As we head into cold and flu season, we often find ourselves more aware of our surroundings: we sit watching our co-workers and wondering when it will be our turn to end up with the most recent virus going around the office. During a “normal” year we’d probably power through and make the best of the situation however, COVID-19 has brought with it a heightened sense of awareness and need to take greater precautions for not only our own health and safety but those around us as well.
According to WEB MD, there are more than “10 million bacteria” on a typical desk. And bacteria and viruses survive “really well on hard surfaces” says Professor of Environmental Microbiology, Kelly Reynolds. In fact, according to a study noted by WEB MD, during a test to see how fast a virus can spread, researches gave a cohort group of workers a test “virus” and found that it spread to “50% of workplace surfaces in 4 hours.”
So, while we shuffle between working from home, returning to work for a few weeks, and navigate the same changing school situations many families with kids are experiencing, it is important to take some precautions.
The most common and effective advice for stopping the spread of germs is to wash hands frequently. Handwashing alone can prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses and it is unanimously suggested to always wash hands after using the bathroom and before eating.
Beyond that, common measures for preventing the spread of illness include cleaning desks and commonly touched work surfaces with disinfecting solutions or wipes frequently. Doorknobs, printers, handrails, shared areas in kitchens and lounges, are all places where many hands touch the same objects. Increasing the frequency of wiping down these surfaces can help stop the spread of germs.
Staying home when sick is also important. Gone are the days of going to work and feeling under the weather—getting rest, eating healthy, and drinking lots of fluids are all commonly suggested for staying healthy. Doing this while sick is even more important to a quick recovery before returning to work.
Businesses and companies alike have already started to implement changes in the work environment to help keep employees safe and healthy. Daily temperature and health screenings, distancing desks and workspaces, and allowing employees to work from home more regularly are some of the current tactics. But there is more we can do.
It has become increasingly clear that what we touch plays a role in the spread of illness. While the initial warnings around the spread of COVID-19 through surfaces has quelled, it is still important to understand that common colds and flu viruses can live on surfaces.
Because of this, businesses have already started to switch over to touchless technology in restrooms as a way to decrease high touch point areas. Faucets, hand dryers, soap and paper towel dispensers that work through motion sensors are all ways to eliminate common touch points, as are motion sensor lights and doors.
Interestingly enough, the addition of touch free devices may even increase a person's likelihood to take precautions or the next step in cleanliness. Infection Control Daily, wrote about the importance of touch free hand washing devices, cites a study conducted in the emergency ward of an infection control unit. The study monitored the number of times workers used a touchless hand soap dispenser in comparison to a manual or touch hand soap dispenser. The study found that “the touch-free dispensers were used significantly more often than were the manual dispensers,” and this finding was in line with the researcher's hypothesis that “the delivery system has an effect on behavior and that a touch-free dispenser may be preferred by healthcare professionals.”
Updating and implementing touch free technology and devices is not only important to maintaining health, it has an impact on the perception of what is safe and healthy and could contribute to the overall perception of cleanliness for a business; This can have a direct correlation to the overall feeling of safety in a building and can even impact how employees perceive their employer.
Another major step in the fight against spreading germs is increased cleaning. Increased sanitization and disinfection of surfaces, is important to the total indoor health of a building. This important work takes time and has changed and increased the workload of janitorial and cleaning staff.
Adding autonomous cleaning equipment to the team in the way of cobots, or autonomous vacuum sweepers like Whiz, distributed by ICE Robotics in partnership with SoftBank Robotics, can free up cleaning staff to have more time to focus more consistently on wiping down surfaces.
In addition, adding an autonomous floor cleaning machine can help the overall health of a building because it delivers more consistent and regular cleans, and it can be deployed without adding more bodies to an indoor environment. The cobot assists the cleaning team by handling repetitive floor cleaning so they can focus on other important tasks.
Deploying autonomous cleaning equipment more consistently and frequently can also impact the overall indoor air quality. This is largely due to the ability to let the vacuum run its course without a human stirring up additional dust and debris from walking behind, such as is the case with traditional vacuums. Plus, the filtration system used in Whiz includes a HEPA filter—designed to trap microscopic particles. Research has shown that using autonomous vacuum's like Whiz can decrease the number of indoor microbes by 1/5-when compared to traditional vacuuming.
According to research done by the EPA, humans spend about 90% of their time indoors. This means the quality of the air we breathe is important. This also means reducing the spread of germs, especially airborne viruses and pathogens, is incredibly important.
Proper filtration systems can help with this and HVAC units can be a good place to start. It is important to work with service providers to determine the correct type of filters to be used for the space, how often to change them, and to schedule regular maintenance. HVAC systems that filter in more air from the outdoors into indoor spaces are a good step in circulating cleaner air.
Other air filtration systems currently on the market are UV Light air purifiers—these are designed to “use short-wave ultraviolet light (UV-C light) to inactivate airborne pathogens and microorganisms like mold, bacteria and viruses. They have the same ultimate goal of all air purifiers: to reduce indoor air pollutants, “according to Ian Kerins, a writer for Molekule.
Heat sterilization air purifiers work on the same premise but use heat, of up to 400 degrees, to destroy airborne pollutants. Other types of air filtration systems work to clean dust and debris out of the air, but they are not as effective at eliminating airborne bacteria and viruses as most are too small to be captured by industry standard filters.
Either way, increasing outdoor air flow, keeping HVAC units cleaned and maintained, and adding additional air purifiers and filters can all help to keep the overall indoor space a healthier place to be.
ICE Robotics is here to help! We are an industry leading floor cleaning equipment company working to bring you people-first, collaborative cleaning solutions. For more information, please reach out to our client care team.