March 19, 2020 marked the first day of spring, the season of rebirth. This year, with the outbreak of COVID-19 top of mind for the entire U.S. population, it's more important than ever to take the annual tradition of thoroughly cleaning the home or workplace as seriously as possible.
Spring cleaning is an essential task to get the home tidy, organized and can even improve the health of the household by removing common asthma and allergy triggers that worsen this time of year. Employers should also take part in spring cleaning chores to not only eliminate dust and grime from the workplace, but also to create a safe, healthy environment that helps reduce employee illnesses and injuries.
The Importance of a Clean Workplace in the Time of COVID-19
Maintaining a clean workplace is essential to the health, wellness and safety of your employees. A tidy, clutter-free environment helps reduce injuries, boosts morale and productivity, and ensures employees are motivated to perform their duties more effectively. Additionally, sanitary offices, public spaces and restrooms help keep workers healthy, reducing the use of sick days taken and the loss of productivity that comes along with them.
The recent coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has had a major impact on people and businesses around the world since it was first detected in Wuhan, China at the end of December. As you start thinking about your spring cleaning checklist this year, there are a few extra precautions to take that can help keep workers safe and healthy – and help stop the spread of COVID-19. These include:
Clean first, then disinfect. Cleaning removes dirt and germs from surfaces, while disinfecting uses chemicals to kill germs. Before applying those chemicals designed to disinfect, first wipe down surfaces using soap or a detergent.
Properly disinfect surfaces. Once surfaces are thoroughly cleaned, disinfect using a diluted bleach solution, alcohol solution with at least 70% alcohol, or a common EPA-registered household disinfectant.
Take extra care to clean regularly touched objects. In addition to wiping down surfaces like desks and bathroom countertops, make sure to disinfect items employees commonly touch throughout the day, like doorknobs, light switches, refrigerator doors, microwave doors, phones, chairs, etc.
It's also a good idea to require staff to wash their hands thoroughly – and often. Additionally, now is the time to make sure your business continuity plan is updated to keep operations running smoothly following an unforeseen event that could potentially close your doors, such as COVID-19.
Spring Cleaning Tips for a Safe Work Environment
Hazards can be found in any type of commercial establishment, from office buildings and retail outlets to machine shops and five-star restaurants. As you welcome in the warmer spring weather, it's the perfect time to take a look around your small business and identify the areas that could use some sprucing up, as well as identify the areas that could increase risk of injury for your employees. A few workplace cleaning tips to keep in mind this spring include:
Clear the clutter
A workspace littered with boxes, bags, equipment, piles of paper, etc. can easily heighten the risk of trips, slips and fallsamong employees or customers. It's especially important to remove clutter from high traffic areas and stairs. As one of the most popular spring cleaning tasks is to get organized, do a thorough purge of any items cluttering up work areas, blocking exits or posing tripping hazards.
Remove any potential fire hazards
In addition to clutter increasing the risk for injury, it can also add to the risk for a fire. Stockpiles of papers and boxes on floors, desks, or file cabinets can pose a significant fire hazard, especially if they are located near sources of ignition. If any materials are considered to be flammable, they should be stored in designated areas.
Store items properly
As you're working to clear clutter from your workplace, items that you'll be keeping should be properly stored to avoid accidents or injuries. Heavy objects should be placed on waist-high shelves so they can be lifted with minimal bending or reaching. Boxes and other items should be stacked securely and maintained as low as possible to prevent things from falling or toppling over onto employees or customers.
Deep clean the floors
Throughout the year, you're probably sweeping, vacuuming and/or mopping regularly as clean, dry floors are key in preventing slips and falls. However, during spring cleaning time consider getting any carpets, tile and other flooring professionally cleaned.
Additional Commercial Cleaning Tips for Employee Safety
Consider your cleaning chemicals
Part of any good spring cleaning project will often include use of soaps, detergents, disinfectants, waxes, polishes and various other types of cleaning chemicals. In most cases, these are relatively benign and non-hazardous, however, none of them are good for the eyes. Safety eyewear is a good idea when mixing and using these items, as is the use of gloves to protect potentially sensitive skin. Additionally, some ordinary cleaning compounds can produce toxic gasses or liquids when mixed, so it's important to only mix chemicals as instructed on the labeling for the chemical. Never assume two chemicals will mix together safely.
Take caution when working at heights
A thorough cleaning often includes windows, stairwells, high atriums or other areas not reachable from the floor. Always try to use pole-mounted brushes, squeegees or other aids to minimize the need to climb. If climbing is absolutely necessary, be sure to utilize only step stools with a sturdy hand hold to help maintain balance. Falls from ladders are a leading cause of injury in both the home and workplace, so minimizing all climbing should be a top priority.
Check first aid supplies
The changing of the season is the perfect reminder to check the state of your company's first aid kit. Find out what items need to be restocked and get them ordered immediately. A first aid kit is a must in order to fulfill standard safety requirements, and they're also essential for promptly attending to any type of minor workplace accident or injury.
Schedule safety training
All workers should be properly trained in safety procedures and cleaning protocols at the start of their employment. However, periodic training can help keep these processes top of mind for the entire staff, ensuring that information is better retained over time.
Create a cleaning schedule
Once your workplace is all tidied up and thoroughly cleaned, keep it that way throughout the year! Post written rules for cleanliness, including what types of cleansers and tools should be used, and assign out various tasks to ensure all employees are adhering to the schedule. Regular walkthroughs to inspect the state of the work environment are also recommended.
Disclaimer: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writings from a variety of workers' compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.