8 common health and safety mistakes workplaces are making on-site
Many Australians remain anxious about returning to the workplace, where employers have a primary responsibility to minimise virus-related risks. There are hefty penalties for employers who don’t follow Government restrictions and guidelines, and an employee suffers serious health consequences as a result. Anti-viral cleaning is now essential to avoid regulatory breaches and maximise employee safety, and employers should be aware that traditional cleaning practices are insufficient to keep workplaces virus-free.
Unfortunately, I have seen a significant number of workplaces cutting corners or unaware of the difference between general cleaning and COVID-19 sanitisation, thus applying poor practices that do not protect employees and visitors from infection.
1 - Firstly, a common mistake made by organisations is failure to update to a new contingency plan. Many organisations are using a COVID contingency plan that they developed in March. Since then, however, the costs for commercial cleaning have reduced. For instance, Cleancorp has reduced its cleaning price per square metre, as products and equipment have become more readily available, while some cleaning services are still charging $30 per square metre.
2 - Secondly, many small businesses such as gyms and small offices have tasked their employees with spot cleaning throughout the day. However, if the organisation and employees have not undertaken any formal training in anti-viral cleaning, the job is unlikely to be well done, and the health and safety risks to employees and visitors could remain high.
3 - Another overlooked area is shared touchpoints. Whether they are being cleaned during the day by employees or after hours by professionals, touchpoints such as door handles, light switches, and the underside of chairs – especially in hospitality premises – are often overlooked during cleaning. Businesses should check their cleaning provider gives these areas adequate attention.
4 - Not allowing surfaces to ‘cure’ is another common mistake. When cleaning an area with a confirmed case of COVID-19, the use of hospital-grade disinfectants and a curing process is essential. In too many commercial premises, I see surfaces being sprayed and then immediately wiped when the key to properly disinfecting surfaces is allowing the solution to ‘cure’ for 10 minutes before wiping down. By applying this process, organisations can ensure all bacteria is eradicated before wiping away.
5 - Lack of information for visitors and employers is a common oversight in workplaces. Many businesses display signage about keeping COVID safe, but workplaces should also provide information on their infection control practices and the efficacy of the products they use. For organisations to gain the employees and customers' trust, they would do well to provide greater transparency on the cleaning tools, disinfectants, and techniques applied to cleaning surfaces. This will make workers and customers feel safer and more confident they are staying hygienic.
6 - I also see organisations implementing rules for legislative compliance only, rather than for their employees and visitors' safety. Hiring a COVID-19 Safe Hygiene Marshal who has not undergone adequate formal training in infection control, social restrictions and sanitisation will present a risk to people entering the premises.
7 - Practices that risk cross-contamination is an addition mistake made by cleaners who are not well-trained. Cleaners and employees on sites such as restaurants, cafes, fitness facilities and gyms often use the same cloth to wipe down multiple pieces of equipment, tables, surfaces and rooms. On the contrary, every new surface must be cleaned with a fresh wipe to ensure that surfaces are adequately sanitised.
8 - Lastly, organisations who have a confirmed COVID infection in their workplace should check that cleaners conduct a deep clean and, while doing so, follow more stringent social distancing on the premises. At Cleancorp, we have extended the 1.5-metre rule to 10 metres when deep cleaning a site with a confirmed case to ensure there is no close contact between our staff. We have also taken measures to ensure that all cleaners wear PPE before entering the site and have no contact with the client.
The eight common workplace mistakes outlined are easily preventable with a good contingency plan, adequate training and, most importantly, a reputable anti-viral cleaning provider. These are precautions that I hope organisations will take on board to ensure the safety of employees and visitors on their site.
Lisa Macqueen, Co-Founder and Director at Cleancorp has more than 25 years’ experience in sales and marketing for large international hotel chains and has developed strong expertise in strategic marketing and automation. A highly regarded media commentator, Lisa has appeared regularly on the Brian Tracy Show on CBS, NBC, and FOX Affiliates in the US, as well as the ABC in Australia. Lisa is co-author of Power Principles for Success – Volume 2, which achieved best-seller status in two Amazon.com categories.