After almost a year of being obligated to becoming COVID-19 sensitive, it is important to consider if we have developed a good understanding about the most effective way to keep surfaces free from the potential transmission of the virus.
There is a clear difference between cleaning surfaces, as opposed to disinfecting them to reduce the risk of spreading infection.
Most realise now that social distancing, the wearing of masks and good hygiene through hand washing, play such an important role in keeping the spread of coronavirus down. But so too is how thoroughly we clean and disinfect hi-touch areas, exposed to the easy spread of the virus.
It is a subject that cannot be taken lightly. Australia and the world may have lesser numbers of COVID-19 cases, but new infections are still emerging and fatalities are a persistent result.
There are also places, like India, the US and Brazil, where new cases continue to be dangerously high, meaning it is vital countries share information and any new learnings about how we can keep the spread of the pandemic down.
As we approach the hotter months, and at the time of reporting, Australia’s national COVID-19 cases were 27,317 while the global total of those that had contracted the virus stood at 38 million.
The state of Victoria, which suffered the highest number of cases in the country, is recovering from a disastrous second wave through strict lockdowns, with cases down to about 10 each day.
The target of the Victorian government is to keep the number of new cases per day to five or under over a 14-day period before gradually lifting all restrictions.
However there continues to be marked spikes of new cases through community spread or unknown sources, so Victoria remains diligent in its calls for stringent practices in mask-wearing, now calling for the use of properly-fitted masks, especially in areas where there are known COVID-19 cases.
This tells us that we are not quite out of the woods; the pandemic continues to spread although it may be in smaller numbers.
Industry Update delved deeper into the topic, catching up with Whiteley Corporation which has been leading the way in manufacturing infection control products for more than eight decades.
Infection prevention product experts, Whiteley Corporation says, the spikes and erratic number of cases may continue for a while yet.
Whiteley managing director Darran Leyden says there are many things we can do in our homes and work environments to keep the spread of coronavirus down.
He says good surface cleaning complemented by good disinfection process is an essential tool in keeping the infection spread of COVID-19 at its lowest.
In an industrial workplace or warehousing environment, Mr Leyden says hand-hygiene is fundamental in stopping the spread.
“It is important of course that both employers and employees are conscious of the right preventive guidelines and as well as the legal guides to ensure they know what is good for their operations,” Mr Leyden said.
“It is good for employers to make sure there are sufficient hand-hygiene products available for staff to wash their hands appropriately. And if there’s no hand soap available that staff can use alcohol-based hand sanitisers,” he says.
More importantly, Mr Leyden says, employers should be increasing their cleaning and disinfecting frequency on their workspaces.
There is significant difference between cleaning and disinfection. “Cleaning is about the removal of biological soil and disinfecting is about killing the micro-organisms. If you’re going to disinfect the surface, you need to clean it first.”
Whiteley Corporation recommends special attention be paid to surfaces which are going to be touched more often than others – such as door handles, kitchen benches, or what they call the high-touch areas.
Whiteley recommends that the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting be based around risk and how often things are touched in those areas.
The general rule is that if its touched frequently then it should be cleaned and disinfected as frequently.
Mr Leyden refers to his company’s research which shows that contaminated surfaces touched by a hand can actually transfer germs up to nineteen times to different surfaces.
“Say for instance someone coughs on the surface and doesn’t clean, wipe it up and disinfect it and then someone puts their hand on that surface. That means that with the next 19 touches they can potentially spread infectious material.”
As soon as the COVID-19 breakout was announced, Mr Leyden says his company increased its cleaning frequency substantially. It used both detergent to clean and appropriate disinfectant on workspaces and other surfaces.
Whiteley Corporation believes many small- and medium-sized businesses which may have fewer resources are mostly doing a good job of future proofing their work environments against the spread of COVID-19.
“I think some have done a good job and maintaining a good work environment as best they can, and some people probably need to re-think where they are as far as risk is concerned for their staff.”
Mr Leyden concludes that effective cleaning, disinfecting and hand hygiene combined with social distancing and a robust infection prevention plan are of the most important business practices in the current COVID-19 climate.
“It’s all about staff safety and trying to keep it that way as often as possible. If there is an outbreak in workplaces or factories, sometimes you just can’t prevent this. But by being diligent with your cleaning, sanitising and disinfection practices, you have minimised the risk for your staff and your business.”
HOW WHITELEY SET THE STANDARD
Whiteley Corporation, a leader in research and innovative product development in the field of hygiene, cleaning and infection control products, had its beginnings before World War II.
Managing director Darran Leyden says Whiteley was already making disinfectants for cinemas and theatres, which extended over to the war effort, helping with disinfection needs.
“We actually started in 1933 as the Australian General Disinfectant Company,” he said.
“For the last 87 years we’ve been making surface disinfectants and we’ve been involved in infection prevention products since then.”
The range of infection prevention products Whiteley manufactures includes hand hygiene products, surface disinfection, disinfectants and detergents, instrument detergents and disinfectants in the health care sector, as well as industrial cleaning products.
Mr Leyden is happy to see claims made about surface and instrument disinfectants evaluated by the federal regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
“The TGA has a series of disinfectant tests and quite stringent tests that companies need to follow in order to make specific claims,” he said.
“Unfortunately with the pandemic we’ve seen some in the industry making unregistered claims and then being fined by the TGA.”
Mr Leyden says it is very important for companies providing products, and customers looking for them, that the products are registered the correct way.
“Business and consumers will know what they are getting because it is listed in the publicly regulated market.”
Under the TGA guidelines, there are now about 45 products registered with claims on COVID-19 and the list is growing.
“We’re very proud that we we’re the first to actually negotiate directly with TGA the pathway for testing to get a COVID-19 claim.”
“Our product Viraclean was the very first one approved by the TGA under their new framework for COVID-19 testing,” says Mr Leyden.