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Cleaning and Disinfecting Work Areas During a Pandemic

Keeping Workers Safe with Good Disinfecting Procedures

It may be possible to get a virus after touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth or nose. During a pandemic, and beyond, cleaning and disinfection may increase in the workplace to prevent or slow the transmission of airborne illnesses, like coronavirus.

Gloved Hand Spraying Disinfectant Bottle

To reduce the risk of transmission of infectious disease, like the coronavirus, additional cleaning and disinfecting procedures may be added throughout the work day, especially when such measures are recommended by health and safety officials. It is important to recognize that the optimal way to prevent airborne transmission of any virus is to use a combination of safety practices.

A significant portion of people with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before they start showing symptoms. This means the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity – for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing – even if those people are not showing symptoms.

It may also be possible to get the virus after touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth or nose.

Gloved Hands Disinfecting the Lid of a Trash Can

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from getting sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched work surfaces daily, especially surfaces that may be touched by other people or may be near to others during the course of the workday. Examples of frequently touched surfaces and objects that may require routine cleaning or disinfection include:

  • Desks, tables, chairs
  • Phones, keyboards, tablets, touch screens
  • Door handles, door locks, light switches
  • Break room surfaces, handles, appliances
  • Work benches, equipment
  • Toilets, sinks, faucets, floors
  • Printers, copiers, clip boards
  • Remote controls
  • Hand rails, elevator buttons
  • Trash can lids and handles
  • Hand tools, power tool grips
  • Bin or container handles
  • Man lift guard rails, gates and controls
  • Alarm key pads, buttons, switches, controls
  • Heavy equipment handles, seats, steering wheel, controls
Steering Wheel of a Forklift

Everyone has a role in making sure the area where they work remains as safe as possible to prevent the transmission of illnesses. Reducing the risk of exposure to coronavirus by cleaning and disinfection is an important part of ensuring that work can continue safely.

Cleaning removes germs and dirt from surfaces. You can use soap and water to clean surfaces. This doesn't always kill germs, but removing them lowers their numbers. It is suggested to clean surfaces before you disinfect them.

Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces. Disinfectant chemicals are stronger than soap but do not necessarily clean visibly dirty surfaces or remove germs. Killing germs on a surface after cleaning further lowers the risk of spreading infection.

Normal routine cleaning with soap and water alone can reduce risk of exposure and is a necessary step before you disinfect dirty surfaces. Read all manufacturer’s instructions for the cleaning and disinfection products you will use.

If tools or equipment must be shared, it is recommended that alcohol-based wipes be used to clean the items before and after use. When cleaning tools and equipment, consult manufacturer recommendations for proper cleaning techniques and restrictions that might apply.

Construction Worker Wearing Face Mask and Gloves is Wiping Wall with Sponge

Most surfaces and objects will just need normal routine cleaning. Surfaces and objects that are not frequently touched should be cleaned and do not require additional disinfection. Frequently touched surfaces and items will need to be cleaned and then disinfected to further reduce the risk of germs on surfaces and objects.

To disinfect, use an EPA-approved disinfectant. If disinfectants are in short supply, or not available, alternative bleach or alcohol solutions can be used. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.

For a bleach solution, dilute 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water. Bleach solutions will be effective for disinfection up to 24 hours. Ensure alcohol solutions have at least 70% alcohol.

Frequent disinfection of surfaces touched by multiple people is important. When you finish cleaning, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together. This can cause vapors that may be very dangerous to breathe in.

Use EPA's List N to find products that meet the EPA's criteria for use against the coronavirus.

Gloved Hand Washing Surface with Soap and Water

Consider what items can be moved or removed completely to reduce frequent handling or contact from multiple people. Soft and porous materials, such as area rugs and seating, may be removed or stored to reduce the challenges with cleaning and disinfecting them. Soft and porous materials that are not frequently touched should only be cleaned or laundered, following the directions on the item’s label, using the warmest appropriate water setting.

Outdoor areas generally require normal routine cleaning and do not require disinfection. Only use disinfectants on outdoor hard surfaces and objects that are frequently touched by multiple people.

Follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of any cleaning or disinfecting product. Many product labels recommend keeping the surface wet for a specific amount of time. The label will also list precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product. Store and use disinfectants in a responsible and appropriate manner according to the label.

Gloves Hands Using Cleaning Spray and Sponge to Wipe Dirty Wall

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