Shared spaces in facilities often mean sharing germs. Occupants tend to cluster in core areas of activity, such as washrooms and workspaces. As organizations prepare to welcome back employees and clients, many are eager to know how facilities will limit the risk of infection while supporting and inspiring social connections.
A recent study revealed that 52 per cent of workers feel anxious about returning to work, feeling their facility has not done enough to mitigate risk. Research points out that COVID-19 can live on many surfaces for up to 72 hours, which means facility managers need to flag areas of virus transmission to protect the health of returning building occupants. They must also identify hot spots and understand how to make them touch-free through automation or disinfection.
Consumer demand for touch-free offices has been increasing over the past few years, most notably since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. The global touchless sensing market is projected to have a 22 per cent growth rate by 2027, valued at USD 65.9 billion. In addition to limiting exposure to viruses and bacteria, touch-free technology offers reduced operating costs and increased user satisfaction. When it first emerged within facility management, it gained popularity in washrooms. Today, the technology expands throughout all areas of facilities and has a new focus on protecting occupant well-being by reducing surface-to-person contact.
Cross-contamination is present on almost all surfaces throughout the washroom. Users transport bacteria from stalls and sinks and throughout the entire facility. Adding touch-free fixtures eliminates the need to touch common hot spots, like faucets, and reduces the chance of surface-to-person transmission. People use a variety of maneuvers to avoid contact with washroom fixtures. The following touch-free components will not only limit virus transmission risk but improve the overall hygiene of the washroom.
Toilet Seat Cleaner. A toilet seat typically houses 300 bacteria per square inch, putting people at risk for fecal-oral transmission and spreading fecal bacteria throughout the facility. Toilet seat cleaner effectively cleans the seat before each use, eliminating any bacteria that may be present as a result of previous flushes.
Personal Hygiene Disposal Unit. The old metal wall box commonly found in a public washroom is a major germ hotspot, containing bloodborne pathogens. COVID-19 has also been found to last 72 hours on stainless-steel. Implementing a touch-free disposal unit with a DIN-registered dry treatment agent is the only solution to effectively minimize risks.
Toilet Flush Handles. Automatic flush systems eliminate surface-to-person contact while providing overall cost savings for high-traffic washrooms. When considering options to implement a touch-free washroom, facilities should consider renting the equipment as an alternative to buying. This allows managers to have a clear resource for any mechanical issues that may arise and provides facilities with the option to easily upgrade their equipment as new technology emerges.
Soap Dispensers. Occupants can track human-gut and skin-associated bacteria from the stall to the sink area, so soap dispensers will harbour the same bacteria. Automatic soap dispensers ensure hands are properly cleaned before leaving the washroom, dispensing a precise amount of soap. They should be outfitted to use closed-cartridge soap, as research suggests one quarter of refillable bulk soap dispensers are contaminated with bacteria.
Provincial governments have mandated efforts to limit virus exposure as employees return to work. Businesses are now providing employees with resources to reduce surface-to-person contact. Touch-free solutions to accompany these recommendations will heighten an occupant’s satisfaction.
Disposing Personal Protective Equipment. The use of PPE is encouraged and even mandated in some areas where social distancing cannot be achieved. Employees who use PPE will first need to be trained on its use, care and safe disposal. PPE is often thrown into open garbage cans or treated as litter. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of a closed receptacle to avoid further contamination. Used PPE should be disposed of separately from regular waste and accompanied with educational signage to ensure proper removal and disposal.
The WHO recommends placing hand sanitizer dispensers in key, high traffic areas to promote proper hand hygiene, including elevator machine rooms, mechanical and electrical rooms and main janitorial rooms. Automatic dispensers release a precise amount of sanitizer each time while reducing risks of cross-contamination. They should have enough capacity so the sanitizing agent offers a constant flow during the day and be nimble enough to hold multiple brands in case of a supply crunch. Sanitizer services should also offer educational signage to promote a facility’s hygienic resources. When stockpiling sanitizer, be wary of the expiry date; shelf life can range between one and three years, depending on the product and storage methods.
Door handles create a common spot for surface-to-person transmission. Installing automated devices eliminates direct contact with the door handle. Among popular touch-free door accessories, equipment that allows users to open the door with their feet can provide a cost-effective option. Other items, including one-use, sanitized door knob covers also have had a notable interest since the demand for touch-free amenities has increased. They operate by automatically placing a new sanitized cover over the doorknob each time it is turned. These items allow users to open doors safely, without increased electricity costs often associated with automatic door openers.
Peter Farrell is president and CEO of Citron Hygiene. He has more than 25 years experience in the jan-san and facility services industries.