We might just be saying goodbye to summer but planning ahead for winter hygiene has never been more important. Less than a year ago we were mid-winter and living under the Government’s Plan B Winter restrictions, as cases of Covid-19 started to rise once again.
Alongside the pandemic, traditional winter illnesses, like norovirus and winter-related respiratory illnesses, were also booming after an easing of restrictions earlier in 2021. The risk of infection was concerning and it brought the cleaning and hygiene measures that we had adopted mid-pandemic back into sharp focus.
The role of cleaning and hygiene
Professional cleaning has always played a big role in winter hygiene, particularly in high-traffic and vulnerable environments like offices, healthcare settings and care homes. Keeping on top of infection control intensifies during the winter months as the cold weather conditions and less ventilation make it easier for bacteria and viruses to multiply and spread.
Over the past few years, cleaning has finally been acknowledged as a powerful tool in the fight against illness. After all, it was hailed one of the first lines of defence throughout our Covid-19 days.
However, we can no longer afford to only up the ante on cleaning when winter-related problems arise. We need to be on the front foot and plan ahead when it comes to hygiene measures, so we are not caught out again.
Having a cleaning plan in place is vital all year round and a good contract cleaning company will regularly reassess their cleaning program and make changes, to address any hot spots and continuously improve hygiene levels.
When it comes to cleaning in the winter months, additional processes and measures can be added to a cleaning plan to bolster its efficacy and protect against infection risks. From surface protectors to ATP testing, there are so many new products and technologies that can help keep on top of cleanliness levels and infection control.
Planning ahead is vital. It not only gives you the time to adapt cleaning regimes and secure the products and equipment needed to deliver the job, but it also allows for any additional training to take place within cleaning teams.
Training has always been one of the most important investments a business can make. After all, without them, operations would grind to a halt. Within the cleaning sector, learning is vital for keeping up to date with the latest practices and protocols. Ensuring that operatives have the latest knowledge of products and processes is crucial.
Below are just a few additional techniques that can be planned into your cleaning regime to support winter hygiene this year.
Frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, hand rails, phones and keyboards, can become bacteria-breeders if regular cleaning is not delivered. Having a touchpoint cleaning rota will ensure that these key areas are sanitised throughout the day, keeping on top of infection control.
This is even more vital in the winter as illnesses that are transmitted through touch, like norovirus and respiratory infections increase. This process ensures that any bacteria or germs sitting on key touchpoints are removed on a regular basis.
Periodic deep cleans are important all year round but it is always a good idea to plan one in for the start of the winter months, and schedule them on a more frequent basis as the season moves on.
Not only do they reduce the burden of daily cleaning and keep hygiene levels high, but they have the power to stand up to tougher bugs and viruses.
Winter is also a good time to tackle a deep clean in environments like schools and offices, as they close over the festive period, allowing cleaners to spend time removing any hidden bacteria that has been building up over previous months.
Fogging kills 99.9999% of all germs, bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including COVID-19. It can effectively reduce airborne contaminants, and can disinfect difficult to reach areas. It is a great way to remove pathogens, and can also quickly decontaminate any areas that have been exposed to an infection outbreak.
IMPLEMENT HAND SANITISER STATIONS
Locate high traffic and high touch areas in the workplace or public area, and add hand sanitisers stations throughout the building, such as at the entrances, exits, communal areas, staff rooms, meeting rooms and on or near desks. A coin-sized amount of gel or foam is enough to ensure clean hands. Combine this with regular handwashing with soap and water to reduce the risk of virus and bacteria transmission this winter.
PROTECT HYGIENE LEVELS
Regardless of how effective your cleaning regime is, recently sanitised surfaces can quickly become re-infected with a simple touch or sneeze, undoing all that hard work. But if you add an anti-microbial shield or surface protector to your regime, you can safeguard surfaces long-term.
There was an influx of such products during the pandemic months, and they really do have the potential to reduce transmission of infections and viruses. These products are applied after a thorough clean and can protect the surface for days (even months in some cases), instantly killing any pathogens that land on them.
PUT CLEANLINESS TO THE TEST
How do you really know how effective your clean has been? This is where Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) testing comes in. ATP is the energy molecule found in all living things, making it the ideal indicator when trying determine if a surface is clean or not.
Using the ‘SAFER’ ATP testing regime, hygiene levels can be monitored pre and post clean to ensure that the job has been done to the highest standards. This process includes:
Swab of key touch points, risk areas and high traffic areas
Analysis of swab results using ATP technology
Formulation of tailored plan, methodology and cleaning regime based on the results
Execution of the plan, with focused cleaning of areas showing higher biological residues
Repeat monitoring and adjustments for continuous improvements and to identify high risk areas
The data-led insights that SAFER delivers ensures that daily cleaning and hygiene routines are enhanced according to need.
Strengthening our defence
Although the threat of infectious outbreaks still remains this winter, we have learnt a lot over the past few years about the role of cleaning and its potential to keep our people and places safe. It has a major role to play in infection control this year to enable us to maintain the normality of life that we have enjoyed so far in 2022.
By planning ahead and weaving the above strategies and innovative techniques into our winter cleaning plans, we can keep the risks under control and society safe this year.
Article by Karolina Rigby, originally published in Cleaning Matters.