Measures companies should be taking to ensure safety and hygiene practices during the Covid-19 pandemic

27 October 2020: Covid-19 has disrupted the way in which we live and work, and the cleaning and hygiene industries are playing a crucial role in helping businesses and individuals to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

As businesses open and people gradually return to work, now more than ever, the need to observe precautionary measures to minimise the risk of contamination is critical. While interventions are being implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace, several gaps remain.

There seems to be a notion that a move to Level 1 means Covid-19 has also decreased its ability to spread, and this misperception is endangering individuals and organisations.

This is illustrated in the decrease in observing the social distancing regulation of keeping at least 1.5m apart, and employees neglecting to wear masks while in the workplace.

Some organisations have also completely ignored the required precautionary measures of dividing their teams into shifts and have had their full staff complement returning to work, with minimal to no social distancing measures adhered to.

While new working structures may have an impact on organisational culture, team work, the ability to have impromptu meetings and innovations from brainstorming sessions, the precautionary measures that have been put in place are designed to ensure the safeguarding, of the health and wellbeing of all employees and ensure the sustainability of businesses. 

Some people have also relaxed their attention to regular sanitisation protocols for high-touch points, while others have stopped or reduced training and awareness around the Covid-19 pandemic precautions.

One of the most dangerous of the trends that have emerged is the lack of consideration for employees over 60 years of age, who should be working remotely as much as possible.

Measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace

Covid-19 guidelines provided by the National Institute for Communicable diseases (NICD) and the World Health Organization (WHO) remain important both within and outside the workplace; and cleaning and hygiene teams continue to play a crucial role in minimising the risk of contamination. Now more than ever, it is important to remain diligent in ensuring that surfaces are sanitised, and that workspaces are clean.

Considerations must be made to make sure that companies continue to adhere to regulatory requirements and make efforts to protect the most important asset of their business – their people.

To this end, organisations should incorporate Covid-19 protocols in their work policies. Accountability is key and employees should hold their employers to account and report any misconduct relating to the breach of these protocols for the wellbeing of all employees.

Point of entry and exit points to buildings are also important, as efficient, and effective teams in these spaces can support efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. Precautionary measures must also be taken with visitors, and contractors must be monitored to ensure safety precautions are adhered to. Particular care must also be taken with deliveries and perhaps to ensure that these are kept to a minimum where possible and carried out on a no contact basis,  and measures must be taken to clean all products before they are handed over.

While a number of companies have increased their cleaning and hygiene staff complement, there is still a need for consistency in cleaning and hygiene maintenance to ensure a healthy working environment.

Companies must continue to track and report cases of Covid-19 and ensure that protocols are followed after identifying these cases.

Internal awareness campaigns should also continue, and organisations should consider electing Covid-19 champions in each of their business units and departments to champion good hygiene and cleanliness, and social distancing.

Frequent and consistent cleaning of work areas and equipment between uses, using SABS approved cleaning products is also crucial.

PPEs and face masks must continue to be a crucial element of preventative measures against Covid-19 infection.

Businesses should continually revise their policies and procedures to align with the evolving operating environment where safety and hygiene is concerned. The health and safety of the people, both own employees and partner employees is of utmost importance and  compliance with SHEQ requirements is not negotiable.

Working-from-home is the new normal and businesses should move with the times and engage with employees on safe hygiene practices.

Looking ahead, cleaning and hygiene companies must start looking at ways in which they can evolve as the world evolves. It is anticipated that there will be a shift from office-based to home-based working, as businesses seek to consolidate efficiencies. Furthermore, businesses will outsource their cleaning services more as they explore opportunities for flexibility and cost management. Outsourcing presents opportunities for companies, as companies do not have to deal with full time overheads in their books and can take advantage of solutions that change as and when there are  occupancy changes, as a result, agile business practices will be crucial.

The pandemic has imposed a lot of distress on employees and employers, and it is important for organisations to ensure the mental wellbeing of everyone in the workplace and to provide support to essential services teams who are a crucial part of the organisation including security people and cleaning and hygiene teams. No one must be left out.

Takalane Khashane, Managing Director, Cleaning and Catering Divisions, Servest

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