Knowing what steps to take to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our workplaces may not always be clear. During this time of information overload, finding reliable data to help guide our decision making can be a definite challenge. That’s why our in-house occupational health and safety experts are continuing to create and share best practices, resource kits, health screening assessment tools, and other timely information and guidance in our COVID-19 Resource Center to help your organization navigate through the pandemic.
In that respect, we all need to remember to keep doing two key things during this crisis: wash our hands and regularly disinfect the areas where we work, whether that’s at the office, plant, or home. Yet regular cleaning and disinfecting can expose your employees to different chemicals used in cleaning solutions. That’s why now is a good time to ensure your workers are properly trained to handle and use these chemicals safely - before an injury or illness occurs.
COVID-19 Workplace Disinfection Guidance
Below you'll find guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA on how to best disinfect your facility, as well as the recommended disinfectants for use against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
While the best cleaning solution to kill the virus involves bleach and water, we need to remember that even these common solutions can present health and safety risks. It’s for this reason we are suggesting that employers ensure that their workforce is properly trained on how to handle these chemicals safely. Proper training on the right cleaning solutions to use will also help prevent workers from creating potentially hazardous solutions of their own.
Keep in mind if you do not provide clear guidance and training to your employees, they can easily take matters into their own hands and make decisions that could endanger themselves and others. In November 2019, an employee of a major food retailer in Massachusetts died after being exposed to toxic fumes caused by the accidental combination of chemical cleaning products in their kitchen. At least 13 others were hospitalized.
Accidental chemical exposure can happen. This is why OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), as well as Canada’s WHMIS program and the EU’s ECHA emphasize employee training and ready access to information on chemical products used in the workplace. In most cases, incidents can be prevented if employees are provided with regular training and access to guidance on how to use products safely.
6 Tips to Ensure Safe Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting During COVID-19
Since COVID-19 is new and your employees will likely be concerned or fearful, below are some pointers to consider as you evaluate your risks and operational readiness:
- Prevent the wrong materials from being purchased - Ensure the right experts are reviewing and approving cleaning and disinfecting chemicals being purchased. If your operations are allowed to purchase locally, we strongly suggest you provide a list of approved products or have them check with the appropriate occupational health & safety professional to review the material being purchased. Be sure to review the lists of approved materials for the US, Canada, and Europe.
- Be Proactive - Ensure your facilities have the right materials on hand for disinfecting based on their unique operational scenario.
- Provide Updated Training - Ensure you are providing updated chemical product training for those who are being asked to conduct cleaning and disinfecting.
- Verify you have the correct PPE - Ensure you have the right PPE in place based on the chemicals selected and your operational conditions.
- Check Access to SDSs - Ensure employees have access to the SDSs for the products used, so they can check and verify they have the right PPE suggested by the provider.
- Trust but verify - Ensure managers and supervisors are trained to verify that the appropriate procedures and PPE are being used as recommended by your occupational health and safety experts.