Developing an effective disinfection program is easier said than done. Your program should have five key traits.
By Eric Kirchhoefer is Vice President, Sales & Strategic Accounts for ABM’s Technology & Manufacturing industry group.
COVID-19 has made us all more conscientious of the cleanliness of the spaces we occupy. From the manufacturing floor to the back office, employees need to feel that their employer is taking every measure they can to keep them safe. Plus, your customers want to know that they’re buying from a company that cares for its employees and provides safe products. Disinfection is the key to easing their minds.
Developing an effective disinfection program is easier said than done. To ensure that your program is effective, it should have five key traits.
Characteristics of an effective disinfection program
1. It’s multi-faceted
The coronavirus pandemic is a long-term crisis and taking an incremental approach to disinfection leaves gaps in your program. Whether your facilities are about to reopen, or they never closed, it’s a good idea to have a reset of your cleaning program. The reset should include an assessment, where you take stock of the facility and identify specifically which areas require disinfection and how often.
The assessment should also cover technologies, such as touchless paper towel dispensers, that can reduce the number of touch points in your facility. In the haste to maintain or ramp up operation, it can be easy to overlook key elements of your program. This first step gives you a chance to outline, in detail, how you will approach your disinfection program on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
Based on the assessment, you can determine how often high-touch points (such as door handles) need to be disinfected and which resources, supplies, and chemicals will be needed. Beyond that, you’ll need to treat the general space more regularly as well with broader disinfection. The intervals will depend on your facility. And with the round-the-clock operations of manufacturing environments, finding the right timing while minimizing downtime will be the main challenge.
2. It’s visible
Because disinfection programs are also about providing assurance, your program should also include demonstrable measures of your commitment to safety. That means cleaners come out from the shadows and work more visibly. To provide assurance that areas are being cleaned outside of operating hours, consider incorporating signage indicating that touchpoints have been disinfected. Signage is also useful for promoting social distancing and proper hand hygiene. The more visible your program, the more your employees can see that you’re committed to their safety.
3. It changes as we learn more
We’re still learning about how COVID-19 spreads and which chemicals and disinfection practices are most effective against it. With each new insight comes updated guidance from the CDC and other leading health and safety organizations. Deploying new practices may require updated training, changes to the supplies and equipment you use, and communication to employees who may be affected. Your disinfection program should be able to adapt and apply new learnings consistently across your entire facility.
COVID-19 has also pushed new innovations, such as UV technology, to the forefront. As these technologies are evaluated, they should be incorporated into your disinfection program where appropriate. Disinfection and industrial hygiene experts can guide you through the process of determining if new technology is appropriate for your business and implementing it properly.
4. It’s developed by experts
Despite all of the unknown issues that we’re all facing, there are some things we know for sure. COVID-19 may be unprecedented in many ways, but experts in infectious disease and industrial hygiene know how to apply learnings from previous viral outbreaks, as well as the seasonal flu, to develop chemicals, tools, and practices that promote a healthy facility.
It’s one thing to read the guidance from the CDC. It’s another thing to translate that guidance into actionable practices. From training to day-to-day disinfection, it’s important to work with experts who can take disinfection guidance off the page and into your facility.
Which disinfectants will you use? How will you acquire them? How can you incorporate other aspects of your maintenance program to promote building health? How much can you disinfect during uptime? Lean on experts who are knowledgeable in disinfection best practices and who understand manufacturing environments to answer these questions.
5. It extends to the whole facility
For manufacturing facility managers, keeping offices spaces and common areas clean used to be a straightforward, routine practice. The plant floor typically requires more attention and strategic planning. But with COVID-19, non-production area cleaning is no longer routine. As offices reopen, even if only in phases, they need to be disinfected as well.
Implementing your disinfection program in these areas isn’t as simple as copying and pasting the protocols you use on the production floor. The demands of your offices and common areas are different. There may be more touchpoints (think about keyboards and door handles on offices and conference rooms) and office workers typically don’t wear protective personal equipment. On the flip side, you don’t have to worry about maintaining uptime in these areas. The assessment described earlier in this article gives you an opportunity to work through those details.
Your partners, vendors, and employees need to know that you’re building wellness seriously. No one can guarantee that your facility and employees remain infection-free. But you can provide assurance through best practices known to reduce the spread of infection. By using the most up-to-date information available, and taking a multi-faceted approach, you can give your employees the assurance they need to focus on their work, and give your customers peace of mind that you’re creating products in a healthy environment.
About the Author
Eric Kirchhoefer is vice president, sales & national accounts for ABM Industries. Over the course of his tenure, Kirchhoefer has helped develop and direct the company’s overall Sales and Marketing strategy. Before assuming this position, he served as the corporate vice president of business development and had management responsibility for all sales associates, sales managers, key account representatives and selling efforts at Diversco Integrated Services; a wholly owned subsidiary of ABM Industries. Additionally, he has had national account responsibilities as vice president within the industrial manufacturing and food & beverage vertical markets for ABM Janitorial Services.