The whole country knows (or should by now) that washing our hands helps prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Of the huge range of important daily tasks any care worker undertakes, at present, infection control is the most vital. Many, if not all, care providers across the UK are reinforcing their infection control and cleaning procedures. Here, we will share our six practical pieces of advice for managing the current crisis.
1. Commonly touched surfaces need more attention
In care homes especially, items and surfaces that are touched regularly should be cleaned more often than usual. This includes:
- Grab rails.
- Chair arms.
- Tables, including coffee tables.
- Sideboards and other surfaces.
- Remote controls.
- Frequently used buttons (for example, door entry buttons).
- Light switches.
These, and other frequently touched areas, should all be cleaned regularly in all areas of the home to help prevent any infection spreading.
In the current crisis, particular attention should be applied to communal areas, in addition to your normal room cleans.
2. Personal hygiene
One of the best ways to protect the people you support as well as care workers is to ensure everyone is looking after themselves. This includes washing hands regularly with water and soap and drying them with paper towels.
Paper towels are much more effective than hand dryers or the more modern jet dryers at helping to reduce the spread of infections. One study conducted by the University of Westminster found that traditional hand dryers spread 20 times more virus than paper towels, and jet dryers spread over 190 times more virus than paper towels.
Use hand sanitiser where appropriate but remember that alcohol levels must be over 60% for it to be effective.
Medical grade gloves and aprons are day to day essential bits of kit and should continue to be used as needed. Remember to change these after each use, to avoid spreading any infections around. It is also expected in the current crisis that additional protections be added in as needed. Moisture repellent face masks and face vizors are two key items, aimed at preventing any infections from entering through the mouth, nose, eyes and ears, but should only be used while caring for someone with suspected or diagnosed coronavirus or symptoms.
3. Use cleaning products correctly
In the current heightened atmosphere, it is easy to over-use cleaning products in an effort to prevent infection. However, it is important to ensure everyone’s safety by using the right products in the right ways and in the right places.
We would strongly recommend continuing to follow the directions for use for every cleaning chemical, as some substances can react with different surfaces. For example, bleach on safety (non-slip) flooring causes the floors to break down, tarnishing the surface and removing the anti-slip properties over time.
Colour-coding cleaning products can help to easily identify what should be used and where, and following suppliers’ guidelines for dilutions is important in keeping residents safe – and to keep costs at the appropriate level.
You should also make sure your products meet the appropriate standards, such as BSEN1276. This is one of the key standards for cleaning chemicals and provides proof of effectiveness against a range of harmful micro-organisms such as MRSA, salmonella, E. Coli, Flu Virus (H1N1) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Your supplier should be able to tell you whether your products meet these standards; however watch out for claims that products will kill COVID-19 as, while BSEN1276 is often proof that a product is effective against other viruses in the coronavirus family, no organisation has been able to test against COVID-19 specifically, due to the virus still being so new and access to laboratory samples being restricted.
Another vital part of infection control is making sure staff do not use the same cleaning items, such as cloths, in multiple areas of the home. Splitting these out so that you have dedicated materials for different rooms, often effective through the use of colour-coding, helps reduce the risk of cross contamination and spread of infection.
4. Get your COSHH training updated
With many care workers being asked to do more than ever, under increasing amounts of pressure, making sure that they feel well trained and prepared to meet the challenges that may come is important.
Speak to your current training provider and see if they are moving to, or can facilitate, online training or video support. While the merits versus face-to-face training can be debated, everything that can be done to help care workers feel confident and well trained in the right practices will provide huge benefits to your service.
5. Review your current practices
You will undoubtedly already have processes and procedures in place for infection control, and these should be kept together and consulted regularly at this time. Review these practices with the current outbreak in mind – are they robust enough? Go over them with staff if necessary, to ensure they understand what steps will be taken. In addition to hopefully providing some peace of mind, this makes sure that you are prepared and ready should the worst happen.
It also gives you a chance to review and refine your procedures, as well as check that the chemicals you use are the most effective for the job. Finally, it also provides a centralised place, should you have to self-isolate and another member of staff pick up responsibility for this.
6. Reuse your spray bottles
At present, one of the issues suppliers are feeding through is that there is a worldwide shortage of spray-top bottles.
Many suppliers are telling us that, while they are struggling to keep up with demand, they are perfectly able to keep producing the chemicals needed for cleaning. However, the lack of plastic spray-top bottles means that, while you may not be able to get your usual ready-to-use bottle, you will be able to get larger containers of what you need, which can be decanted into spray bottles. In addition to helping you keep stocked up, larger containers often offer better ‘per use’ costs.
It’s important if you do choose to decant from large containers into smaller bottles to ensure that your bottles are clearly labelled to prevent the wrong chemicals being used when cleaning.
As always, all chemicals and cleaning products should be stored in a safe, secure place, such as a lockable cleaning trolley.
Ben Kilbey is Business Development Manager at Spearhead Healthcare. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What ways are you finding to ensure best practice infection control during coronavirus? Share your tips and experiences and leave feedback on this article below.