COVID-19 Cleaning Advice for Offices and Contact Centres

 

The government has recently published updated guidance documentation on how employers should be managing the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, and what measures should be introduced to mitigate these. Below, we have paraphrased much of this guidance, and have made some suggestions of ways that cleaning contractors may be able to enhance their offering and help their clients meet their safety obligations in the current crisis. We understand that many of these you may have already considered and put into place, but we hope this helps as a guide to consider more of the services and support that could be made and offered in workplaces. Please note this is not intended to change or replace the guidance given in the official publication, and all decisions should be made based on the original document, professional guidance and your own risk assessments. See link to the original in the ‘helpful links’ section at the bottom of this article.

 


Working safely during COVID-19 in offices and contact centres

It is important to understand how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to keep as many people as possible 2 metres apart from those they don’t live with. This provides useful guidance for people who work in offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.

(Public health is devolved in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; this guidance should be considered alongside local public health and safety requirements and legislation in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For advice to businesses in other parts of the UK please see guidance set by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government, and the Welsh Government).

 

Thinking about risk

Companies will have created a risk assessment to cover the risks presented by working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies who aren’t enforcing social distancing and other preventative measures within their workplace will be dealt with by the HSE or local authority. As a cleaning contractor, you have the opportunity to proactively identify potential issues and help them achieve this compliance. It is important to recognise that businesses will need more regular cleaning and a rigorous sanitising programme to fight against the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Managing risk

Steps must be taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Businesses will ensure that working from home is a first option and comply with government social distancing guidelines (keeping people 2m apart) if this isn’t possible. Screens and barriers and side-to-side or back-to-back seating will also be implemented where necessary. As a cleaning contractor, your client would be grateful of your cooperation to ensure frequent cleaning of surfaces is taking place. Sanitising and disinfecting surfaces as well as general cleaning is important to combat the virus. There are various fast and effective methods available to disinfect offices after cleaning.

 

Social distancing at work

Social distancing must be maintained within the workplace wherever possible. Where this is impossible, all possible action should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission between staff, hence sanitisation is very important. Social distancing applies to all parts of the business, including entrances, exits, break rooms, canteens etc. You may wish to consider ways to work with your clients to help them achieve this, for example adjusting shift patterns and cleaning when at lower occupancy levels.

Coming to/leaving work

Businesses should be implementing measures to control hygiene in entering/ leaving the workplace, including staggered arrival/ departure times and providing hand sanitiser facilities at entryways and exits. Cleaning contractors can help by ensuring all door handles and other frequently touched surfaces are regularly cleaned and disinfected, and by cleaning at a time when few people are around.

 

Moving around buildings and worksites

Non-essential trips within buildings and sites are discouraged and one-way flow through the buildings is also recommended. Changes to lifts should also be implemented, including reducing maximum occupancy and providing hand sanitiser inside.

 

Workplaces and workstations

Workstations should allow people to social distance and shouldn’t be shared; if it’s necessary for them to be shared, it must be by the smallest possible number of people. Floor tape and paint can be used to help workers keep a 2m distance and hot desks and spaces should be avoided. Cleaning contractors can help by ensuring that workstations are thoroughly cleaned and sanitised regularly, paying particular attention to items that are frequently touched.

Meetings

Meetings should be held in well-ventilated spaces wherein all necessary occupants can keep to social distancing guidelines. Hand sanitiser should also be provided in meeting rooms.

 

Common areas

It is recommended that additional space/ outside areas are made available to workers so that social distancing guidelines can be adhered to. Seating and tables should also be rearranged to maintain spacing. Use of locker rooms, changing areas and other facility areas should also be regulated. It’s important to ensure that these areas are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected also.

 

Managing your customers, visitors and contractors

Manage contacts/ Providing guidance

To manage unnecessary visits to offices, businesses are trying to ensure that visitor times are planned to avoid overlap and reduce interaction between people. They are also providing social distancing and hygiene guidance. As a cleaning contractor, you may be able to help a business in their planning by offering a robust cleaning and sanitising schedule that allows for their revised working conditions. Visiting at a time when few people are in the building, and showing a pro-active, consultative approach is more relevant than ever, and will give your clients even greater confidence in your service. It’s also a good idea to provide reminders of hygiene advice where you store your cleaning supplies as well as other designated spaces.

 

Cleaning the workplace

Before reopening

Any site that has been closed must be cleaned before reopening. There should be an assessment for all sites that have been closed before restarting work. Cleaning procedures should be carried out and hand sanitiser provided before restarting. You should also check whether ventilation systems need to be serviced/ adjusted so ventilation levels don’t automatically adjust due to lower occupancy levels.

Keeping the workplace clean

These steps should be followed to ensure thorough cleaning of the workplace:

  • Frequently clean work areas/ equipment between uses.
  • Frequently clean objects/ surfaces that are touched regularly e.g. door handles and keyboards, and make sure there are enough disposal arrangements.
  • Clear work-spaces and remove waste/ belongings from the work area at the end of a shift.
  • Limit/ restrict use of high-touch items and equipment e.g. printers
  • Refer to specific guidance when cleaning after a known/ suspected case of COVID-19 [2]

 

Hygiene – hand washing, sanitation facilities and toilets

Businesses should provide signs/ posters to build awareness of good hand washing technique, the need to increase hand washing frequency, avoid touching your face and to cough/ sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue isn’t available.  Businesses should provide hand sanitiser in multiple locations in addition to washrooms and set clear use/ cleaning guidance for toilets to ensure they are kept clean. It would be good to collaborate with the employer to ensure that they are happy with the cleaning process. Cleaning should be enhanced in busy areas, and more waste facilities and frequent rubbish collection should be provided, along with hand drying facilities.

Changing rooms and showers

Businesses should provide clear use and cleaning guidance for changing rooms and showers, whilst ensuring that 2m distancing is kept to in these areas. All facilities should be regularly cleaned during and at the end of the day. You may want to consider visible notices that the cleaning operatives can update with the time/s these areas were last cleaned – making it visual can provide reassurance to visitors and clients.

 

Handling goods, merchandise and other materials, and onsite vehicles

Businesses should have cleaning procedures regarding handling goods etc and should provide adequate hygiene facilities and hand sanitiser for those entering the site. Onsite vehicles should be regularly cleaned. This is a potential opportunity for you, as a cleaning contractor, to extend your portfolio and consider offering more specialist cleaning services to clients.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and face coverings

PPE protects against health and safety risks at work. However, additional PPE beyond what you normally wear is not advised to combat COVID-19 risk, as COVID-19 is a different type of risk and should be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering.

This is with the exception of clinical settings, like a hospital, or other roles for which Public Health England advises use of PPE, e.g. first responders and immigration enforcement officers. Advice for these groups is found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronaviruscovid-19-personal-protective-equipment-ppe-plan/covid-19personal-protective-equipment-ppe-plan

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings/covid-19decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings.

Unless the risk of COVID-19 transmission is very high, a business’ risk assessment should state that the role of PPE in providing additional protection is very limited. However, if the assessment shows that PPE is required, this PPE must be provided free of charge to workers who need it, and it must fit properly. However, do not forget that changes to old approaches and the introduction of new cleaning/sanitising methods may require a review of appropriate PPE.

Face coverings

Face coverings do not protect you, but they may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms. Evidence of the benefit of a face covering to protect others is weak, so face coverings should not replace other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact, using fixed teams and partnering and increasing hand and surface washing.

A face covering can be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. Supplies of PPE, including face coverings should be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers.

Wearing a face covering is optional and not required by law. If you choose to wear one, you should use them properly and wash your hands before putting them on/ taking them off. Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely by telling them:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds/ use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on and after removing it.
  • Avoid touching your face or your face covering.
  • Change your face covering if it gets damps or if you’ve touched it.
  • Continue to wash your hands regularly.
  • Change/ wash your face covering daily.
  • Wash the material in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste.
  • Practise social distancing.

Advice for wearing and making face coverings can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-wear-and-make-a-cloth-face-covering/how-to-wear-and-make-a-cloth-face-covering

Workforce management

Shift patterns and working groups

Where contact is unavoidable, fixed teams can be created to ensure individuals have contact with only a few people. If you are providing cleaning services in larger premises, you may wish to consider introducing a similar arrangement, ensuring cleaning teams for specific areas do not unnecessarily move from one area of the building to another.

 

Communications and training

Returning to work

Businesses should provide clear and consistent communication regarding any changes or procedures put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Cleaning contractors should also be aware of these procedures in order to come in line with the business’ requirements.

 

Inbound and outbound goods

Pick-up and drop-off collection points should be revised to ensure that minimal contact between people takes place on site. This is also important for supplies of cleaning equipment and consumables. You may wish to make suitable arrangements with your client and speak to your suppliers who should help you to manage this task efficiently.

 


Useful Links

Original Government Publication: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres

Business Support: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

Government Coronavirus Information Page: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

ISSA Coronavirus Cleaning Guidance and Information: https://www.issa.com/cleaning-and-disinfecting-for-the-coronavirus-sars-ov-2

References

[1] https://hsegov.microsoftcrmportals.com/workingsafelyenquiries/

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings

Downloads

Coronavirus Handwashing Advice

Coronavirus Cleaning and Decontaminating Advice