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Ready for the new normal?

Delia Cannings highlights the key points of moving to the next stage.

Thorough hand washing followed by the use of good quality hand cream with emollients should start to replace sanitiser

Summer is here, hotels are opening, restaurants are getting ready to greet us and we are feeling some relief as the Covid battle intensity lessens as more people receive the vaccine while hospital admissions are stable.

The good news is that 19 July is the new suggested date for a return to the ‘The New Normal’. As we start to emerge from restrictions associated with reducing Covid risk factors, let’s consider how to do this safely, with a comprehensive process in place to ensure we continue to stay risk adverse. We must embrace caution to ensure that the invisible menace and its variant strains remain at bay, under control, and unable to cause problems.

So how do we achieve this? Let me briefly review four crucial cleaning aspects to consider as we move towards full recovery from the pandemic.

The Four T’s to achieve cleaning success

Techniques

Hand washing must continue in the same robust manner. However, we should start to reduce the frequency of using hand sanitisers. Instead use soap and water and a recognised safe hand washing technique which is built into an establishment’s hygiene policy, demonstrating a thorough process which is monitored and reviewed regularly. Invest in good quality hand cream with emollients to soothe the impact of oils removed from over washing and over sanitising our hands.

Cleaning techniques must embrace working from clean to dirty using a systematic process and ensuring touch points now feature in standard operating procedures.

The folding and subsequent use of cleaning cloths requires a trained technique to ensure a clean face is used as direction is changed, thus reducing redistribution of soil.

Tools

We should continue to wear masks until the government advise that it is safe to abandon them. It should be noted that such advice is based on research and fact, and although we are encouraged to adopt and adapt, we are quite within our rights to continue to enhance our own policies if we feel it necessary to create greater confidence for clients and staff.

We should continue to wear gloves when cleaning, particularly when in contact with sanitary areas, cleaning agents, waste matter and obvious soiling. Outside of that, hand washing will suffice after for example, vacuum cleaning or bed making.

Cleaning trollies are vehicles for transmission, so a standard operating procedure should be in place to ensure the trolley is disinfected regularly at a frequency agreed, perhaps once a week as opposed to being cleaned alone or simply wiped down.

Time

A review of cleaning allocation time is crucial to ensure time is allowed to support touch point cleaning as a separate task in every area cleaned. It should be noted that the frequent changing of PPE if and where required also equates to time being consumed.

The Standard Operating Procedure for touch point cleaning is a crucial document and should lend itself to references that may require additional time. It may only be a few extra minutes, but if we do not acknowledge the need for this time, if required, it would be described in teaching terms as ‘Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail’.

Training

Training has never been more important. Continuous staff development will support the ever-changing landscapes in terms of cleaning agents, to fog or not to fog, and the reasons why or why not. Understanding the difference between cleaning and disinfection and the impacts of both is vital. Decisions should be based on cleaning as a science, on the use of colour coding and the use of disposable cloths or mops heads. Understanding the value of laundering temperature control on reusable cleaning items must be covered.

To instil public confidence evidence of training and development may become compulsory if we are to convince end users that we have a trained workforce, skilled in the process of reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

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