Written by: Griffiths & Armour on: 31 Mar 2021
Under the Microscope: Hygiene in the Workplace
With the UK vaccine roll out programme now progressing at pace and the gradual and phased easing of lockdown restrictions underway, closed businesses are busy planning their reopening, which will undoubtedly have hygiene and the health of their customers returning to premises as a priority. Expectations of what good, hygienic conditions mean to the customer have changed in a meteoric way, some might say for the better. Simply having surfaces that “look clean” may no longer be sufficient.
We caught up with Christian Harris from building safety experts Slip Safety Services to ask about how his customers are adapting and the options that might be considered by some businesses as they look towards reopening in April and beyond….
So Christian, let’s start by asking you to give us a little bit of background on you and Slip Safety Services.
Hi, I’m Christian Harris, the founder of Slip Safety Services. In simple terms, we help our clients improve their building safety and hygiene. This is essentially achieved in two ways: firstly, by implementing measures that prevent slip-and-fall accidents in and around the premises and secondly, by helping our clients introduce processes, testing regimes and measures that ensure surfaces are proven to be hygienically clean and safe. I’m also the host of the Safety And Risk Success Podcast.
Having an hygienic environment for a workforce and customers seems like an obvious statement to make but can you tell us why surface hygiene is now an even more important consideration when businesses and organisations consider their reopening or return to work of their workforce?
There have always been obvious benefits to having a clean looking environment such as general business performance, staff retention and positive customer perception and experience. But COVID-19 has introduced an added layer. In truth, it’s been scientifically proven that surface transmission of Covid-19 is less of a risk than airborne transmission; but it is still a risk – and one every business can control. The public is now conditioned to expect clean buildings, so we now not only need to pass that visual test, but also seriously consider when it comes to potential risks including legal action, ‘looking clean’ won’t be enough.
Since the pandemic started, as you’ve said, there’s been a far greater focus on cleaning. Hygiene stations with hand sanitiser and areas to wipe surfaces seem to be commonplace. Are you saying we still haven’t got this right?
Unfortunately, the evidence suggests not. On Channel 4’s recent Dispatches TV show, where they swab tested various public buildings, they found 50% of the premises tested were not sufficiently clean, so as to be safe. I’m afraid we’re seeing a trend which I’ve come to call ‘clean-washing’. You may have heard ‘green-washing’ (companies claiming that their products are environmentally friendly when often they’re not), well clean-washing is when companies claim their buildings are clean and safe when in fact the results of tests prove they are not. The message is usually “we are doing voluminous cleaning”, but is that truly enhanced, effective cleaning?
So what should people be doing to ensure that their cleaning is effective and their building’s surfaces are indeed safe?
Essentially, businesses need to think seriously about evidence-based cleaning. They should not simply take the word of their cleaning contractor, their in-house cleaning manager, or even the supplier who provides cleaning supplies. Businesses need to start working with those who deliver cleaning services to ensure they can build scientific ways to verify that what is being done really works, so this must involve a degree of testing going forward.
How can a business go about introducing this type of testing?
Testing for the presence of COVID-19 is difficult and requires a lab to support. But testing the scientific cleanliness of a surface is much simpler: you can use an Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) test which is commonly used in food hygiene testing. Every living cell contains Adenosine triphosphate, so if you carry out one of these tests and find the readings are over a certain level, the surface cannot be considered truly clean. An unclean surface cannot be disinfected, therefore carries a risk of having COVID-19 on it.
If our readers have any questions or would like some further help in this area, how can they go about finding more information?
Slip Safety Services have advised hundreds of buildings on how effective their cleaning practices are; as well as delivering deep cleaning, decontamination and disinfection to 100,000’s of m2 since March 2020. I would be more than happy to answer any questions or provide guidance, including further details on what is involved in the scientific testing mentioned above, certificating compliance, or understanding the key areas for improvement and a roadmap to meet the standards as quickly as possible.
If you have any questions on this article or are interested in contacting Christian Harris at Slip Safety Services, please send your enquiry to Greg Street (below) or via your usual point of contact at Griffiths & Armour.
“Ensuring good hygiene has always been an important safety consideration for workplaces. It is now essential for organisations to implement robust cleaning regimes as their employees return to the workplace and introducing testing can provide a useful measure on the effectiveness of existing cleaning arrangements” – Greg Street