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Facility cleaning and disinfecting best practices for Coronavirus

March 22, 2020

We’ve been getting a lot of questions from our customers regarding facility cleaning and disinfecting. We’ve spoken to our own internal hazardous waste experts and with experts at HEPACO, the premier environmental and emergency services company in the eastern United States, and ACTenviro, the top hazardous waste management company for the western states. We posed the questions we’ve been getting from our customers to these experts and have consolidated them into the Q&A below:

First, we want to assure you we are monitoring daily updates from the CDC and state officials as this fluid issue continues to evolve. All of our teams are outfitted with the appropriate levels of Personal Protective Equipment (You may have heard this referred to in the news as PPE) and have Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in place following strict guidelines defined by the CDC. This includes:

  • HAZWOOPER training (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response)
  • Bloodborne Pathogen Training in accordance with (29 CFR 1910.1030)
  • Respiratory Protection Training in accordance with (29 CFR 1910.134)
  • Medical Monitoring Program in accordance with (29 CFR 1910.120)

Here are the most often asked questions and the answers our experts have provided:

1. Can I decontaminate my business on my own or do I need to call a service?

  • In some cases, it may be possible to do this on your own. For instance, if it is part of a regular daily/weekly preventative cleaning. You may have easy access to the cleaning materials, but the main consideration is in regard to the health and safety side of the process. Having the proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is crucial in an area where a confirmed case has been reported. Having the proper PPE helps to ensure you don’t contaminate yourself or other people in the cleaning process.
  • Proper PPE usually includes
    • NIOSH-approved full-face air-purifying respirator (APR) with P-100 cartridges
    • Chemical protective clothing (poly-coated Tyvek or Saranex)
    • PVC steel-toed work boots or latex boot covers
    • Nitrile inner gloves
    • Nitrile outer gloves
    • Taped cuffs and taped ankles

2. What are the best methods to decontaminate and what equipment will I need?

  • PPE is the special equipment. The actual cleaning can be accomplished using normal cleaning tools. But professional service companies have been specifically trained for the job and follow strict guidelines developed by the CDC, OSHA and other regulatory agencies. If vacuuming is requested or necessary, a HEPA vacuum is required.
  • Spray and wipe at this time proves to be most effective but special fogging tools maybe required for areas with lots of small items (tools, utensils, etc)

3. How can I keep my team safe while the decontamination is in progress?

  • Break the facility into sections and keep the sections being worked on clear of staff until work is completed. Wait time once the decontamination work is completed is not long – 15 – 20 min – as the virus is killed on contact with the cleaning solution. However, surfaces need time to dry. Floors can be slick and therefore dangerous. Keeping the area clear for 24 hours would be a good guideline.
  • Although your staff will not need any special PPE, keeping them clear of the decontamination area during cleanup will enable the teams to work more efficiently.

4. How do I know that the decontamination has been successful and it’s safe for my team to return?

  • You could hire a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) or Qualified Environmental Practitioner (QEP) to perform wipe sampling of the space.  However, this is expensive. The virus is killed on contact with the disinfect agents we use so our success rate is very good.

5. What steps can my team take to stay safe and keep working?

  • Work from home if possible.
  • CDC provides Workplace Guidelines. They emphasize proper hand washing, social distancing, and regular work area cleaning with EPA approved cleaning agents – i.e. Isopropyl alcohol solution. Ensure the solution has at least 70% alcohol.

6. Is there a waiting period after decontamination before we can safely return to the facility?

  • It will be safe to return to the area after 15 to 20 minutes. The viruses and bacteria are killed on contact by the cleaning agents. The wait time is mainly to wait for the area to dry. Some surfaces, such as floors, could be slick. For this reason, 24 hours is recommended.

7. What do we need to do to prepare for a service company to come into our facility to decon?

  • Remove all loose articles such as papers, books, etc. from surface areas. Cleaning crews will need to be able to get to the entire surface of desks, counters and other surface areas. If you have a confirmed case, it will be necessary to vacuum with a vacuum cleaner outfitted with a HEPA filter.

8. What do we need to tell the service provider about our business to make the effort more successful?

  • Be clear about what you are needing. Is this a confirmed contamination or just preventative?
  • For example, a case has been confirmed and you need thorough top to bottom cleaning, or no case has been reported and you just need preventive cleaning, or maybe only in certain areas, or just vacuum, etc.
  • Is this a specific office or all main traffic areas
  • The square footage of the area to be cleaned

9 For on-going safety after the decon, what is the best cleaning solution?

  • Regular cleaning with EPA approved cleaners – (bleach, chlorine dioxide, hydrogen peroxide, etc) or a solution of bleach and water – 1/3 cup of bleach to gal of water.

Our final advice is to schedule this kind of procedure in advance if at all possible so that you don’t end up paying emergency response pricing.

Have more questions? Call our Hazardous Waste Experts at (888) 681-8923.

Be safe and be well.

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.