Cleaning and Disinfecting to protect and reduce COVID-19 transmissions

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Australians are doing particularly well in remaining compliant to the health advice and protocols being introduced in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, despite the good results, practicing good personal hygiene continues to be critical to help prevent the further spread of the disease. The below guide aims at providing advice on cleaning and disinfecting in building and construction sites to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

How COVID-19 in transmitted

COVID-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person and is mainly transferred through:

  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth or nose

Current evidence suggests that COVID-19 can live on some surfaces for hours or even days, making cleaning and disinfecting practices critical to protect the health of yourself and those around you.

Social Distancing

It’s important to remember that social distancing has been introduced because a normal exhale can travel over a meter with a sneeze being able to travel up to 10 meters. Government advice recommends you maintain a distance of 1.5meters at all times, avoid shaking hands or touching and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue.

Cleaning your hands regularly

Soap and water should be used for hand hygiene when hands are visibly dirty with an alcohol-based hand rub suitable at other times (for example, when hands have been contaminated from contact with environmental surfaces). Cleaning hands also helps to reduce contamination of surfaces and objects that may be touched by other people. Avoid touching your face, especially their mouth, nose, and eyes when cleaning and always wash your hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub before putting on and after removing gloves used for cleaning.  

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Cleaning means physically removing germs, dirt and organic matter from surfaces. Cleaning alone does not kill germs, but by reducing the numbers of germs on surfaces, cleaning helps to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfection means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs that remain on surfaces after cleaning, disinfection further reduces the risk of spreading infection. Cleaning before disinfection is very important as organic matter and dirt can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs.

Transmission or spread of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through direct contact with respiratory droplets than through contaminated objects and surfaces. The risk of catching coronavirus when cleaning is substantially lower than any risk from being face-to-face without appropriate personal protective equipment with a confirmed case of COVID-19 who may be coughing or sneezing.

Routine Cleaning and Disinfecting

Workplaces should clean frequently touched areas (for example, tabletops, door handles, light switches, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces, cupboard handles and other equipment and materials relevant to construction and building sites) daily.

Ensuring gloves are worn when cleaning or disinfecting and are discarded after each use.

Further government advice for workplaces includes:

  • If you can do so, work from home
  • If you cannot work from home and you are sick, you must not attend your workplace
  • Stop shaking hands to greet others
  • Consider cancelling non-essential meetings. If needed, hold meetings via video conferencing or phone call
  • Put off large meetings to a later date
  • Hold essential meetings outside in the open air if possible
  • Promote good hand, sneeze and cough hygiene
  • Provide alcohol-based hand rub for all staff
  • Eat lunch at your desk or outside rather than in the lunch room
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch
  • Open windows or adjust air conditioning for more ventilation
  • Limit food handling and sharing of food in the workplace
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Promote strict hygiene among food preparation (canteen) staff and their close contacts