Quick Fixes for a Safe and Healthy Facility

Navigating the new “normal” in the midst of the pandemic goes beyond cleaning and disinfecting: you need to instill trust and peace of mind in your employees and guests.

As COVID-19 continues to be top of mind globally, making our way back to something that loosely resembles “normal” brings anxiety and uncertainty to the vast majority of consumers. Facility managers and their staff are not immune to these feelings and stand on the front lines as they welcome guests back. Navigating the changes that have been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic goes beyond implementing new cleaning products and procedures. It is your job to focus on the cleanliness, health and safety of your facilities so you can instill the confidence and peace of mind your employees need in this new world.

There are three top concerns that facility managers and their teams should continually address as stay at home orders relax and businesses reopen.

1. What products, tools, and processes should be used to keep a space clean and safe?

2. How do I implement and adhere to social distancing guidelines and health and safety best practices?

3. How do I assure my employees that we are doing all we can to keep them safe?

These questions are on everyone’s minds and can feel overwhelming; however, with careful consideration they can bring about safer practices and peace of mind for your employees.

A Shift in Process and Protocol

Existing cleaning and disinfecting protocols vary greatly across organizations. A small local shop may have taken the time to sweep out their facility before reopening the next day, whereas a medical clinic may have already had a robust daily cleaning and disinfection regimen in place before the pandemic. If COVID-19 has taught us anything however, it’s that it doesn’t matter the type or size of your organization—cleanliness, and disinfection efforts are critical.

In response to the pandemic, suddenly the responsibility to maintain a clean and disinfected space extends beyond that of the custodial team. Entry-level employees through C-suite executives are being asked to disinfect their spaces and areas of guest interaction. It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach, which can be extremely helpful as facility managers find their to-do lists increasing. But, all of these additional hands can prove ineffective if the proper tools, products and training are not in place. This is where facility managers can help lead the charge.

Before going back to business, all cleaning and disinfection protocols should be audited or created if they didn’t already exist before the pandemic. Creating a cleaning checklist can be helpful for your team to run through each day. But before that checklist is created, it is helpful to take a step back and evaluate your cleanliness indicators.

Measuring Cleanliness Indicators

Customer cleanliness indicators provide an assessment of what a customer perceives to be clean versus not clean. It requires looking at all physical aspects of your facility including floors, counters and tables as well as assessing things such as hand sanitizer availability, use of disposable wipes and ease of wayfinding directions.

To understand cleanliness indicators, talk to your employees to determine what is most important to them. Learn about their pain points or what they are most worried about. Including them in the process will prove valuable and also help you to build brand loyalty and trust.

Once you have an understanding of your cleanliness indicators, you can:

1. Rate them by importance.

2. Grade your current facility on each of the indicators.

3. Compare grading to the relative importance given by customers to understand and uncover disparities.

4. Create a roadmap to first address all high importance and low graded indicators followed by establishing a plan for ongoing cleaning efforts to address lower priority indicators.

Creating confidence in clean starts with the perception of how a facility looks and follows with how transparent the organization is with its processes.

Building Confidence in Your Clean

The average consumer’s awareness of their surroundings has heightened during the pandemic. So now, more than ever, it is vital to build their confidence in the cleanliness of your organization. So much of the work you do is behind the scenes and unseen by guests. One can’t easily tell if a counter was recently disinfected or if a floor was dusted last night. It is up to you to make sure your guests are aware of the cleaning, disinfecting and safety efforts that are being put in place. Using branded signage and graphics can communicate vital safety and business information and show the public what you are doing to protect their health and safety.

This builds their confidence and trust in your brand. Your customers want to know that you are following city, state and national guidelines to keep them safe. A carefully crafted message on signage, in an email campaign, and even across social media, can set the appropriate tone and ease the minds of all who enter your space.

In an effort to be transparent, consider posting public signage outlining your cleaning and disinfecting routine. Make signs visible and in places where customers are most likely to look such as on the front door, on a restroom mirror or next to a checkout line. It is also valuable for customers to see employees cleaning and disinfecting, whether that is wiping down handles of shopping carts, or spraying off keypads after each use.

Carefully Clean and Disinfect

Examine the types of surfaces you have in your space and determine the right cleaning products for those surfaces. This will be key. Is there an opportunity to get rid of hard to launder textiles that trap dirt and dust? Can you find tools that help with efficiency by taking care of multiple cleaning steps in one? As we become more accustomed to this new normal, productivity will become even more important. You will have to find ways to do more with less and make the products and tools you use work harder. As such, seeking out solutions that aid efficiency will be beneficial.

To properly disinfect, you must first understand if your disinfectant will effectively kill the pathogen, like coronavirus, that you are addressing. Then, you and your team must understand how to properly clean with such chemicals and tools.

With so much information out there, how do you know if you have the right disinfectant in place?

  • Check your labels. Make sure you are utilizing disinfecting and antimicrobial products that have been labeled and registered for use against the types of viruses you are intending to mitigate by the Environmental Protection Agency1 (EPA).
  • With emerging pathogens like the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), information changes rapidly. Always check with the EPA’s “Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides”2 to find disinfectants that have been approved for “off-label” use against a novel virus.
  • Refer to the manufacturer’s website for more information about your disinfectant.
  • Stay on top of cleaning and disinfecting requirements and approvals dictated by your county and local leadership.

Once the appropriate tools and products are in place, employees need to be given the training to use them safely and effectively. Factors such as dwell time, dilution accuracy and the importance of using a chemical management system are all factors that not all employees have been privy to in the past. Providing simplified training upfront can not only build your employees’ confidence but also help you to share the responsibility of keeping your space clean and safe for all.

Quick cleaning and disinfecting tips to consider:

1. Dwell times can range dramatically from 10 quick seconds to 10 or more minutes. Always follow instructions on the bottle to ensure the product you are using is sitting long enough to kill the intended germs.

2. Dusting and cleaning need to come before disinfecting efforts. It is important to remove all contaminants first to prime a surface for disinfecting later.

3. To eliminate the unintended spreading of germs, switch to single-use dust sheets, cleaning wipes and towels.

4. The proper personal protective equipment (PPE), should be worn by all employees even during cleaning efforts. Hand washing best practices should be enforced during the cleaning process as well.

Social Distancing Standards

Businesses have had to quickly determine a social distancing strategy to protect both their guests and their employees. As a result, implementing wayfinding best practices and clear and helpful signage is more important than ever. Visual solutions like floor graphics to keep patrons in a line six feet apart from one another, or window or wall graphics that communicate the flow of traffic will help maintain social distancing guidelines. Not only will adding signage keep your guests be safer physically, but when utilized strategically, it will provide them with a sense of comfort and assurance.

It is important to remember that this is an unprecedented and evolving time. As such, it is critical to stay informed of developing guidelines and best practices put into place by organizations such as the CDC3 and OSHA.4 Always root your organization’s health and safety protocols in the most up-to-date data and information, and implement processes based on a statewide or county by county basis per governor discretion.

By carefully assessing your cleaning and disinfecting protocols, being transparent with your employees and guests about your health and safety initiatives and implementing social distancing guidelines, you can confidently tackle this new normal.


1 https://www.epa.gov/

2 https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19

3 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html

4 https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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