Why Workplace Sanitizing Measures Will Continue Even Beyond the Current Pandemic

Let’s face it, the world will never be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic.  Long after the facemasks disappear, many of the precautions put in place will remain, such as hand sanitizer stations, curbside pickup and Zoom meetings. The fact that a pandemic can easily be repeated should keep defensive measures against communicable diseases top of mind.

While some of the more extreme measures like face masks and six-foot distancing may go away, there are still some basic things we can do in the workplace to remain proactive against a future outbreak of some yet unknown virus. These measures will also protect our employees from more common illnesses such as influenza, the common cold, or norovirus (aka “stomach bug”).  Then there are the nasty bacteria-borne illnesses like E.Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria that are easily transferred from one person to another.

A paper published in Clinical Infectious Diseases1 stated that the statistical estimate of influenza incidence among adults (ages 18-64) was 8.9%.  That means on average, almost 10% of your workforce will be sick with the flu this year and will likely expose the rest of your workforce.  And the CDC reports that your employees may be able to spread flu to someone else before they even know they are sick.  “Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop…”.

How many more hours and days will be lost to the common cold, stomach bugs, or other infectious diseases?  What can you do to protect your employees AND minimize days lost due to illness?  What is it worth to protect your employees from the spread of communicable diseases?

Sanitizing common areas is the most obvious thing that comes to mind.  Restrooms, breakrooms, and meeting rooms should be cleaned and sanitized frequently, and that is a relatively easy thing to do. What about other instances where people can swap germs without even realizing it?  Does your facility use mobile computers, two-way radios, or walkie-talkies?  Do your employees use the same device every day, or do they get shared across several employees?  Do you have a tool crib where employees checkout tools, use them, then check them back in only to be used buy someone else? Hardhats, goggles, and face shields are all items that sometimes get shared between employees.  Do you have guests or visitors that are required to use shared devices or equipment?

Germs are not always deposited on a surface simply by touching.  We cannot see the droplets that emanate from a cough or a sneeze and end up the surface of the device, and the common cold virus can survive on some surfaces for several days and can still be infectious for up to an hour once transferred to the hand.  A touch to the mouth, nose or eyes and the infection is complete.

While hard surfaces such as tables, chairs and appliances can be cleaned easily with liquid disinfectants, irregular shaped devices like tools and mobile computers are much more difficult. There is a good chance that each person will complete the cleaning process at varying levels of proficiency. The ideal cleaner to use for disinfectant is diluted isopropyl alcohol, which can have an adverse effect on many plastics when used long term, but non-alcohol-based cleaners will leave a residue that will build up over time and will become especially noticeable on a device that is cleaned every day.

The best solution for cleaning any device that you might wear or hold in your hand, is exposure to UVC light rays. UVC rays are known to kill a wide range of bacteria and inactivate many viruses. The UVC light will disinfect the device, without the need for solvents or chemicals, in only a few minutes.

It is important to note that active UVC rays can be harmful to eyes and skin so they must be administered in a contained environment.  But when used properly, most devices can be sanitized in a matter of 10 minutes or less, with no solvents and no handling.

UVC light can be generated in one of two ways.  Older UVC cabinets use glass bulbs that contain mercury which can be harmful.  These glass bulbs have a limited life and are subject to damage with shock or vibration.  Contemporary UVC sanitizing cabinets use LED technology which is solid state and uses no harmful chemicals.  LEDs are also very robust mechanically and have a dramatically longer lifespan than glass bulbs.  In addition, there are international initiatives under way looking to eliminate the use of mercury, or at least encourage alternatives, to protect human health and the environment.

If we are to be comprehensive in our efforts to protect our employees from the spread of communicable diseases, we must look everywhere germs and microorganisms may be lurking and not just doorknobs and light switches.  Germs are everywhere and UVC light can be strong defense in the war on sickness.  What’s it worth to protect your employees?


1 - https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/66/10/1511/4682599)