Once again, the cold and flu season presents serious problems for your employees and tenants. Every year businesses are afforded more sick days during the fall and winter months than any other season, and it takes a toll on every company’s bottom line. So how can you reduce seasonal illness in your office? While there are many possible solutions, make sure your janitorial service is using the right methods for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting the key areas in your facility.
The difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing
Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are touched often
Follow standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting. Typically, this means daily sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, faucet handles, and phones. Standard procedures often call for disinfecting specific areas like bathrooms, copy rooms, kitchens and cafeterias.
Simply do routine cleaning and disinfecting
It’s important to match your cleaning and disinfecting activities to the types of germs you want to remove or kill. Most studies have shown that the flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for only 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on a surface. Therefore, it is not necessary to clean or disinfect every surface in the building to slow the spread of flu.
Flu viruses are relatively fragile, so standard cleaning and disinfecting practices are sufficient to remove or kill them. Special cleaning and disinfecting processes, including wiping down walls and ceilings, frequently using room air deodorizers, and fumigating, are not necessary or recommended. These processes can irritate eyes, noses, throats, and skin; aggravate asthma; and cause other serious side effects.
Clean and disinfect correctly
Always follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants. Wash surfaces with a general household cleaner to remove germs. Rinse with water, and follow with an EPA-registered disinfectant to kill germs. Read the label to make sure it states that EPA has approved the product for effectiveness against influenza A virus. If an EPA-registered disinfectant is not available, use a fresh chlorine bleach solution.
If a surface is not visibly dirty, you can clean it with an EPA-registered product that both cleans (removes germs) and disinfects (kills germs) instead. Be sure to read the label directions carefully, as there may be a separate procedure for using the product as a cleaner or as a disinfectant. Disinfection usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a certain period of time.
Use disinfecting wipes on electronic items that are touched often, such as phones and computers. Pay close attention to the directions for using disinfecting wipes. It may be necessary to use more than one wipe to keep the surface wet for the stated length of contact time. Make sure that the electronics can withstand the use of liquids for cleaning and disinfecting.
- Make it a policy to educate employees to wash their hands thoroughly.
- A daily tip on computers when employees sign-on helps to remind staff about the importance of washing their hands is the #1 solution to eliminate germs.
- Ask staff to stay home if they are sick – this reduces the chances of everyone getting sick at the office especially if you have a small office.
- Provide sanitizers in each desk / station.
- Ensure your office HVAC Systems are well maintained and used properly.
Source: Excerpts from the CDC Center for Disease Control and Prevention/Influenza 2014