Sanitizing Workplaces: Considerations for Employers

Recently the CDC issued additional guidance for employers to consider when reopening their workplaces. The extensive guidance should be included in an overall strategy to mitigate risks to employees, along with social distancing, screening, shift changes, among others. One concern we are hearing about is that many employees are fearful of returning to the workplace, and worry about workplace contamination. Employers are required to provide safe workplaces, and follow CDC guidance is recommended; although not mandated, enhanced commercial workplace sanitization may help reduce employee concerns about returning to work.

To learn more about workplace sanitization, Jack Edwards of Coit Cleaning, an Employers Council member, provided an overview of how commercial workplace sanitization differs from basic cleaning.

 

Product

The CDC provides a list (published on the EPA site as List N for Disinfectants for use Against SARS-CoV-2. ) of products that can be used to combat the Coronavirus COVID-19. Many of these products are only available commercially and should only be used by a professional due to the effects they can have on the human body as well as the environment. Since January 2019 Coit Services has been using a hospital grade disinfectant that is registered by the EPA and is on the CDC’s List N. The product Coit uses carries the lowest level of toxicity with the EPA meaning that it is safer for humans and the environment than other hospital grade disinfectants; their cleaning and disinfection methods can be used on many surfaces including drapes, upholstery, carpet, tile or stone, air ducts, and total inside spaces.

 

Frequency

There are many variables that come into play when considering how often to deep clean and or disinfect a business to address this pandemic. Generally speaking a business should have daily disinfection protocols in place for high touch surfaces to insure their employees and customers are as safe as possible. The frequency is determined by occupancy and use. In conjunction with the daily protocols a deep cleaning of heavily used areas should happen more frequently than a normal maintenance schedule. It is important to note that soil can allow pathogens to hide from any disinfectant so if you see something that has a soil build up then it should be cleaned first to remove as many of the pathogens as possible before disinfection takes place. Any confirmed exposure to a space should be treated following the CDC guidelines for areas that have been affected.

 

Method

Electrostatic disinfection is a quick and easy way to achieve 360 degree, touchless disinfection for total cubic space. For example, no matter which angle you disinfect a surface from, the charge created by the electrostatic sprayer makes the disinfectant wrap around and cling to the entire surface. The kill time is about one to two minutes for viruses, and since no wiping is required with electrostatic spraying it is safe for all surfaces including electronic equipment (e.g. computers, keyboards, monitors, servers, etc.).

 

Employee education

Helping employers and their employees understand the sanitization process and products used is important. Especially when employees express fear about returning to workplaces. Coit provides customers with pamphlets and sheets to distribute to employees and will even participate in virtual employee gathering to discuss the sanitization process and their questions, if the customer wishes to arrange.

 

Expectations

After application, the workplace is sanitized; this means that viruses and bacteria have been neutralized. Once anyone (employees, vendors, custodians, etc.) re-enters the space, the possibility of contamination resumes. No product can guarantee permanent sanitization. Thus, employees must remain vigilant with their personal hygiene and other mitigation as required by employer policy.

 

Cost

Application costs are determined by the square footage of a workplace. Currently, Coit charges one to four cents per cubic foot for a preventive application; $379 is the minimum charge. Preventive treatment is most cost-effective, as it does not require extensive PPE. If an exposure to Covid-19 occurs in the workplace, immediate re-sanitization is necessary and is costlier due to the extensive Level-3 PPE required for the crew to wear. To help the community provide safer workplaces, Coit’s fees have not been inflated; unfortunately, there are reports of price gouging in the marketplace, so employers should beware.

 

Other considerations

  • To reduce risks, and potential sanitization costs, employers may wish to consider advising employees to limit their mobility around the workplace. Limiting their range of activity around the facility may limit the costs of decontamination should the employee report being infected after returning to work.
  • A sanitization vendor must visit a workspace to evaluate and identify the unique characteristics to consider before proceeding with sanitization.
  • A Service Contract is typically required and must be read carefully. No vendor can guarantee a workplace will remain free of Covid-19 virus after sanitizing; so beware of unrealistic promises.
  • Any workplace sanitization service should work in partnership with other custodial and safety staff or services to maximize the effectiveness of workplace safety protocols.

Employers Council members are encouraged to reach out for guidance and assistance with drafting return to work plans; be sure to visit our Coronavirus Resource Center for numerous resources.