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Good practice for Covid-secure organisations in 2021
As businesses and other organisations emerge from the pandemic, there will be a renewed focus on the health & safety of workplaces. Risk assessments will need to be updated to ensure that staff, customers and other visitors are not exposed to harmful microorganisms.
However, Adrian Gee-Turner from the manufacturer of Nemesis eH2O, says: "In addition to protecting people from enveloped viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, it will also be necessary to protect people from other viruses, bacteria, fungi and some of the more harmful microbes.
"In order to achieve this, it is important that a disinfectant with proven, certified broad-spectrum effectivity is employed, and that appropriate disinfection measures are implemented. Risk assessments should therefore include every instance in which people have the potential to come into contact with pathogens.
"This does not mean that organisations should strive to achieve a sterile environment; it simply means that the greatest sources of potential exposure should be identified, so that mitigation measures can be created to limit the levels of exposure. This is because, in the case of Covid-19, the viral load appears to be a significant factor in disease transmission."
Traditional health and safety risk assessments address hazards such as slips and trips, heavy objects, repetitive injury, falling, stress, electric shock, fire and lone working, but to create Covid-secure environments, organisations will need to also include an assessment of biological risk. It will therefore be necessary to identify potential sources of pathogenic microorganisms as well as their modes and paths of transmission.
According to the Gov.uk website: SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory (droplet and aerosol) and contact routes. Transmission risk is highest where people are in close proximity (within 2 metres). Airborne transmission can occur in health and care settings in which procedures or support treatments that generate aerosols are performed. Airborne transmission may also occur in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, particularly if individuals are in the same room together for an extended period of time.
Clearly, risk assessments will need to address the key potential transmission methods - airborne (mainly indoors) and contact (people and surfaces).
Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using an effective hand sanitiser, regularly throughout the day will reduce the risk of catching or passing on the virus. This is because hands can transfer microbes from one person to another and can cause infection when an individual touches their own face with contaminated hands.
Repeated washing with soap or alcohol based sanitisers can dry or damage skin so a disinfectant such as Nemesis eH2O would be preferable because it is highly effective without harming skin. It is important to note that some anti-bacterial products are not effective against viruses, and as such should be avoided.
Research has shown that SARS-CoV-2 is able to remain viable on a variety of surfaces, including glass and plastic, for extended periods (days). It is therefore important to identify those surfaces that are most frequently touched - keypads, phones, tablets, screens, tables, light switches, office and factory equipment etc. These surfaces should be regularly sprayed with an effective disinfectant that contains no materials that are harmful to people or surfaces.
When spraying touch points, it is important to ensure complete coverage of the target surface, so, after spraying, it may be necessary to wipe the surface with a clean cloth. However, consideration should be given to the 'contact time' of the disinfectant - the time required for the disinfectant to be in contact (wet) with the virus for effective deactivation. In the case of Nemesis eH2O the contact time is just a few seconds, but for some products it is several minutes.
Viruses can pass from one person to another when an infected person exhales or coughs; causing the release of aerosol particles which may land on surfaces or be inhaled by other people. Social distancing helps to reduce the risk level, in addition to other measures such as ventilation and the provision of fresh air.
Touch points and hands can be sprayed as outlined above, but it may be necessary to fog larger areas such as offices, shops, gymnasiums, pubs, hotels, restaurants, theatres, schools, universities, churches, sports stadia and factories. Foggers generate aerosolised particles of disinfectants such as Nemesis eH2O at high speed, which allows fogging activities to penetrate remote areas that may be difficult to reach or access. All of the Nemesis eH2O product sizes contain ready-to-use stabilised hypochlorous acid in either a hand spray or for use with a fogger. One of the key advantages of this product is that it contains so substances that are hazardous to human health, which means that COSHH regulations do not apply and a fogged room can be re-entered immediately.
Typically, one-litre of Nemesis eH2O would be sufficient to fog a room of around 100sq.m. Fogged Nemesis eH2O should be allowed to settle onto all surfaces for 30 seconds to one minute before wiping off smooth surfaces such as table tops, sideboards and glass surfaces. Naturally, care must be taken with electrical equipment which is over 10 years old or has a water ingression protection (IP) rating of less than five.
The key elements of a risk assessment would include:
* Identify major touch points, and establish a disinfection strategy including type of disinfectant, application procedures and frequency
* Provide appropriate hand washing or sanitisation facilities
* Implement social distancing measures
* Provide appropriate signage and engagement procedures to ensure compliance
* Measure compliance to inform future strategy
* Consider the necessity for surface contamination testing to measure effectiveness and inform ongoing strategy
* Assess risks from airborne transmission and ensure the provision of fresh air
The choice of disinfectant will be critical to the success of a Covid-secure policy, and the ideal product would have the following features:
1. Compliant with BS EN 14476 as well as the European Biocidal Products Regulations
2. Highly effective against a broad spectrum of microorganisms, but containing no substances that are hazardous to human health
3. Suitable for use as a hand/surface sanitiser as well as a fogged disinfectant
4. Allows immediate re-entry after fogging
5. Proven high levels of effectivity, such as 99.9999% effective against harmful bacteria
6. Leaves no harmful residue
This list of ideal requirements would be difficult for many products to achieve but Adrian Gee-Turner says: "These are the reasons behind the success of Nemesis eH2O, which is now the gold standard for commercial cleaning companies that provide disinfection services.”
7th January 2021