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What does good infection control look like in the workplace?

As businesses across Australia work through new cleaning protocols in the wake of COVID-19, new hygiene processes are being put in place for workers, customers and suppliers.

Because Coronavirus can spread by contact with surfaces, it’s more important than ever to ensure that a strict cleaning and sanitisation regime is implemented at your site.

How does COVID-19 spread to other surfaces?

When an infected person coughs or sneezes (or even just exhales), tiny droplets of fluid can land on surfaces like tables, keyboards, phones, counters, door handles and other areas. If another worker touches this surface and then touches their face, they can transfer the virus particles and potentially become infected.

In addition to general hygiene procedures and social distancing, it’s important to be aware of how to properly clean and disinfect surfaces. Depending on the surface, the virus can last several days, and therefore any commonly touched surfaces should be properly cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.

Is cleaning just as effective as disinfecting when it comes to Coronavirus?

It’s important to note that there is a distinction between cleaning and disinfecting, and the two are different processes.

From the Safe Work Australia website:

Cleaning means physically removing germs, dirt and organic matter from surfaces.

Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces.

 

It’s important to clean before disinfecting because organic matter and dirt can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs.

A combination of cleaning and disinfection will be most effective in removing the COVID-19 virus. Cleaning reduces the soil load on the surface, allowing the disinfectant to work and kill the COVID-19 virus. Disinfectant may not kill the virus if the surface has not been cleaned with a detergent first.

How to clean hard surfaces at work

Although it is unlikely that the virus will survive for long once the mist on surfaces has dried, the risk to workers is too great to take any unnecessary chances.

Disinfecting and sanitising work stations regularly, along with any other frequently touched areas is especially important in shared areas such as lunchrooms and shared work stations or hot desks.

  • Wear gloves when cleaning and discard after use
  • If you intend to use a disinfectant, clean the surface first using detergent then apply a disinfectant, or use a combined detergent and disinfectant. Remember, a disinfectant will not kill germs if the surface has not been cleaned first.
  • Use disposable paper towel or wipes to disinfect the surface with a disinfecting solution. Alcohol-based solutions tend to be the most effective.
  • Any cleaning is only as good as its weakest link – meaning if you miss a key area, it can have consequences. Take time to ensure all surfaces are disinfected.
  • Always clean from the cleanest surfaces to the dirtiest surfaces to minimise the transfer of contaminants.
  • Allow the surface to dry naturally – many disinfectant solutions require time to work, typically around 10 minutes. Follow the instructions on the product you are using.
  • Always dispose of cleaning materials such as disposable gloves, Chux wipes or paper towel after use.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after cleaning, or use an anti-bacterial hand wash. An alcohol based hand sanitiser gel can be useful if you are in an area without easy access to water. Some work sites are using portable hand sanitising stations which are an upright hand washing unit that can be located in convenient places around the workshop or construction site.

The following steps are recommended by Safe Work for general infection control at work:

  • Allow workers to work from home, where possible
  • Ensure physical distancing by keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres between people
  • Encourage all workers to frequently wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and to practise good hygiene.
  • Be aware of how to spot COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath) and make sure workers do not come to work if they are unwell
  • Make sure your workplace is regularly cleaned and disinfected
  • Have signs and posters around the workplace to remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread.

Find out more

More information on infection control is available on the Safe Work Australia website. Safe Work Australia also guidance on cleaning. For more information visit https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/

Always refer to the Department of Health website for the most accurate and up to date advice.

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