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Safe and Hygienic Working Practices During Covid

Published May 14, 2021 -
employee keeping workplace covid safe

With the risk COVID 19 still rampant in the world, good hygiene through cleaning and disinfesting in the workplace for the health and safety of staff and customers has never been more important. Because COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus can be acquired by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

A combination of good hygiene, sensible use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning and disinfection has been shown to be the most effective in reducing the risk of the COVID-19 virus from workplaces. Good hygienic workplace practices during COVID can be the difference; not just between your business staying open or not, but the risk between life and death.

Cleaning and Disinfecting In The Workplace During COVID-19

We’ve been living with this virus for well over 6 months, so it’s safe to expect every workplace should have an established cleaning schedule for the health and safety of its employees and clientele, as well as appropriate PPE on hand, such as gloves and masks. The COVID-19 workplace cleaning schedule should include cleaning of frequently touched surfaces and high-risk areas, such as light switches, doorknobs, stair rails, lift buttons, phones and computers, EFTPOS machines, counters, chairs and desks.

It’s highly recommended that workplaces be cleaned at least daily for good hygiene, and to help stop the risk of COVID-19. More frequent workplace cleaning may be required in some high-risk circumstances, including if your workplace operates shift work or equipment is frequently shared between workers. If either is the case, then every effort should be made to clean equipment between shifts and/or uses, where practical. Cleaning with detergent, water and paper towels is usually sufficient for routine workplace cleaning, with workers wearing standard PPE equipment such as face masks and gloves to carry out the cleaning.

Once clean, you can then choose to disinfect surfaces. When and how often will depend on the type of the workplace, the surface, the high volume of workers, customers or visitors that are likely to touch the surfaces, or the risk of contaminated material being present. Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant.

Because dirt and grime can negate many disinfectants, it is essential to keep surface areas clean in order to properly fight COVID-19. In this instance, it isn’t enough to simply wipe down with a paper towel. Removal of germs requires thorough cleaning followed by disinfection or use of a detergent/disinfection wipe.

You should also ensure that your workplace has sufficient sanitation supplies and materials, including paper towels and hand sanitiser for all staff and customers. PPE equipment should also be readily available, including surgical masks should anyone develop respiratory symptoms, or may fear they have COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Cleaning and Hygiene Signs

You should also prominently display signs and posters around the workplace to remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the cleaning measures needed to stop the spread, including posters on what the virus is, how it spreads and the simple measures that can be taken to help stop the spread, such as hand washing, coughing etiquette, good hygiene, cleaning and physical distancing.

It is also a good idea to display signs that encourage the wearing of PPE, including masks and gloves. Often times people need encouragement to wear PPE, as it wasn’t so long ago that wearing gloves or a surgical mask in public would have attracted strange looks. Not so these days!

Further Steps to Reduce Concern

Alcohol-based hand rub (sanitiser) is a good deterrent against COVID-19 and should be made available in hand rub dispensers placed prominently around the workplace to promote good hand hygiene. Make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled, and place signs around your workplace to promote good hygiene and thorough hand-washing by all employees, contractors, and customers. Washing thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds) with soap and water is also encouraged, in lieu of hand sanitiser.

Because COVID-19 is spread through droplets, promoting good cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene in your workplace for all employees, visitors and customers can reduce the risk of spread. Do this by displaying health and safety posters promoting good hygiene, encouraging employees and customers to always cough or sneeze into the crook of their arm or a tissue, and then bin the tissue straight away. It is also a good idea to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds afterwards.

You can also encourage visitors and customers to use their own PPE including gloves, surgical face masks or face shields.

If possible, it is also a good idea to open any doors and windows to promote natural air circulation in your workplace. Ventilation is an important factor in preventing the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading indoors, thus reducing risk. It is recommended to increase the total airflow supply to occupied indoor workplaces, preferably without recirculation of the air if possible and ensure exhaust fans in restroom facilities are functional and operating at full capacity when the building is occupied.

In the case of air recirculation, filters should be cleaned regularly, especially for workplaces that place an individual at a medium or high risk of exposure to COVID-19. Examples of such workplaces may include frontline workers in retail and tourist accommodation, who are at greater risk due to greater exposure to the public. 

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About Employsure.

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 5,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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