Interview with a CIH: Tips for Dealing with COVID-19 From a Certified Industrial Hygienist

06/11/2020 - Blog / White Papers

Disinfection and prevention – How can I safely disinfect my property?

You can read part two of the "Interview With a CIH: Tips for Dealing With COVID-19 From a Certified Industrial Hygienist" blog series here and part three here.

Social distancing, staggered shifts, face coverings; these are the preventative steps we know to take as individuals. But what steps should companies be taking to reduce transmission of coronavirus within their buildings? EBI’s Peter Hosford, Certified Industrial Hygienist, addresses your questions on property management in the time of COVID-19 in this blog series.

With regards to housekeeping and disinfection, what should a company be doing now?

Person-to-person transmission of the COVID-19 virus is much more likely to result in illness than surface-to-person transmission. However, the virus can remain viable for 4 hours to 4 days on surfaces. The chart below outlines the viability of the virus on various surfaces, as determined by the National Institute of Health.

COVID Viability Chart

On cardboard, the virus can survive for a maximum of 24 hours, which allows safe shipping and receiving. Steel and Plastic, like faucets and keyboards, it will survive three days, and on glass, like on cellphones or countertops, it lives the longest at four days.

What surfaces need extra cleaning?

To reduce transmission of the virus from surface contact, it is recommended to institute an enhanced housekeeping program that includes frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces:

Table of surface types to make sure to clean.

What cleaning products should I use?

It is important to review the cleaning products used for effectiveness against COVID-19. If possible, use EPA registered products approved for COVID-19. The EPA has a searchable database of over 300 products currently approved. Additional tips:

  • Don’t buy the industrial strength (i.e. dangerous) disinfectants
  • Know the contact time – Do not wipe off the product immediately
  • Bleach 1:100 dilution (5 tablespoons per gallon or 4 teaspoons per quart) with 1-minute contact time

What should employers know about the safety aspects of these products?

Employees need to be trained on the health hazards of the disinfectant(s) used, for their and others’ safety. Industrial disinfectants are toxic and corrosive (particularity the concentrates). It’s best to leave these to the professionals who have the training and PPE to use them safely.

  • Purchase ready-to-use products
  • Employees will not properly dilute concentrates, which poses a health hazard
  • Review Product Safety Data Sheets with the cleaning staff
  • When using the products, gloves and glasses—preferably goggles—should be worn
  • If eyes are contacted, wash immediately
  • Do not mix products. Combining ammonia and chlorine, common household cleaners, can create Chloramine, a deadly gas
  • Replace traditional string mops with disposable wet microfiber mop heads (like Swiffer). String mops spread contamination
  • If string mops have been used, soak in bleach solution (1 cup per gallon of water) for 2 minutes. Use caution – this is a strong solution

Which areas should a property manager or owner focus on?

Wherever possible, eliminate high-touch or hard to clean surfaces. Walk through your property and make note of items in highly trafficked common areas. Remove, replace, or have cleaning protocols for those items.

  • Reception
  • Substitute cloth upholstery for plastic or leather
  • Place hand sanitizer stations at door
  • Eliminate the sign-in pen. Instead, provide a box of pens with a note saying visitors can keep it.
  • Have receptionist and security sign in guests
  • Do not hand your ID to security; hold it up
  • Clean tablets between each user if used for sign-in, or provide alcohol wipes
  • Issue disposable adhesive “badges”
  • Institute cleaning procedures for reusable badges
  • Replace cloth lanyards with clips that can be cleaned
  • Place hand sanitizer by your sign-in station
  • Kitchen and breakrooms
  • Eliminate any salad bar, soup station, or anything that requires tongs or ladles
  • Eliminate knives for cutting bagels or bread
  • Substitute salt, pepper, and sugar shakers for packets
  • Place hand sanitizer where people can use it before eating (not just at the entrance)
  • Gyms, yoga, and exercise rooms
  • Consider closing these spaces until the threat has passed
  • Pools and hot tubs
  • Consider closing. If not possible, frequently clean chairs and tables
  • Monitor chlorine levels closely
  • Laundry rooms
  • Frequent cleaning of all high-touch areas and floors
  • Carpets
  • Dry steam clean; this will kill microorganisms without leaving the carpet wet, which could promote mold growth

How should a company handle visitors and deliveries?

Since transmission of the virus is greatest from person-to-person contact, it is important to minimize interactions as much as possible. When it’s not possible, the following procedures should be used:

  • Screen visitors and employees
  • Generate a health questionnaire:
  • What is your current health status?
  • Have you been within 6 feet of anyone with symptoms or who has tested positive within the past 24 hours?
  • Have you travelled recently? (Internationally or domestically)
  • Consider taking temperatures of employees and visitors using infrared thermometers
  • Request visitors bring their own personal protective equipment (safety glasses, hardhats, hearing protection)
  • Provide inexpensive safety glasses or other PPE visitors can take with them
  • If hardhats are required and provided for visitors, remove the fabric sweat band after use and institute a cleaning procedure

The virus does not survive on cardboard packaging for long, however, protocols for deliveries should be established:

  • Have curriers drop packages at a loading dock. Bring in packages once currier has moved away
  • Wear disposable gloves when accepting and signing for packages

By developing a plan and being proactive you can significantly decrease the risk of a coronavirus outbreak on your property. These preventative measures also make tenants and visitors aware of the efforts you’re taking to keep them safe. EBI can help you develop a plan that suits your specific property needs, hire cleaning contractors, conduct testing, and more.

Have more questions regarding COVID-19 and your property management?

Contact us today!


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