We would all like to believe that our businesses are spotlessly clean and that we’re all doing an incredible job keeping germs at bay to ensure the safety of customers and employees alike. But, unfortunately, that’s not the reality in many establishments, especially as people ignore masking and distancing orders or these orders expire. In fact, in some cases – particularly those involving MRSA, COVID-19, and other highly contagious infections – the issue can be life-threatening. With the rise of antibiotic resistance, cleanliness is harder to achieve and lack of cleanliness portends increasingly serious consequences for your people and your brand. So, how clean is your business really?
Getting to the point where you can say that you have a clean business involves approaching the issue of hygiene from multiple angles. Hiring specialists to perform daily sanitizing is certainly a part of the solution, but it is not the whole story. Businesses need a real strategy to protect their customers and employees from dangerous pathogens. Failure to do so is not only an individual concern but may damage your brand reputation and open your business to a civil lawsuit. So, let’s look at what you can do to answer the question of how clean is your business.
How clean is your business?
With the emergence of vaccines and an increasing number of people who are fully vaccinated, your might wonder why you should ask how clean is your business. Well, the answer is a little complicated and multi-faceted.
First, COVID wasn’t unexpected and, with the increase of globalization, the chances of another pandemic aren’t insignificant. Yes, much of the world is now seeing a decline in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths but the winter might bring a resurgence and another pandemic can easily be right around the corner.
Second, we have a host of diseases lacking a vaccine to prevent them or antibiotics to treat them, like MRSA and ebola. It wouldn’t take much for these diseases to mutate into highly transmissible forms that spread rapidly through a population.
Finally, the overuse of antibiotics led to the emergence of superbugs that are resistant to current antibiotics and experts predict that our ability to find new antibiotics is limited.
How clean is your business that it can avoid these triple threats?
Why you should care about a clean business
Disease is bad for the economy
- If the pandemic taught us nothing, it reinforced the interconnectedness inherent in our economy. Closing a plant in Japan due to Covid caused a shortage of computer chips, which caused a slowdown in US auto plants because you can’t build a car without a computer chip today. Fewer cars meant the price of cars, both new and used, shot up so that consumers who needed a new car spent a higher percentage of their income to acquire one, which meant less money to spend on clothing, dining out, groceries, etc. Hence, those businesses experienced a slowdown. Because ramping up production in a manufacturing facility, especially a high-tech facility, doesn’t turn on a dime, slowdowns and high prices are expected to continue through 2023.
- Workers laid off or furloughed from their jobs don’t have money to pay for necessities such as food and shelter. Landlords struggled when tenants didn’t pay rent, restaurants closed when they couldn’t serve customers who had no money and were locked out due to Covid restrictions.
- Meanwhile, workers receiving government unemployment assistance or ones who remained in their jobs didn’t have much to spend their money on since everything was closed down. That forced businesses to adjust to online retail, a change likely to continue into the foreseeable future, as you can see below. Some jobs in the pre-pandemic era may never return while businesses like Amazon can’t keep enough workers to satisfy online demand.
- As the economy opened up, pent-up demand led to shortages of many items leading to stockouts and inflation across a number of product markets. Christmas this year shows signs that trees won’t have presents under them or fewer presents (in fact, trees themselves are predicted to face high price increases) due to supply chain issues and increased costs.
Spreading illness threatens your performance
When customers fear getting sick at your location, they stay home. Dentists and other healthcare businesses offering non-emergency services such as mammograms, faced a serious decline in patients while even mundane businesses like salons see clients reluctant to return for cuts and colors. Just look at all the gray hair out there if you don’t believe me. I work for a university and the higher-ed sector faced layoffs of tenured professors and furloughs as students decided a gap year was preferable to taking a chance of getting sick. This lowers your profits, especially when you consider the increased expenses necessary to ensure your business is clean.
In the extreme, a business might face civil lawsuits if customers believe you were the source of their infection.
Businesses in almost every industry face a worker shortage that drove up wages, yet labor shortages persist. Workers are quitting their jobs in droves, determining the risk isn’t worth the salary.
Determining how clean is your business
Differentiate between routine and minimally-touched surface
There is a substantial difference between the cleaning requirements of routine and minimally-touched surfaces.
Routine surfaces include things like tabletops, light switches, door handles, and toilet seats. These require cleaning daily with suitable antiseptic agents (such as soap or alcohol) or even more frequent cleaning when infection rates are high.
Minimally-touched surfaces also require cleaning, but not as often. Ceilings, windows, curtains, and blinds may only require cleaning once per month or less, depending on the risks that they pose to patients and customers.
The type of disease spread is also important. Many diseases spread through inanimate objects such as the ones above. Covid, on the other hand, spreads person to person via aerosols in the air. Thus, cleaning surfaces is much less important than cleaning the air with HEPA filters that process the entire interior atmosphere multiple times per hour. This is also where masking helps cut transmission.
Use effective disinfectants
If you’re deep-cleaning a facility, make sure you use the right tools. While you can use traditional soaps, the most potent universally available cleaning agent is bleach. Alcohol and other antiseptics offer a solution that’s easier on humans and many surfaces. Many businesses use a sprayer to reach deep inside surfaces to distribute the cleaning solution, although these are less effective with Covid due to its transmission pattern. However, these disinfectants work well against other types of infectious agents.
Bleach solutions are easy to whip up, but they are dangerous to humans, fabrics, and some materials that become discolored to fragile when exposed to bleach. Make sure that you use them only in well-ventilated rooms. Also, do not use them alongside any other cleaning products that contain ammonia as this produces a chemical that is deadly to humans and other living things.
Choose suitable equipment for floor cleaning
Many businesses have hard, epoxy resin floors. Others have vinyl or tile. Some have carpets. All are great sources for the spread of infections. Our shoes are a cesspool of germs, which is why removing your shoes at home is recommended. Cleaning floors frequently and thoroughly helps reduce the spread of germs.
That’s why many businesses invest in equipment that helps them reduce risk and keep their stakeholders safe. A Clarke floor scrubber, for instance, is a tool that can clean a large area of hard flooring quickly. You can also use a traditional mop and bucket, however, this requires more time and may simply spread germs from one area to another if the wrong cleaner is used.
Improve personal hygiene
Lastly, you’ll want to ask all team members and customers to practice appropriate personal hygiene protocols. This means regularly washing their hands and also showing up to work with clean hair and clothing. Maintaining minimum social distances reduces the spread of Covid since the infection is airborne and quickly falls to the ground once expelled from the mouth or nose of an infected individual. Wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose also reduces transmission by trapping virus particles (as well as larger bacteria) in multiple layers of cloth or paper so it doesn’t infect the surrounding air and others in the environment.
In some settings, good personal hygiene also includes the proper use of PPE (personal protective equipment) such as disposable outerwear and hoods. Staff should know how to fit items correctly and which PPE they need to wear according to the situation.
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