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Keeping Facilities Clean During the Coronavirus Times

Michelle Ross

The coronavirus has dramatically increased the need for hyper-vigilance in many aspects of daily life and work. Intensive cleaning within factories and warehouses is certainly no exception when it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and flattening the curve. Clean facilities are imperative for saving lives and collectively improving the quality of life that has taken a devastating drop for many workers worldwide. 

That said, structured and effective cleaning methods should always be standard company practices as it maintains productivity, reduces the number of employee sick days, fosters company morale and pride, complies with health and safety legislation, and lastly, prevents legal troubles such as lawsuits. Essentially, a clean work environment can keep employees happy and healthy.

So what are a few best practices to keep in mind when it comes to cleaning? Let’s start with the basic types. Some assume a quick dusting or swiffering will suffice, but there’s a whole lot more that goes into achieving the perfect deep clean. 


Three Types of Cleaning

Regular Cleaning

Cleaning just means removing clutter, impurities, dirt, and germs, not actually killing* germs. Regular cleaning should be done before disinfecting to clear away objects and particles on the surface. Regular cleaning is done preventatively to avoid build up of dirt and wipe away bacteria and virus. This is the first step, not the only or last step.

Disinfectant Cleaning

Disinfecting means killing germs using specified chemicals. Disinfectant cleaning should be done after regular cleaning has cleared the surface. Proper disinfecting solutions include products with at least 70% alcohol, diluted household bleach (5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water), and products from the EPA's Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides (see link below). Make sure the products have not expired. Do not mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners. Depending on the product, leave disinfectants on the surfaces for several minutes before wiping off. Make sure to read the labels!

Deep Cleaning

Deep cleaning refers to cleaning areas of the warehouse/factory that are not normally cleaned because they are out of reach. This means behind or under equipement and requires equipement to be moved in order to be cleaned. Deep cleaning doesn’t need to be done daily, and should be done after hours or on weekends to be cost effective and not interrupt operation schedules.

All three cleaning methods are critical to keeping facilities operating and safe not just during times of pandemic. Regular cleaning and disinfectant cleaning should be structured into daily schedules between shift rotations to prevent one individual from passing germs to the next individual. Coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets released into the air via coughing or sneezing of an infected person. Even if workers are six feet away from another--the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended distance to avoid close contact--these respiratory droplets can land on surfaces that multiple workers interact with. 

How to Clean Various Surfaces

Knowing how to correctly sanitize various textures and implementing those methods will remove and kill germs that are still active on warehouse surfaces. The National Institutes of Health states their “scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.” Since cardboard, plastic, and stainless steel are abundant materials within manufacturing facilities, the findings that the virus is stable on the aforementioned surfaces for multiple employee shift rotations is alarming to say the least. Here’s a few guidelines the CDC recommends to clean various surfaces including yourself. 

Hard Surfaces

  1. Gloves on. 
  2. Remove mess and clutter so space is cleared.
  3. Clean with a detergent solution (or soap and water) using assigned sponge/rag or disposable paper towels. All stations should have a cleaning kit.
  4. Disinfect with hard surface cleaner from the EPA's Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides.
  5. Throw away disposable cleaning tools or place reusable tools back into the cleaning kit. While gloves are still on, return the cleaning kit to its proper storage without contaminating other surfaces.
  6. Remove gloves. Dispose after each cleaning. If reusable, set aside in an appropriate container and use only for cleaning/disinfecting the assigned area. 
  7. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. 

Soft Surfaces

  1. Gloves on. 
  2. Remove mess and clutter so space is cleared.
  3. Clean with appropriate solution that the item indicates for usage (ex: leather cleaner vs. fabric cleaner). All stations should have a cleaning kit.
  4. Disinfect with a soft surface cleaner from the EPA's Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides. If the item can be laundered, wash them with appropriate EPA recommended products in the warmest possible temperature setting. Dry items entirely. Do not touch clean items with soiled gloves.
  5. Throw away disposable cleaning tools or place reusable tools back into the cleaning kit. While gloves are still on, return the cleaning kit to its proper storage without contaminating other surfaces.
  6. Remove gloves. Dispose after each cleaning. If reusable, set aside in an appropriate container and use only for cleaning/disinfecting the assigned area. 
  7. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

Linens/Laundry Items

  1. All laundry bins should have disposable bag liners. Otherwise, bins will need to be cleaned and disinfected between each use. 
  2. Gloves on. 
  3. Do not shake laundry. Careful movements will prevent scattering virus into the air.
  4. Launder items according to both the manufacturer's instructions and EPA’s guidance. Wash in the warmest possible temperature setting. Dry items entirely. Do not touch clean items with soiled gloves.
  5. Remove gloves. Dispose after each cleaning. If reusable, set aside in an appropriate container and use only for cleaning/disinfecting the assigned area. 
  6. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

Air Inside Warehouse

  1. Make sure every air vent has an air filter. Change the air filter every 2-3 months. If the inside of the air duct is dirty, clean and disinfect what can be reached. 
  2. Do not block air vents with equipement. Often, air vents are blocked by cardboard, a main culprit in dust creation, so aim to keep cardboard in one storage area. Remember that cardboard can carry the coronavirus for up to 24 hours.
  3. Use plastic liners and curtains to separate spaces in the warehouse. Plastic liners should be cleaned and disinfected daily during the coronavirus outbreak. Remember that plastic can carry the coronavirus for up to two to three days.
  4. Dust, clean, and disinfect from top down, then shift attention towards floors.
  5. Paint or seal the concrete floor as concrete creates filth. Sealed concrete makes it easier to sweep, mop, and disinfect the floor. Floor cleaning should be done daily or in between shift changes during the coronavirus outbreak.
  6. Install air purifiers that have HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air)-rated filters. To an extent, these filters can trap airborne particles of the virus. HOWEVER, it cannot trap all particles as it only mitigates the spread. 

Yourself

  1. Handwashing: wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  2. Hand disinfecting: sanitizing solution must have at least 60% alcohol. If dirt is visibly present, hands must be washed instead of sanitized.
  3. Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands.
  4. Always wash hands after using protective equipment like gloves. The outside of the protective equipment is contaminated!
  5. Always wash hands after coughing, sneezing, blowing nose, petting an animal, or providing care to another person. And wash hands before preparing/eating food and drinking.

How to Clean Mobile Devices

Within factories and warehouses, mobile devices are often utilized to complete tasks using various apps such as Ario Enterprise and Connect. What’s more, the Ario apps allow remote and onsite workers to collaborate seamlessly. Our platform can help companies limit the amount of employees inside a facility and allow other employees to work from home during the coronavirus outbreak. However, it’s imperative that all phones and tablets be cleaned daily and in-between users. When the pandemic is over, these devices should be cleaned at least once a week.

Not so fun facts to keep in mind: 

The University of Arizona reports that cell phones are 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat.

Research firm Dscout reports that users touch their cell phone 2,617 times a day.

If a virus is on the surface of a cell phone, 30% of it will transfer to the user’s fingers.

Directions for Mobile Device Cleaning:

  1. Turn off cell phone or tablet.
  2. Unplug all cables.
  3. Mix water with hand soap. Do not dunk device in water.
  4. Wet a lint-free cloth and wring out excess water.
  5. Wipe all surfaces of the device with the cloth. Avoid getting moisture in openings.
  6. Using a dry lint-free cloth, wipe and dry the device.
  7. Optional: To disinfect the device, use either a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox disinfecting wipe to lightly sweep the surfaces.
  8. Optional: Store device under UV-C lighting that breaks apart germ DNA to prevent function and reproduction. Do note that UV-A and UV-B are not germicidal. Check out Phonesoap that sells UV sanitizing devices.

General Facility Cleaning Tips

Keeping track of what was cleaned and when can feel overwhelming when managing several large-scale facilities. To handle supervision correctly, it’s necessary for managers to act first and implement rigid procedures out of the gate. Here’s a few tips.

  1. Stagger cleaning so not everyone has stopped working at the same time. Use a daily, weekly, or monthly rotation.
  2. Assign each area to specific employees so they feel an accountability, and the employer can track responsibility.
  3. Provide each area with a cleaning kit that is fully stocked with appropriate tools and cleaning solutions. Ex: rags, sponges, paper towels, mop, broom, brush, dustpan, soap, disinfectant solutions, hand sanitizer, trash can, and a hand washing station nearby.
  4. Solicit feedback from employees so cleaning supply stock can be recorded and ordered if needed.  Collect confirmation that areas were cleaned. 
  5. Create a checklist for each station. Areas must be cleaned after each employee rotation. 
  6. Communicate to employees why cleaning is important. Emails can be skimmed or ignored, and workers might drift in lecture meetings. Try speaking to workers in smaller groups.
  7. Train employees how to clean correctly.
  8. Assign managers to supervise cleaning activities.

These general cleaning tips shouldn’t be forgotten after the pandemic, but during this time, these guidelines should be treated with utmost seriousness. It’s for the employers’ and employees’ benefit to keep the work environment hyper-clean, healthy, and generative in order to maintain production in factories. Supplies need to be manufactured and workers need to be employed to sustain the economy and well-being of people globally. 

For approved cleaning products to combat COVID-19, please see the EPA's Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides: https://www.americanchemistry.com/Novel-Coronavirus-Fighting-Products-List.pdf

Citations:

1) CDC Cleaning and Disinfection for Households

2) https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/new-coronavirus-stable-hours-surfaces

3) https://qualityinspection.org/how-to-clean-factory-stop-dust/

4) https://cals.arizona.edu/news/why-your-cellphone-has-more-germs-toilet

5) https://blog.dscout.com/mobile-touches

6) https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/talk-about-going-viral-touch-screen-devices-harbor-germs/

7) https://mashable.com/article/how-to-clean-smartphone-iphone-galaxy-pixel/?fbclid=IwAR1yZCwIsuV2aTFoUy31i-kCoR9MpbpdNLKsdVS76KRuQYeXVj26sWAUh8I

8) https://www.brushtec.com/maintain-clean-organised-factory-warehouse/


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