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School cleaning – learning from the mistakes of the pandemic
September 12, 2022
Article by Ian Ansermo
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, school children aged 2 to 11 had one of the highest infection rates of any age group. So have cleaning and hygiene standards in schools played a contributing role and what lessons can now be drawn from this to create a new culture of hygiene?
Ian Ansermoz, operations manager for Fidelis Group, which specializes in school cleaning, writes for ECJ.
At the height of the pandemic, schoolchildren aged 2 to 11 had the highest infection rate of any age group in the UK. This raises the question of whether current cleaning and hygiene standards in schools have played a part in this and what needs to change now that testing is not readily available.
Clearly, schools were not sufficiently prepared to deal with this type of breakout and lacked the experience and support to successfully contain the virus. Going forward, cleaning standards and infection prevention control in educational institutions must be improved to ensure that we can better protect students and staff in the event of a new pandemic.
Set a new standard
In order to prepare for and anticipate the impact of another potential virus, processes must be in place to protect students and staff before transmission of infection becomes too high. While deep reactive cleanings and fogging have proven to be an effective way to eliminate viruses and reduce the spread of germs in schools, they are simply not enough to deal with new infectious viruses such as Covid -19 which spread rapidly.
Schools should use the most recent pandemic as a learning curve and should rigorously examine the quality of their current cleaning routine to identify areas for improvement. Moreover, since hand hygiene is one of the most important exercises to protect people from the virus, a new culture must be incorporated to ensure that hygiene standards are met.
Preventive sanitation and frequently touched surfaces
The pandemic has highlighted that deep cleaning schools at the end of the day is not enough to stop the spread of a virus. As a result, more and more cleaning companies are offering preventive sanitation services. It is becoming an increasingly popular way for schools to reassure parents, staff and children.
This service comes in the form of additional labor provided by an external cleaning company, in addition to regular end-of-day deep cleanings. Officers carry out regular sweeps of school premises as cleaners, disinfecting touch points and high-risk areas periodically throughout the day during lunch breaks and class changes. Regular cleaning like this provides more robust protection against viruses and bacteria that linger on surfaces.
Young children are prone to germs that come from colds, flu, pneumonia and other illnesses. Therefore, adopting an enhanced cleaning regime provides a more effective layer of protection for staff and students. In the majority of cases, this will be enough and will help eliminate the entry routes for the infection.
If schools intend to take these precautionary disinfection measures without involving an external provider, it is important that these high-touch surfaces are cleaned twice a day and at the end of the day. Before disinfecting a surface, you should clean it with detergent or warm water. Without cleaning the surface first, there can still be dirt and grime that can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs.
It’s hard to say exactly how long Covid-19 can live on surfaces. This varies depending on the amount of contaminated body fluid, type of surface, temperature and humidity – these are all factors that determine how long the virus survives. However, using the correct cleaning and disinfecting routine will kill them.
High quality cleaning products suitable for children
It’s often easy to think that because you’re using a harsh cleaning chemical you’re keeping germs away, but the reality is that the products themselves may not be safe, especially in schools with young children. They usually contain hazardous materials and body-hazardous chemicals and are often used without protection. In fact, it’s possible that these products are aggravating the germ problem caused by the pandemic.
Using neutral cleaning products is the best way to promote a safe environment for students and staff. Not only do they provide short-term protection against colds and other regular viruses, but also for long-term health. The chemicals used in harsh cleaning products can sometimes be harmful to human health and the environment. By investing in neutral cleaning products, you can prevent this and also improve the environmental impact of the school.
Create a new culture
Schoolchildren are often unaware of hygiene standards and making them responsible for their own hygiene is not an effective way to meet expectations. It is very important that schools establish a culture of hygiene that becomes part of the daily routine of students. Going forward, creating this culture should be a priority in order to educate school children about the importance of best hygiene practices, such as washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
These may seem like generic steps to follow that you would expect to be common knowledge, but many schools have yet to reinforce them. Schools can move forward and anticipate another virus by fully embedding these practices into their school culture and learning from the mistakes of the pandemic.