With more businesses reopening in Ontario every week, now's the time to look at how to decontaminate your workplace and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among employees and customers.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if the workplace has been closed for more than seven days, you don't need a full-scale decontamination; however you will still want to implement measures for ongoing decontamination of surfaces," says WSPS Occupational Hygienist Kelly Fernandes.
To guide you through the process, WSPS has developed a downloadable decontamination checklist that's full of practical, actionable considerations. The checklist also provides pre-contamination guidelines, outlines how to decontaminate areas where a worker is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, and provides links for more detailed information.
Apply a team approach
Kelly suggests assembling a pandemic recovery team that includes a variety of stakeholders, such as managers, supervisors, building maintenance, housekeeping, joint health and safety committee members, and others who could provide insights on what's needed in your workplace. Establishing decontamination procedures and schedules should be among the committee's tasks.
Here's a sampling of considerations taken from the checklist:
- Screen workers using a questionnaire before they come back to work. "If they have symptoms or have been near someone who had COVID-19," advises Kelly, "they should self-isolate for 14 days."
- Determine which disinfectant products are best suited to your workplace, then train cleaning staff and workers on their use and application. Include hazards and safety precautions, and procedures for putting on, using, removing and disposing of personal protective equipment (PPE). "Much of this training can take place ahead of time if everyone has access to computers," says Kelly.
- Ensure workers are thoroughly washing their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before and after cleaning (e.g., before donning gloves and after doffing gloves).
- Create a schedule for decontaminating high-touch surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, touchscreens, equipment, tools, toilets, faucets, and sinks. (See Appendix B, Post Pandemic Business Playbook, for recommendations on how often to clean specific areas and equipment.) "Be sure to consider disinfecting between shifts, and between use of shared tools or equipment."
- Use vacuums equipped with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters wherever possible.
- Place all waste materials resulting from decontamination in sealed bags, and wipe the sealed bags with disinfectant. "Bags should go right outside into the waste bin. And don't compact them - potentially contaminated materials could get out into the air."
- Consider hiring a professional abatement contractor who has the knowledge and experience with COVID-19 decontamination measures when a case of COVID-19 has been confirmed or suspected.
When determining what needs to be cleaned and by whom, remember to include items added to the workplace in the wake of COVID -19, such as plastic barriers installed to help with physical distancing.
Find more resources on WSPS' COVID-19 Hub.
Still have questions about how to implement the Pathogen Decontamination Checklist? Our experts can assist. Just call our Duty Consultant at 1-877-494-WSPS (9777).
The decontamination checklist and Post Pandemic Business Playbook are just two of many new resources on pandemic preparedness, infection control, COVID-19 business planning and industry association supports, work refusals, mental health, working remotely, and post-pandemic business recovery. Check them out today.