A best-practices guide to avoiding contamination with COVID-19 from the time you leave home until you return.
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the UK, we are all potential infected and all surfaces are potential sources of contamination. But many maintenance technicians continue to “take a hit” to keep essential structures functioning. If this is your case, follow our list of good practices to protect yourself from the new coronavirus at work and get out of this war unharmed.
Avoiding COVID-19 on your way to work
Who knows if your third-floor neighbor is equally careful? Protection against COVID-19 starts even before you leave your building. And if you use a company car, be extra careful:
1. Be careful to use a tissue to touch door handles and, if you live in an apartment, do the same when pressing the elevator buttons.
2. If you use public transportation to work, avoid touching the support handles. Whenever possible, try to maintain a safe distance of 1.5 meters from other passengers.
3. If you drive a company car that is not exclusively for your use, it’s a smart move to wipe the steering wheel, gear stick, switches, radio and the driver’s seat with disinfectant (the car should always be cleaned with damp wipes, never dry – if you don’t have a wipe, use a cloth dampened with 70% alcohol). Avoid air recirculation through the air conditioning system and open the window slightly to keep the car airy.
4. In the case of teams traveling together, it is advisable not to travel side by side. For example, in a 5-person vehicle, the driver should go alone in front with a passenger in the back seat.
How to protect yourself from COVID-19 at work
Before starting a task, run out all chances of remote and video call assistance. Whenever on-site assistance is required, there are some preventative measures you should take:
1. It’s okay to be less cordial: dismiss all greetings and handshakes.
2. Keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters from other workers. The ideal distance, especially in places where air conditioning can help spread aerosolised particles, is between 3 to 4 meters. If you find it necessary, contact the person in charge the day before to remind them that the area should be clear or unoccupied.
3. To avoid contamination and being infected, wear nitrile gloves while performing repairs. Never wear gloves larger than your own size, as the looseness in the wrist area will compromise your safety.
4. If you have cleaning materials at your disposal, disinfect any tool that has been in contact with potential infection hotspots before putting it back in order (remember the usual suspects — lifts, controls, handles and knobs, automatic payment terminals, keyboards and mouses, switches, etc.)
5. The gloves must be of single-use and must be removed safely at the end and dispose of them in a container for contaminated or biologically hazardous material. If there isn’t one, put them in a closed plastic bag and dispose of them in a general waste bin. Then, as a precautionary measure, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
6. Masks and visors are recommended, especially if you are going to work with air extractors, heat recover units or air recirculation equipment since they can all be reservoirs of virulent particles.
7. When using the bathroom (or if you are working in a bathroom), flush with the lid closed to prevent aerosolised particles from dispersing. Besides, use a tissue or paper to touch the toilet and taps.
8. If you bring lunch to work, bring your own cutlery too. Do not use shared crockery or cutlery unless the company has a dishwasher with programs at 60ºC.
9. Go contactless. Whenever possible, replace paper with digital documents! Use all tools at your disposal to avoid close contact with colleagues and customers (for example, describing equipment failures in detail prevents someone from having to show them to you in person).
10. If you are going to do some maintenance or repair work in a healthcare facility within a “COVID-negative” area, you can use your usual equipment. For “COVID-positive” and emergency areas, you should equip yourself with waterproof protective material, surgical mask, and protective goggles or visors. Although it may be tempting to always wear a mask, gown, and gloves, remember that these materials are scarce in units intended to receive patients — do not use them in vain!
11. When you leave, always disinfect your hands before you drive again. Repeat these precautions throughout all day’s work.
On the return: how to avoid taking COVID-19 home
At the end of the day, assume everything you’ve touched is contaminated and take extra care not to take the new coronavirus home:
1. Create a “decontamination zone” at the entrance of the house. Leave your shoes by the door and remove your work clothes to a basket or basin (if you don’t like to walk barefoot, leave some “decontaminated” slippers in this transition zone).
2. Then wash your hands again with soap and water and disinfect the objects you have used throughout the day – namely your mobile phone and keys – with a 70% alcohol solution.
3. Clothes and uniforms should always be in this basket at the entrance so that they can be washed separately and at the highest temperature that the fabrics can withstand (60°C if possible). Try to wash and change uniforms every day, as the virus can survive on the fabrics after touching chairs, walls and other contaminated surfaces.
4. If you’ve been in contact with several people or exposed your arms, take a bath. Running water is enough to remove the virus from your skin. Rest and start again tomorrow.
In uncertain times, it remains certain that we are doing everything possible to avoid collapse.
Thinking of those who have to continue their work, even in quarantine times, we have also developed a set of routines based on the measures taken by several Infraspeak clients, which constitute a contingency plan to deal with the current situation.
This plan includes individual routines for each employee in your team and an evaluation checklist of the workspaces and people in it. Stay safe and tuned, as we’ll be posting more useful content to help you deal with the current crisis.