COVID-19: Managing Your Operations - A Discussion About Cleaning and Disinfecting [Videocast]
[HOST] Welcome to today’s videocast which is part of a series on Managing Your Operations in a COVID-19 World. I am your host, Jesse Matthews. During each videocast in this series, we focus on specific topics that have been on many of our minds as businesses resume operations. Today we will be focusing on the cleaning and disinfecting practices for facilities and jobsites that are reopening and resuming operations. Joining me today are two panelists; Bill Shoemaker and Beth Regan, both from the Travelers Risk Control organization. Thank you both for joining me today.
[HOST] Before we jump into our list of questions, Bill would you start by explaining the issue that is at the center when it comes to preparing facilities and jobsites for reopening and resuming operations related to COVID-19?
[Bill] The central issue is BREAKING THE CHAIN OF TRANSMISSION of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Businesses play a key role by establishing policies and procedures, based on the CDC guidelines, for cleaning and disinfecting occupied spaces, surfaces, tools, and equipment - planning is important because businesses may need to establish new contracts with third parties to ensure that they have the necessary supplies and personnel to implement and maintain a plan for cleaning and disinfection.
[HOST] Thank you Bill. I’m sure that many listeners are curious about what that these procedures and processes will actually look like as an ongoing effort for their businesses. I’ve heard many different terms that all seem like a fancy way to say “cleaning” words like “disinfecting”, “sanitizing”, and “deep cleaning.” Beth, can you help explain the differences?.
[Beth] Sure Jesse, each of these terms mean something just a little different. However, it important to understand that when performed in conjunction with one other, the complete process will lower the risk of spreading infection. To begin, when we think about cleaning and disinfecting occupied spaces, surfaces, tools and equipment, Cleaning, is recommended by the CDC as a first step and it involves using soap and water to PHYSICALLY remove dirt from surfaces. Cleaning with soap and water can help lower the risk of spreading virus. It also primes surfaces and objects for the next recommended step - disinfection.
[HOST] OK so that’s cleaning…what about disinfecting?
[Beth] Disinfecting refers to using a special product—a disinfectant—which targets germs when it comes in contact with the surface of, for example, tool or equipment. So, while cleaning with soap will physically remove dirt, etc. Disinfectants, which are typically sprayed or wiped on the surface, target germs on contact. The CDC recommends disinfecting shared “high-touch” areas on a scheduled basis using an N-listed EPA disinfectant. To be effective, these disinfectants can be powerful and can, among other things, irritate skin. They should be used in accordance with manufacturer instruction.
[HOST] So what are these “high-touch” areas?
[Beth] Think of things like light switches, door handles, elevator buttons, shared workspaces, shared tools, and shared equipment. Another term is Sanitizing - This refers to lowering the number of infectious agents to a safe level and it can involve cleaning and disinfecting procedures.
[Bill] Let me add to what Beth said. There is no universal protocol or definition for “deep cleaning.” Deep cleaning is not a scientific concept and can mean something different to individual businesses or consumers. The concept of "deep clean" in the context of coronavirus IMPLIES cleaning highly trafficked public or commercial spaces to eradicate the coronavirus.
[Beth] While the nuances of cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing might seem complicated, the real goal is for each business to develop a plan of action for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces to minimize the spread of the virus. Following the current CDC recommendations and using the EPA list of approved disinfectants will boost your efforts at lowering the risk of infection within your facilities.
[HOST] That brings up an interesting point. I have seen advertisements for labs that can analyze air and surface wipe samples for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Is this something that employers should incorporate into their re-entry plan?
[Bill] Well Jesse. That’s a tricky subject because you have to think about what these tests actually tell you (for example: that virus material was or wasn’t detected in the sample that you took) and what they DON’T tell you (for example: whether that virus material will transmit the infection or if the surface was re-contaminated after the sample was taken)
[HOST] So, at least for now, the test results may not be helpful and this is something to consider carefully?
[Bill] That’s right. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) offers discussion on sample testing to verify the efficacy of cleaning and disinfecting procedures, however, they have not endorsed a method. In short, the use of air and surface sampling is currently not recommended by AIHA, CDC or OSHA.
Beth, anything to add?
[Beth] Let me jump in and try to clarify this a little further. The CDC endorses the proper use and application of EPA-approved disinfectants; however, you have to realize, testing surfaces is only a spot check at a single point in time, meaning it measures the status of a surface at the time of sampling. Once you receive the sample results, it is very likely that the surface has changed, it may have more bacterial, viral or dust contamination, and it may have changed due to subsequent cleaning procedures. And also keep in mind that a negative result from a spot check, may not guarantee that the ENTIRE surface was virus-free.
[HOST] Let’s move on to talk about an approach for getting it done. Beth, so it is important to keep in mind that we are discussing some over-arching guidelines and some practical steps for listeners to consider when planning for cleaning and disinfecting their businesses. Our listeners need to determine what approach they are going to take, and which best fits their specific circumstances and is the most effective for them?
[Beth] That’s right Jesse, these are some guidelines and tips for consideration; and we recommend that our listeners carefully review the CDC guidelines, and other public health resources, including state and local health department guidance, before they decide what is the best approach for them. So, when planning your cleaning and disinfecting practices, the CDC has provided the following guidance: First, develop a plan that answers: What needs to be cleaned? How areas will be disinfected? And what resources and equipment will you need to do so? Then, implement your plan to clean and disinfect. And Finally, maintain and revise your plan as needed.
[Bill] And consider the frequency that you clean and disinfect those high-touch surfaces THAT BETH TALKED ABOUT…..things like door pushes, handles, touchpads, elevator buttons, faucets, sinks and electronic devices
[HOST] Anywhere else?
[Bill] You may also want to focus on common areas, such as entryways, lobbies, hallways and restrooms. Really think about the surfaces and objects in YOUR facility that your employees, customers, and vendors use frequently, and map out and identify those high use objects/areas.
[HOST] Can you explain what you mean when you say map out?
[Bill] Certainly. Take a floorplan of your facility and mark the areas where people congregate or where they interact most with the furniture and equipment, then increase the cleaning proportionally to the activity.
[JESSE] Do you have any examples?
[Bill] Sure. How about vending machines, you could provide disinfecting wipes to wipe down after each use or increase the frequency of cleaning/disinfecting. Or, on construction sites, job trailers or other busy spaces that need cleaning and disinfecting more frequently.
Also, consider removing unnecessary furniture and equipment from spaces, so they do not need to be cleaned / disinfected.
[Beth] Also, don’t forget to actually read the label instructions on disinfectants, as well as the manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheets. Remember that OSHA standards for Health and Safety, including hazard communication and use of PPE, apply to personnel who are performing cleaning and disinfecting activities. It would be helpful to determine in advance what types of PPE, such as disposable or reusable gloves, are recommended when using the selected disinfectants. This will help to ensure that you have enough supplies of the PPE and allow for training your staff on the proper use.
[Bill] Oh, and remember that each product has a specific contact time required for the disinfectant to be effective at killing viruses. For instance (EPA says a fresh solution of 1 part bleach in 9 parts water for 10 minutes). The Product instructions on the label are clear on the need to not just spray and wipe, but also to make sure the disinfectant remains on the surface long enough to be effective.
[HOST] We are approaching the end of our time, is there anything else you can share regarding guidelines or parameters for cleaning and disinfecting?
[Bill] While research is ongoing, the CDC recommends that areas where persons with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 have been should be closed for 24 hours or as long as possible prior to cleaning/disinfecting. Then, Where it is safe to do so, you should open outside windows and doors as much as possible and use ventilating fans to increase air circulation.
[HOST] Do we still need to clean/disinfect if the building has been closed?
[Bill] That’s a great final question, Jesse that could save a facility from unnecessary disinfection. The CDC states, “If your workplace, school, or business has been unoccupied for 7 days or more, it will only need your normal routine cleaning to reopen the area. This is because the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than this time.”
[HOST] This has been a great discussion on cleaning and disinfecting in buildings during this COVID-19 environment. The information you both presented provide quite a few options for businesses to consider as they resume their operations. Thank you for listening and stay tuned for other videocasts in this series. Please also remember Travelers has additional resources for COVID-19 to help support and guide you and your organizations.