Common workplace Covid-19 cleaning mistakes

A leading sanitisation and cleaning expert has revealed common workplace Covid-19 cleaning mistakes made in workplaces that are putting the health and safety of employees and visitors at risk.

Lisa Macqueen, co-founder and director at Australian anti-viral commercial cleaning company Cleancorp says “We have seen a significant proportion of organisations cutting corners or unaware of what the difference is between cleaning and Covid-19 disinfection services, thus putting in place poor practices that are doing little to protect employees and visitors from infection.”

Macqueen says Aussie remain anxious about future lockdowns and workplaces need to minimise virus-related risks on site.

“Employers whose employees’ contract Covid-19 because of poor or inadequate risk management in the workplace face serious penalties. They must be aware that old-fashioned cleaning practices, such as merely wiping down surfaces or using a single cloth for multiple surfaces, are inadequate for keeping surfaces virus-free,” she says.

8 common workplace health and safety mistakes

1. Failing to update to a new contingency plan

As fit-for-purpose disinfection equipment and chemicals have become more available and less costly since the start of the pandemic, the price of anti-viral commercial cleaning has also gone down.

However, many businesses still use the Covid-19 contingency plans they developed in February or March, and which locked in a preferred cleaning supplier at a high cost.

Macqueen says: “If they haven’t already, organisations should revisit their contingency plans to ensure they are not being overcharged or are locked into an old pricing schedule when they could be shopping around for more competitive rates.”

2. Tasking employees with cleaning

Many businesses, such as gyms, have tasked their employees with cleaning tasks throughout the day. However if the organisation and its employees have not received infection control training and are not following best practice methods, it is at the expense of the health and safety of all people on site.

3. Missing crucial touchpoints

Whether it’s employees cleaning throughout the day or professional cleaners coming in outside of hours, many important touchpoints are being forgotten. These include surfaces underneath chairs in hospitality premises – and the chairs themselves.  

4. Relying on spray-and-wipe techniques 

In too many commercial premises, Macqueen sees surfaces being sprayed and then immediately wiped when the key to properly disinfecting surfaces is allowing disinfectants to ‘cure’ for 10 minutes before wiping down. When cleaning an area that has had a confirmed case of Covid-19, hospital-grade disinfectants need to be used in the curing process. Letting a disinfectant cure ensures all bacteria is eradicated before wiping away.

5. Lack of transparency with employees and site visitors around cleaning practices 

It is not uncommon for businesses to display signage about Covid-19 and how to wash hands correctly.

However, businesses can also provide information about their effective infection control practices and products and will demonstrate they prioritise the health and safety of employees and customers, suggests Macqueen.

“Greater transparency from organisations around the cleaning tools, disinfectants, agents and techniques they are using is crucial for gaining the trust of their workers and customers, as well as ensuring that these people feel safer and more confident about their personal health and safety.”

6. Implementing rules for legislative compliance only, rather than for people’s safety

It’s important that workplace health and safety steps are undertaken to keep people safe, rather than simply a way to convey compliance with Government requirements. For example, a Covid-19 Safe Hygiene Marshall needs to be trained to identify and implement hygiene, social distancing and other safety measures on-site.

7. Using the same cleaning materials across multiple areas

Despite risks of cross-contamination, cleaners may use the same cloth to wipe down multiple pieces of equipment, tables, surfaces and rooms. Clean wipes must be used for every piece of equipment shared between people and rooms. Sufficient instruction and supervision should be provided to make sure that these surfaces are properly sanitised.

8. Applying the same rules to confirmed Covid-19 sites

How cleaning staff manage physical distancing is just as critical as how employees manage it. Organisations need to check that cleaners conducting a deep clean on a confirmed Covid-19 site follow more stringent social distancing on site.

As an example, Cleancorp has extended the 1.5-metre rule to 10 metres to ensure there is no close contact between staff on a confirmed Covid-19 site.

“We have also taken measures to ensure that all cleaners wear PPE before entering the site and have no contact with the client.”