Clean Up After an Employee Becomes Impacted by COVID-19

April 15th, 2020 by Editor

The window film industry has tried to combat the spread of COVID-19 by following guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as local and state government officials. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests several ways to sanitize the workplace after discovering employees with the virus.

According to the CDC’s published information, transmission of the virus from surfaces to humans hasn’t been documented, but some experts suggest that those cases could be too difficult to track. When it comes to cleaning and sanitizing potentially infected areas, CDC officials say to include not only individual workspaces, but also any areas that infected employees might have visited while on the premises. It is also important to note that neither cleaning nor disinfecting alone is considered sufficient; it takes both to effectively eliminate the virus. Cleaning does nothing to kill germs, guidelines point out, but does help to decrease their number. Conversely, disinfecting doesn’t remove germs, but kills those remaining on surfaces.

Should one of your employees test positive, the first steps toward eradicating the virus from workspaces includes blocking off potentially infected areas, while opening up any available airflow through windows. Then CDC guidelines say you should wait—up to 24 hours if possible—before cleaning and disinfecting. After evaluating where infected persons potentially worked and visited, surfaces should be cleaned with detergent, or soap and water, prior to disinfecting.

Proper disinfectants should be used, including either those made of Environmental Protection Agency-registered formulas, diluted household bleach, or solutions including at least 70% alcohol.

Note: If you’re using diluted bleach, CDC warns that it must be approved for the surface to be treated and it’s imperative that you follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper application and ventilation. It’s also important to ensure the product isn’t expired and to never mix materials including bleach with substances containing ammonia or other cleaners.

Bleach solutions for disinfecting can be made using five tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach per gallon of water, or four teaspoons per quart.

Note: When it comes to uniforms and other launderable items, CDC guidelines say don’t shake. Wash in accordance with instructions, but using the warmest setting allowable before thoroughly drying. It is acceptable to wash the clothing of infected persons with those of persons who aren’t infected, guidelines state. Lastly, don’t forget about storage containers used for clothing. Those should also be cleaned and disinfected.

For companies relying on their own cleaning staffs and/or other employees to conduct cleaning and disinfecting, officials warn that it’s inadvisable for employers to rely on commonsense measures or even basic guidelines. As with any matter pertaining to safety, training is imperative, including how to use the appropriate protective equipment, along with cleaners and disinfectants.

Those performing cleaning should wear disposable gloves and gowns throughout the process, including when they empty and handle trash receptacles. Also, CDC advises checking to ensure the gloves are compatible and approved for the types of cleaners and disinfectants used. Gloves should be taken off immediately after cleaning a room or area occupied by infected persons but removed carefully to avoid cross contamination. And while you might be tempted to think that it isn’t necessary to wash hands after wearing and removing protective gloves, CDC officials say do so immediately, while using the prescribed 20-second cycle.

Lastly, while workers might become accustomed to leaning on hand sanitizer amid day-to-day operations, in the event that hands are dirty, it’s important not to rely on those alcohol-based products alone, CDC warns. Just like surfaces, always start with a good cleaning via soap and water.

Note: It is important to know that the CDC’s recommendations may also be used for window film installers working on approved projects.

Darrell Smith, International Window Film Association (IWFA) executive director, gave the following safety suggestions for industry businesses: print out copies of the CDC’s recommendations and give it to staff to read and take home to share with their family members, and post the CDC’s recommendations in key areas in your shop and office locations, which could even be posted on your company website.

This article is from Focus on Film, the weekly e-newsletter that covers the latest news regarding window film and related products, including paint protection film. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Window Film magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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