COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
During this unprecedented time, we are regularly receiving questions regarding COVID-19, therefore have compiled this list of FAQs. There is also a page dedicated to the ongoing impacts COVID-19 is having on our industry, featuring regular updates from the BCC, click here for further information. Here is also the latest update from WHO.
Please see the government advice pertaining to non-healthcare cleaning on their website. You should also continue to refer to the Public Health Agency website for the latest health advice. To view further details on how to work safely during COVID-19 please click here.
Please view here a sample risk assessment produced for Covid-19.
Following recent request, the first version of the exist strategy has been provided by De Montfort University. Please click here to view document.
Please click here for an informative document from ISSA outlining useful cleaning steps to take when reopening sites for the public.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have produced guidance regarding choosing hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants (see link) which may be of interest.
Cleaning student accommodation where there are/have been residents in self-isolation with symptoms
You can get ‘touchless’ disinfection ‘foggers’ that you can put into accommodation suites. They are normally for bug infestation but you can put any appropriate chemical through them. You can hire or buy these. There are options online. This is an option for those who want to avoid manual cleaning at the moment. The other option is to close the building for 3 days as the Virus can only survive outside a host for a maximum 72 hours.
This is an appropriate response if Public Health identify someone as high risk. If they have been in close contact, you can clean and store waste until verified yes or no then dispose or incinerate see guidelines. If they are positive then close for 3 days or disinfect and incinerate like with all other body fluids. Normally mild detergent or temp over 60 degrees will kill it the virus.
Q. Where there are flats whose residents are self-isolating, how should their waste - Food, DMR, Glass, General Waste – be managed? Should students continue to take their own waste out to external bin stores, or should their waste be taken out to bin stores via University staff?
A. While the information provided does not specify the situation for those in university halls of residence, do read the guidance provided by the Government under the subheading ‘Cleaning and Household Waste’.
Cleaning and university staff should avoid entering a property in which somebody is displaying COVID-19 symptoms, therefore the students should manage their waste for the self-isolation period. Possible solutions include:
1) Advise students to keep their waste aside for 72 hours before taking it out, whilst staff maintain touch point cleaning in communal areas to reduce risks of infection
2)Advise students to keep waste until the end of their self-isolation period (acknowledging that there are some other considerations here regarding smell / volumes etc which need to be considered)
Appropriate cleaning methods for dealing with COVID-19
Q. Some of our buildings have hand dryers only, should hand towels be provided?
A. The personal hygiene recommended is not dependent on how you dry your hands- just that you do it.
Q. Are estates still using linen roller towels? If so, will these be kept in service during the post COVID 19 phased return to campus?
A. The general advice is that roller towels aren’t one of the approved methods (dryers/paper towels), so some universities are removing these removed from use. One possible way of doing this is to take the linen out of the dispensers and put blue roll in the toilets whilst organising for paper towels to be installed.
However, not all estates are following this path. One university is phasing them out but with no plans to immediately remove post COVID-19, rather upgrading them with each refurb.
The science says that what you are drying onto this towel is CLEAN HANDS the virus is killed with soap and washed and then rinsed down the plug hole BEFORE going to the towel.
Linen roller towels are seen as an old fashioned and not too hygienic method of hand drying scientifically, they are not a ‘high ‘risk.
Q. Is water and microfiber sufficient to wash most hard surfaces in areas including washrooms?
A. There are studies about the positive effects of using microfiber with water:
Improving operating room cleaning results with microfiberand steam technology by Elizabeth Gillespie et al. Am J Infect Control. 2016 Jan 1;44(1):120–2 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/143264/Microfibre_report_revised_Mar_08.pdf This is a 2008 report from the Department of Health.
However, management are often keen to use stronger products to combat COVID-19. One substance which is non-toxic, non-corrosive and safe for cleaning operatives to use with excellent antiseptic properties is Hydrogen Peroxide or H202 (found in toothpaste). It turns to oxygen on contact with germs/viruses/ mould and then evaporates off surfaces. It’s a great cleaning product and cheap to source.
It can be used in a fogger to disinfect large areas and to clean scrubber dryers (inside tanks) to stop scummy mould, algae and bacteria build up and smell.
Q. Is it vital to introduce touch point cleaning more regularly, eg. once per day?
A. It is only guaranteed to be effective at the time you finish the clean, after that cleanliness is in someone else's hands. However, there is an argument to be made that raising the visibility of cleaners in cleaning touch points not only makes it overt that cleaning services are being proactive and looking after the community, it also lessens the questions and the fears that people have.
Additionally, in terms of cleanliness, you can make the argument that if a virus can survive for up to 72 hours on a hard surface then daily cleaning in theory will reduce the volume of people coming in to contact with it as it is unlikely that a surface would become contaminated immediately after cleaning.
Q. How are you dealing with individuals taking packs of wipes when they are left out for cleaning purposes?
A. Your University stationary supplier should carry wipes as a regular stock item – therefore each department can order as they wish meaning the budget and organisation does not end up left with you.
Q. Which reliable supplier can deliver electrostatic guns?
They are not as high tech as an electrostatic sprayer, they are more a cross between a jet wash and a plant sprayer, but they look to be reasonably robust and simple to use. They will also deliver a mist of diluted sanitiser onto hard surfaces, which if left to air dry should give them sufficient contact time for the chemical to do it is magic. It doesn’t have the fancy technology with the charged particles able to coat 360 degrees, but will deliver a constant flow of spray onto hard surfaces and quickly, which we will be using for classroom tables, sports equipment and general public spaces.
You can purchase these from a company in the West Midlands called MTH Cleaning Equipment Ltd and deal with the sales director, a man called Matt Banks (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Cleaning regimes post infection
Q. How do we approach the cleaning of areas where people have been in post isolation of the coronavirus and post infection.
A. The cleaning post infection should follow the same routine as before, the accepted facts are that people can be asymptomatic or infectious days before they show symptoms so therefore after the period you describe they will be less of a risk (if at all). The cleaning regime should assume some form of virus transfer onto touch points every time someone uses the area. Your frequency of cleaning with a mild detergent should follow this.
Using cleaning contractors for intensive cleaning.
Q. Are you going to clean in-house or having contractors in?
A. In-house or contractors are only as good as their training, ensure you are confident with this and see evidence from contractors on their training.
Q. What if there is a shortfall in contractors available?
A. This will be part of the contract for them to supply the minimum number of hours required, it is one of the advantages of outsourcing in that absence along with HR issues are not your concern, it is important to cover this point with any contractor on how they intend to cover staff absence.
Cleaning staff well-being during lockdown
Q. How are you approaching staff for cleaning duties? Are you asking for volunteers?
A. Every organisation will have their own way of dealing with this, being on full pay will mean an obligation but your HR can advise.
Q. Are universities giving staff incentives/rewards for doing the cleaning ?
A. Again every organisation will incentive differently, Some have and some have not.
Q. Should there be a new strategy in place for cleaning after lockdown?
A. Most of us had altered the cleaning regime just before lockdown to reflect extra visits to disinfect touch points. I would suggest this continues with disposable paper/cloths or if using microfibre then new colour which is washed at 60 degrees daily
Q. Should you change the way you sanitise touch points as part of the daily cleaning regime? What chemicals are best?
A. There are quite a few chemicals you can dose as a sanitizer and then during outbreaks you can triple the dose and it becomes a disinfectant (which is all you need, including contact time), check with your university supplier or online.
If you are being asked about whole room disinfection rather than just touch points then Please find below a link to the Electrostatic Disinfection System.
The coverage and timescales are fantastic and training to use the unit takes about five minutes. If you need any further information please get in touch with Andrew Bailie at Strathclyde Uni. Who has some of these already.
Q. What solutions can be used by staff or students as well as cleaning staff?
A. As some universities are considering how to help staff (and possibly students) clean areas themselves, in between the work that the cleaning teams do. There is much debate about ensuring that products are either in line with the PHE advice or meets the EN14476 Virucidal Test Protocol. It is important to obtain suitable solutions that are effective but easy to use i.e. ‘clinical’ wipe that conforms to the above. Most stationary suppliers can supply chemical or alcohol based wipes in tubs that can be ordered on a school or departmental basis rather than just from Estates.
Q. Is the use of steam a necessary, effective disinfection method, or is only a ‘chemical’ approach expected.
A. Regarding steam it is exceptionally hard to ensure that the temperature, or time at that temperature, is sufficient to kill virus/bacteria. However, hospitals use it regularly, so there must be a measurable process. If you have any contacts at or from the healthcare environment, any further information would be appreciated.
You can buy a fogger for around £300 and an appropriate disinfecting chemical for £35 for 5L. The training is minimal as most machines operate remotely once outside the room. Andy Bailie at Strathclyde has sent details out to all via BACHE Q&A.
Q. Do you know where I can get a copy of the risk assessment in a different format please? I am unable to download and share a version that I can read. Do you have it in word at all?
A. Its a pdf for a reason. Its a guide and a help. Not a completed document. You should be able to save and print and share if you save to your device. The idea is that you can use it as a template to fill in your own specific HE - RA.
What are the most efficient cleaning methods for stopping the spread of COVID-19?
Here is a summary of a conversation about the University of Gloucestershire’s Cleaning Methods:
One product being used at the moment is BioHygiene All Purpose Sanitiser https://www.biohygiene.co.uk/services/general/all-purpose-sanitiser/ however it is fairly expensive, Evans EC4 is another option.
Q. What kind of cleaning processes should be implemented once buildings – both accommodation and campus – are reopened?
A. All universities will have their own approaches, and strategies are still being planned, however please click here for a useful example. This checklist document outlines the cleaning strategy for Goldsmiths University, and gives an idea of what aspects of cleaning to prioritise.