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Your office colleagues are spluttering and falling like flies… it’s just that time of year? Yes, but you can take steps to control the spread of infection, says Ashley White, Commercial and Safety Manager of Nviro. The cleaning and FM specialist shares some tips.

Here’s a very old joke: “I had a little bird, its name was Enza, and I opened the window, and in flew Enza.” Actually, it’s a children’s playground rhyme from the 1918 Spanish ‘Flu pandemic.

Thankfully we’re not in the middle of a highly virulent outbreak that’s mutated from chickens or pigs. But a lot of us are falling sick. And each year the flu season costs employers millions of pounds in sickness and absenteeism.

So is there anything we as cleaning service providers or facilities managers can do to help?

Some of the public health advice of nearly 100 years ago was pretty sound. Cinema managers, for example – contrary to the ditty – had to clear their premises and the air every four hours, opening all windows.

Unfortunately, air pollution is another problem in many cities. Anyway, opening windows is not an option in most modern office buildings. In ventilation systems we trust. But we don’t have to be passive.

Here are some tips to combat the influenza, cold and other viruses in the air and on surfaces all around us in the workplace at this time of year.

It makes sense to adapt your cleaning regime during the winter months to include daily wipe-downs of contact points. Frequency is important, as cleaned surfaces will soon be re- contaminated by airborne viruses and people’s hands.

Virus hot-spots include touch points such as door handles, table tops, taps, phones and computer keyboards – and also any enclosed spaces where people gather, like a coffee or lunch room.

Microfibre cloths are effective, if replaced frequently enough

62 | Tomorrow’s Cleaning February 2016

and washed thoroughly. Or use a disinfectant, but take care not to introduce chemicals that could trigger allergies or asthma.

Some disinfectants will be more effective than others. To increase the level of protection and infection control select a virucidal chemical. This will clean thoroughly and deodorise while killing microbes.

Virucidal or anti-bacterial hand sanitisers should be considered. They also serve to reinforce the message to employees that hand-washing is important. It might seem obvious, but issuing a reminder at this time of year – especially if there’s a wave of illness at work – can prompt people to take more care. The combination of disinfectants and proper hand hygiene reduces the spread of viruses significantly.

But that still leaves viruses circulating in the air from sneezes and coughs. Airborne microgens can be eliminated by air purification systems. These are most often associated with washrooms, where

they do the job of removing offensive odours – not by masking them with fragrance – but by destroying the faecal and other micro-organisms released into the air by toilets.

These also settle on surfaces in washrooms, along with other bacteria and viruses, from where they’re spread around the building (especially by unwashed hands).

Air purification also has a role to play in offices and other enclosed spaces where infection needs to be controlled. This can be a chemical- free measure. For example, an AirSteril unit uses thermal convection to draw air into its cleaning chamber, where it is sanitised by ultra-violet light and ozone before it recirculates.

These common-sense steps and enhanced cleaning measures, if professionally executed, should control most typical seasonal infections, avoiding serious disruption to an organisation. But what if it’s too late or there’s a major outbreak regardless?

The priority then is to halt the spread and avoid a second wave of contagion. Full decontamination cleaning methods during a shutdown or over a weekend are needed to purge the office environment. Depending on the circumstances, the methods involved can include chemical fogging, steam cleaning and other sanitisation techniques.

A professional contract cleaner should know what to do. Apart from opening the windows. A dread dose of the lurgy – and the loss of productivity it can cause – is no joke.

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