As the COVID-19 epidemic threatens to make the U.S. its latest epicenter, door and window manufacturers batten down the hatches on safety and sanitation practices that might help them to stay open. So far, one has announced an employee who tested positive and now remains quarantined in recovery (MI Windows and Doors in Hegins, Pa.). The employee tested positive over a weekend; meanwhile, the virus might have been busy at work, if it hadn’t been for the company’s cleaning practices and adherence to CDC guidelines. According to information published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), transmission of the virus from surfaces to humans hasn’t been documented, but some experts suggest that those cases could be too difficult to track.

When it comes to cleaning and sanitizing potentially infected areas, CDC officials say it’s important to note that they include not only individual workspaces, but also any areas that infected employees might have visited while on the premises. It is also important to note that neither cleaning nor disinfecting alone is considered sufficient; it takes both to effectively eliminate the virus. Cleaning does nothing to kill germs, guidelines point out, but does help to decrease their number. Conversely, disinfecting doesn’t remove germs, but kills those remaining on surfaces.

Should one of your employees test positive, the first steps toward eradicating the virus from workspaces includes blocking off potentially infected areas, while opening up any available airflow through windows. Then CDC guidelines say you should wait—up to 24 hours if possible—before cleaning and disinfecting. After evaluating where infected persons potentially worked and visited, surfaces should be cleaned with detergent, or soap and water, prior to disinfecting.

Proper disinfectants should be used, including either those made of Environmental Protection Agency-registered formulas, diluted household bleach, or solutions including at least 70% alcohol.

Note: If you’re using diluted bleach, CDC warns that it must be approved for the surface to be treated and it’s imperative that you follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper application and ventilation. It’s also important to ensure that the product isn’t expired and to never mix materials including bleach with substances containing ammonia or other cleaners.

Bleach solutions for disinfecting can be made using 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons per quart.

For porous materials, CDC advises removing any visible contamination before using appropriate cleaners. If items can be laundered after cleaning, do so using the warmest possible setting (per guidelines for materials), then dry completely. Otherwise, for materials that can’t be removed and laundered, use an approved product that’s made for porous surfaces.

Note: When it comes to uniforms and other launderable items, CDC guidelines say don’t shake. Wash in accordance with instructions, but using the warmest setting allowable before thoroughly drying. It is acceptable to wash the clothing of infected persons with those of persons who aren’t infected, guidelines state. Lastly, don’t forget about storage carts, hampers and other containers used for clothing. Those should also be cleaned and disinfected.

For companies relying on their own cleaning staffs and/or other employees to conduct cleaning and disinfecting, officials warn that it’s inadvisable for employers to rely on common sense measures or even basic guidelines. As with any matter pertaining to safety, training is imperative, including how to use the appropriate protective equipment, along with cleaners and disinfectants.

Those performing cleaning should wear disposable gloves and gowns throughout the process, including when they empty and handle trash receptacles. Also, CDC advises checking to ensure that the gloves are compatible and approved for the types of cleaners and disinfectants used. Gloves should be taken off immediately after cleaning a room or area occupied by infected persons but removed carefully to avoid cross contamination. And while you might be tempted to think that it isn’t necessary to wash hands after wearing and removing protective gloves, CDC officials say do so immediately, while using the prescribed 20-second cycle.

Lastly, while workers might become accustomed to leaning on hand sanitizer amid day-to-day operations, in the event that hands are dirty, it’s important not to rely on those alcohol-based products alone, CDC warns. Just like surfaces, always start with a good cleaning via soap and water.

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