packaging at their workstations,” says Emma.  

Phase 3: Pay special attention to the kitchen and restrooms

Emma says to provide foot-pedal refuse bins, soap and alcohol-based hand sanitisers, paper towels, disinfectants and the display of handwashing instruction signs in restrooms and staff kitchens.

“Employers must also discourage frequent use of the staff kitchen and other common areas to avoid the concentration of staff in one area by suggesting staggered break-times. Encourage staff to bring prepared lunches to cut down on using the staff kitchen which should be limited to one person at a time,” she says adding that companies will need to disinfect all cleaning equipment after use or introduce a colour coding system for all cleaning products to prevent cross-contamination between surfaces and different areas. 

“Regular maintenance and cleaning of these areas are crucial if organisations hope to keep the work environment free of infections. But the answer lies not only in these large-scale actions that need to be performed regularly. Embedding a hygiene and cleanliness culture within organisations is just as important if the workplace is to remain germ-free.” 

Lastly, provide staff with information that raises awareness of the dangers of the virus, the manner of its transmission, measures to prevent transmission such as personal hygiene, social distancing, the use of masks, cough etiquette and where to go for screening or testing if presenting with the symptoms. These notices could be placed in kitchens and restrooms.