How to clean your early learning service or school during a pandemic

During a pandemic you will need to clean more thoroughly to minimise the spread of the virus. This applies particularly to hard surfaces (for example, sinks, handles, railings, changing facilities, objects and counters). Please note that influenza viruses may live up to two days on hard surfaces, while the norovirus can survive for days or weeks on hard surfaces.

Influenza viruses are inactivated by alcohol and by chlorine. Cleaning of surfaces with a neutral detergent followed by a disinfectant solution is recommended. Surfaces that are frequently touched with hands should be cleaned often, preferably daily. The Ministry of Health recommends:

  • to clean surfaces with a suitable cleaner and/ or disinfectant and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use
  • when choosing a suitable cleaning product, consider what the product is effective against and the length of time the product needs to be left on a surface to clean it properly
  • where possible, use disposable cloths to clean surfaces. Reusable cloths should be cleaned, disinfected and then dried after use
  • ensure appropriate equipment is available for workers to wash and dry their hands.

Read more about good hand washing (external link)

Hygiene practices should also be elevated in a pandemic to an even higher level than usual.

Remind staff, children and students not to share cups, dishes and cutlery; and ensure these items are thoroughly washed with soap and hot water after use.

Remove books, magazines and papers from common areas.

Consider ways of cleaning and/or restricting communal use of some play, physical education equipment and office equipment.

When someone with a suspected virus is identified and has left the school or early learning service, it is important that their play area, study area, work area or office and any other known places they have been, are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Planning should identify protocols for the use of personal protection equipment (if recommended by the Ministry of Health), and methods for waste disposal.

Review cleaning contracts

During the pandemic planning phase, cleaning contracts should be reviewed and contingency plans agreed with the cleaning contractor e.g. for cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, removing towels and increasing the supply of paper towels. 

Active phase of the pandemic

During the active (red) phase, the quality and, if necessary, frequency of cleaning is to be increased, including:

General cleaning

Suitable cleaning products (see end of this document) should be applied to all hard surfaces in common areas daily:

  • All desks and tables
  • Changing facilities
  • Counters, railings
  • Lifts and stairwells
  • Doors, door handles and push plates
  • Light switches and lift buttons
  • Washbasins, toilet bowls and urinals
  • Kitchen and tuck-shop surfaces including bench tops, taps, and the handles of microwaves, stoves and fridges
  • Shared telephones and keyboards in common areas e.g. reception, library, gym equipment, computer rooms, halls and lobbies etc.
  • Technical education equipment (wood/metal working and design equipment)
  • Arts supplies and equipment.

Specialised cleaning

If a child, student or staff member has entered the school or service while ill, specialised cleaning of their locker, desk and/or workspace should take place immediately to minimise the spread of infection.  Their locker and desk should be physically quarantined by means of tape and signage until this can take place.  In the event that a child, student or staff member has to carry out the cleaning so that a shared workspace can continue to be used, appropriate protective and cleaning equipment should be provided.

Keyboards and telephones

Keyboards and telephones should not be shared if at all possible.  In situations where they are, they should be cleaned between users, by the users themselves, with appropriate anti-bacterial cleaning products.

Telephonist/receptionist staff members should have their own headset/handset, keyboard and mouse.  These should be cleaned at the beginning and end of each shift, and stored in a plastic bag labelled with the person’s name between shifts.

Kitchen hygiene/break-out area hygiene

Tea towel service can continue. Any laundry items must be washed and dried thoroughly outside or with a dryer. Disposable gloves should be worn while handling soiled items. Hands should be washed immediately after removing gloves or after handling these items.

Disposable paper towels, in a suitable dispenser, should be provided in staff kitchens for drying of hands, and drying of dishes where required. The cleaning or supplies contract should provide for an adequate supply of paper towels at all times.

Children, students and staff should be reminded not to share cups, dishes, and cutlery and ensure they are thoroughly washed with soap and hot water after use, or preferably, washed in a dishwasher.

Where dishwashers are supplied, these are to be used in preference to hand washing dishes.  Dishwashers should be set on the hotter water temperature setting where a choice is available.

Antibacterial liquid soap is to be provided in kitchens for hand washing before and after food preparation.

All magazines/papers are to be removed from reception/waiting areas, and from common areas such as kitchens, common rooms and breakout areas. 

Bathroom hygiene

Consider alternatives to hot air hand-driers. Increase use of disposable paper towels in a suitable dispenser.  The cleaning or supplies contract could provide for an adequate supply of paper towels at all times.

Antibacterial liquid soap should be provided in all bathrooms/toilets in preference to bar soap.

Ventilation

The service or school caretaker is usually responsible for ensuring that the air-conditioning/ventilation equipment (e.g. windows) is maintained to NZ Building Code standards. 

This should be evident from the Building Warrant of Fitness certificate in each building. 

If the certificate is not current, then the caretaker should be contacted to ensure that IQP checks are carried out and the certificate updated.  The supplier will be able to provide copies of the air conditioning hygiene testing results on request.

Cleaning/hygiene equipment and supplies

Contract cleaning

  • Antibacterial cleaning solutions, disinfectant and household bleach
  • Personal protective equipment for cleaners to be supplied by contractor to include gloves, eye shields and masks for use if required
  • Increased stocks of paper towels and liquid soap
  • Additional supplies of small/medium plastic rubbish bags
  • Antibacterial liquid soaps

Children, Student and staff use

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE will also require a management system including recording, maintaining, training disposing, and in some cases fitting and testing equipment.  Consideration should also be given to who will use PPE such as the nature of their work tasks, their breathing rate and familiarity with infection control, and social distancing principles and procedures.

Cleaning Products

Disinfectants

Recommended use

Precautions

Sodium hypochlorite:

1000 parts per million of available chlorine, usually achieved by a 1 in 5 dilution of hospital grade bleach.

Disinfection of material contaminated with blood and body fluids.

Should be used in well-ventilated areas.

Protective clothing required while handling and using undiluted bleach.

Do not mix with strong acids to avoid release of chlorine gas.

Corrosive to metals.

Granular chlorine:

e.g. Det-Sol 5000 or Diversol, to be diluted as per manufacturer’s instructions.

May be used in place of liquid bleach, if it is unavailable.

Same as above.

Alcohol:

e.g. Isopropyl 70%, ethyl alcohol 60%.

Smooth metal surfaces, tabletops and other surfaces on which bleach cannot be used.

Flammable and toxic.  To be used in well-ventilated areas.  Avoid inhalation.

Keep away from heat sources, electrical equipment, flames, and hot surfaces.

Ethyl alcohol not to be used on keyboards, phones etc.

Allow it to dry completely.

Bleach as a Disinfectant

Regional Public Health recommends the use of bleach as a disinfectant as recent outbreaks of diseases caused by micro-organisms (germs) such as giardia, cryptosporidium and salmonella. Many of these germs are resistant to most disinfectants.

Bleaches contain sodium hypochlorite, the chemical which kills bacteria and viruses. The Ministry of Health recommends use of a disinfectant that has at least 2% hypochlorite. Supermarket bleach is labelled between 2-5% sodium hypochlorite.

A bleach solution should be used to disinfect the nappy changing area, toilets and sinks. To work properly the solution needs to:

  • Be used on a surface free of dirt/organic material
  • Be a strong enough concentration i.e. 0.1% (see table below). If there is visible contamination, then use a stronger 1:10 solution.
  • Have enough time to kill the bugs (ideally 30 minutes contact time)

The solution should be disposed of at the end of the day. Made up chlorine solutions are often kept in spray bottles – the bottle needs to be cleaned daily as dirty hands touch it.

How to make up a 0.1% bleach solution

STRENGTH ON BOTTLE

BLEACH (ML)

WATER (ML)

TOTAL (ML)

1%

100

900

1000

2%

50

950

1000

3%

33

967

1000

4%

25

975

1000

5%

20

980

1000

 ‘Eco’ or ‘natural’ cleaners

There has been an increased interest in the use of ‘green’, ‘eco’, ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ cleaning products. Be aware that many of these products are suitable only for ‘cleaning’ surfaces by removing dirt, grease and grime, and not for ‘disinfecting’ surfaces to kill disease causing germs.

 

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