As the pandemic continues to disrupt life and business worldwide, janitorial safety remains paramount for those in the cleaning industry. Here’s how you can best protect your workers and clients.
Even as COVID-19 turned our world inside out, those in custodial professions have continued to work on the front lines. Thanks to the work of janitorial teams across the globe, we’ve all been a little bit safer. Apart from gratitude, however, it’s important that cleaning businesses continue to implement, review, and enforce janitorial safety practices that will help ensure the well-being of each staff member and keep your business running smoothly during the pandemic.
Recent evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the most significant risk of infection comes from airborne droplets, though there is still information to suggest that the disease may remain viable on surfaces for up to a few days. Taking that into account, a janitorial safety plan should focus on both protection against airborne droplets as well as protection against coming into contact with potentially contaminated surfaces.
Here are some ways to help keep your janitorial staff safe as the pandemic lingers on.
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Make sure these janitorial safety measures are on your checklist
Wash hands regularly
Washing hands should be part of standard janitorial safety guidelines, but even more so now with COVID-19. When possible, employees should wash their hands every time they remove their gloves, or at least at the conclusion of every job. Your team can also use hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol, but hand sanitizers shouldn’t be a replacement for hand-washing. You might also ask your employees to wash their hands regularly off the job as well for additional protection.
Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Your teams probably already use PPE, but the pandemic magnifies its importance. Janitorial workers should wear masks to protect against airborne infection (most common type) and latex or non-latex protective gloves as a minimum. Change protective equipment often, such as between the tasks of wiping down surfaces and emptying trash bins. When workers change their gloves, it’s a good idea for them to wash their hands before putting on another pair.
It may also be helpful for your staff to understand best practices while wearing PPE. For example, while wearing gloves, workers should avoid touching their faces or anything else apart from their supplies and the surfaces they have to clean. Gloves should not be reused or shared. If gloves or other PPE are damaged during use, it’s best to change them out for new equipment as soon as possible.
And remember: Gloves are not a substitute for hand-washing. Once an employee removes their gloves, hand-washing or sanitizing are the only ways to ensure ongoing safety.
If you haven’t already done so, reduce your work crews for each job to help minimize exposure and improve janitorial safety at each work site. If you previously put two or three people on a job, see if the work can still get done with only one or two employees. This may mean that jobs take a little longer to do, but if the precaution reduces exposure, it may be worth it.
You might also ask clients not to be on site when your teams come to clean—the fewer people in the room at once, the better.
Screen clients regularly
Another thing that will help with janitorial safety procedures is continually communicating with clients and understanding their exposure levels. Ask the manager of the worksite what, if any, precautions they’re taking to keep their workers safe. If their practices seem loose to you, you may want to gently ask whether or not there are other things they can do, and give them specific examples. At the end of the day, if a client isn’t safe with their own workers, it puts your teams at higher risk, too. It might be a little uncomfortable, but safety should come first in these circumstances.
Ensure proper ventilation
Where possible, improving ventilation at worksites can help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Open windows, turn on ventilation systems, and ask workers to keep at least six feet apart when speaking to anyone on a work site.
Use effective products
The CDC also advises that not all disinfectant cleaners have been deemed effective against COVID-19. Check your products against their list of approved cleaners to see how you match up. If the products and supplies you use aren’t on there, consider switching, at least until the pandemic is over.
Be transparent about potential exposures
If you have employees who know they may have been exposed to COVID-19, whether on or off the job, encourage them to tell you, and in turn, share that information with team members. The best practice is to ask anyone who may have been exposed to self-quarantine until the incubation period has passed (generally 14 days). If an employee exhibits or reports symptoms of COVID-19, ask them not to come to work until they can return a negative COVID-19 test.
Monitor and follow local guidance
In addition to CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, learn about and follow local guidelines regarding COVID-19. Many states and cities are handling things differently, so knowing what’s going on in your community is the best way to create janitorial safety precautions relevant to your area.
When in doubt about anything, err on the side of caution. While everyone is eager to get the economy and the world back on track, no job or client is worth someone’s life or health. And at the end of the day, maintaining a thorough and cautious janitorial safety plan may be one of the most critical things we can do to help everyone see the end of this challenging time.
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