The importance of proper PPE removal

The processes to be followed when exiting an outbreak clean.

During these unprecedented times it is important to know that, in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak at a work site, the people you hire to manage the situation are doing the job properly.

COVID-19 cases are still a threat to the health and safety of Australians, particularly in Victoria.  A recent image of cleaners wearing their personal protection equipment and socialising at the time of a COVID-19 disinfection in suburban Melbourne caused debate after it surfaced on a community Facebook page. The cleaners were at a Mernda business where an employee had tested positive to coronavirus.

According to the Herald Sun’s story: “The photo has attracted hundreds of comments online with some labelling the actions of the workers “so bad” but others believing it was not a big deal, and asking how the person who posted the photo knew the workers hadn’t changed their gloves before sitting down”.

We aren’t judging the cleaners or the company involved, as we don’t know when this photo was taken in relation to the outbreak clean. However, it’s worth noting the processes that should be followed when exiting an outbreak clean such as the one at the centre of this story.

Responsible commercial cleaning services follow a very strict Standard Work Procedure for the end to end completion of such a job. The final stages of the clean are among the most important as they include the removal of the PPE gear and disposal of cleaning equipment used in the job.

How to remove PPE properly

The following procedures reflect the guidelines of the Australian Government Department of Health and the Department of Health & Human Services Victoria.

Firstly, at the conclusion of a COVID-19 clean, all disposable cleaning materials, including mop head, are put in a sealable plastic bag.

The plastic bag can then be disposed of into a general waste bin with a closing lid. Then comes the removal of the PPE gear worn by the cleaners. Remove and dispose of PPE in the following order:

  • Remove and dispose of gloves in a plastic bag;
  • Wash hands with soap and running water (40-60 seconds), or use alcohol-based hand rub (20-30 seconds);
  • Remove and dispose of apron/coveralls and place them into the plastic bag;
  • Wash hands with soap and running water, or use alcohol-based hand rub;
  • Remove protective goggles/face shield by tilting the head forward and lifting the earpieces. Avoid touching the front surface of the eyewear/face shield. Reusable protective eyewear should be placed into a container and washed in detergent and water and allowed to completely air dry prior to reuse; Wash hands with soap and running water, or use alcohol-based hand rub;
  • Remove and dispose of the surgical mask, ensuring that the front of the surgical mask is not touched. Remove the surgical mask by holding the elastic straps or ties. Place it in the plastic bag;
  • Wash hands with soap and running water, or use alcohol-based hand rub;
  • The plastic bag (containing disposed-of PPE) can be placed into a general waste bin with a closing lid.

After all this, the cleaners wash their hands thoroughly with soap and running water for 40 to 60 seconds. As you can see, it’s a thorough process that does all it can to ensure there is no cross contamination, which would not only defeat the purpose of the clean but put lives at risk.

At Academy Services, we have undertaken many cleans after suspected or confirmed exposures to coronavirus. Our outbreak process includes both terminal and touchpoint cleaning.

Our terminal clean includes the use of a non-toxic, hospital-grade disinfectant that has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Following the right processes is important for all in the industry, as we all attempt to reduce risk and provide assurance to our customers and the public.

Rob McLean is marketing content manager at Academy Services

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