A mist shoots into the air while a machine hums in the background, as men wearing white suits, face masks and gloves work in pairs spraying every part of a room because a virus has invaded the world and government has quarantined the entire population. It seems like a movie scene, but it’s not. It’s a real office and the routine has become familiar for maintenance contractors working to stop the spread of COVID-19 in many parts of the world.
Flooring specialists focus on deep cleans
With the reopening of economies across the world following the lockdown due to COVID-19, an increasing number of individuals are returning to work. Many businesses that are already operating have taken safety precautions at their premises implementing new disinfecting measures, while those still closed may be using the time to deep clean.
For some commercial contract flooring businesses, COVID-19 has created an unexpected increase in requests from corporations, schools and medical facilities to sanitise their properties, which is becoming a new norm. in demand for their services.
Sanitising business escalates rapidly globally
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, sanitisation made up a small portion of around 1% to 2% of a Californian commercial flooring contractor’s maintenance business, which has six locations and 200 employees. However recently, the company reported a substantial increase in demand with sanitisation now amounting to around 50% of its maintenance business.
The story is the same for a 20-year old Texan floor service providing upholstery and carpet cleaning as well as concrete polishing to the commercial market, which added sanitisation to its services 10 years ago. A recent project this company undertook was for a construction company with six active sites, where they sanitised areas including construction trailers, interiors, porta potties, scissor and fork lifts.
The director of a floor care network in the US with 65 member sanitiser companies that are commercially focussed, says sanitisation and disinfection has been a consistent segment of business since around 2009. He adds that before COVID-19, most calls received were for services in day-cares and schools, but now calls have increased tenfold in under a month, mostly from corporate owners wanting to sanitise workplaces.
Methods are key to ultimate hygiene
There are different methods of sanitising a space with one common way being to use an electrostatic sprayer which dispenses a fine mist. Particles of the sanitiser become charged and adhere to surfaces such as the underside of a desk. Another method is fogging, which is a gravity approach where you point a fogger towards an item, spray mist on it and what doesn’t hit the item, settles on other areas such as a work surface, desk or chair.
Popular sanitising products include chlorine dioxide which is promoted as being safer than harsher disinfectants like bleach. Some commercial flooring contractors have even posted statements on their websites advertising services around these types of products, stating they help fight COVID-19, but the question remains as to whether they really kill the virus.
Claims that products fight COVID-19
Since new pathogenic viruses happen infrequently and viruses are likely to behave in unpredictable ways, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and scientific community use an Emerging Pathogen Claim on sanitising products. This allows companies with previous EPA registered products to make claims on other products that they fight new pathogens not listed on the label of the product, provided the product has met certain criteria.
The process has been active since the outbreak of the virus, and under EPA guidelines if a product has been tested against hard-to-kill viruses similar to COVID-19, the agency will grant approval, allowing the company to claim their sanitising product as a COVID-19 fighting agent. Part of the reason for this is that companies can’t test their products against COVID-19 because it is a new virus not available in the public for product testing and the virus spread has been vast.
This claim process can only be used during new disease outbreaks where environmental surface disinfection is recommended by the government to prevent transmission. Workers using sanitising products to clean a property also wear full protective gear and limit the number of people in one work area at a time, often arranging to carry out work when no one else is in the building.
Ways challenges are being addressed
Crews are sometimes divided into teams of two where the same two people go out together every day, and if a job needs more workers, teams separate into different areas to limit exposure to the disease or the spread of it. It is advisable to check on the EPA website that the company cleaning your space is using an EPA certified product and that you are cautious about new cleaning services that have come into the market within the last 60 to 90 days.
The outbreak of the virus has created shortages of essential items such as disinfecting products, safety equipment, sprayers and face masks in the flooring industry during lockdown. Flooring companies have been working nonstop to secure stock and have done a good job in catching up despite there being not enough chemical products to keep up with demand and using sprayers that take more time to cover an area as electrostatic sprayers are in short supply.
Sanitising gives employees a sense of safety and renewed focus, and going forward, people will probably still take extra care to make sure their properties are clean. Business owners may even want contracts for regular infection control, with deep cleaning probably becoming an essential part of the work flooring specialists provide in future.
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Floor Focus for some of the information in this article.
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