The emergence of Coronavirus (Covid-19) has altered our way of life dramatically, meaning hygiene and safety are more important now than ever. Although the transmission of Covid-19 is believed to mainly occur through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing, as well as coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, there is growing evidence that virus transmissions can occur in urine.
A scientific study from China looked into the aerosol transmission that occurred from flushing urinals and discovered that “more than 57% of the particles have travelled away from the urinal”, reaching thigh height in 5.5 seconds, meaning the particles can travel at an alarming rate.
Ensuring that toilets and washrooms are Covid-safe is essential for businesses that are still able to operate in the current climate, while also being something that every business should be exploring for when they can re-open.
Aside from the installation of waterless urinals which will prevent the spread of aerosol particles from urinals (due to their non-flushing nature), how else can a washroom be made Coronavirus-safe?
Risk Assess the Journey
Depending on the type of business or organisation in question, there is a requirement to provide:
• Employee toilet facilities in line with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
• Customer toilets in line with the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, Regulation (EC) 852/2004 or venue licence requirements.
UK Government guidance states that the objective of employee toilet facilities is to “help everyone keep good hygiene through the working day”. Meanwhile, for customer toilets, the objective is to “ensure that toilets are kept open and to ensure/promote good hygiene, social distancing, and cleanliness in toilet facilities”.
To understand how best to keep employees and customer safe, conducting a risk assessment on their washroom “journey” is key to learning behaviours and understanding where “traffic congestion” and touchpoints occur. This information can then be used to make improvements, keeping everyone who uses the restrooms as safe from Coronavirus (and other viruses) as possible.
A typical washroom journey with touchpoints and potential sources of traffic will likely look as below:
1. Access to and from the toilet facilities – touch points on the door handles as users enter and exit, as well as a source of potential traffic congestion
2. Access to and from cubicles – touch points on the door handles and locks
3. The use of facilities – touchpoints on toilet seats, toilet roll dispensers and flushes
4. Handwashing – touchpoints on soap dispensers, taps, and hand dryers or paper towel dispensers. This is a potential source of traffic congestion around these areas if multiple people in the washroom at once.
Some washrooms may also include baby changing facilities, which should be thought of using the same touchpoint concept as above.
Once you have understood how and where the main issues will occur, you shioud consider what changes are required to reduce the risk of contamination. Businesses should bear in mind that they must do what is reasonable and necessary to make washrooms a safe environment, so multiple changes may be necessary. Examples of changes that can and should be made where possible are below:
• Use signs to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency and duration, as well as avoid touching the face, etc.
• Consider the use of social distancing marking in areas where queues normally form. The adoption of a limited entry approach, with one in, one out, would also make a significant difference in reducing traffic. Limit the number of people who are permitted in the washrooms at any one time, to encourage social distancing.· Consider making hand sanitiser available on entry and exit to toilets where safe and practical to do so, and have signage encouraging people to use it upon entry and exit.
• Ensure suitable handwashing facilities are available. If possible, include contactless soap and taps to further reduce the risk of contamination. Replace hand dryers with disposable paper towel systems to reduce the spread of aerosols.
• Any reusable items (towels, baby changing mats, etc.) should be replaced with disposable versions. Refuse bins should also be hands-free where possible, such as foot-peddle activated waste disposal systems.
• Reduce the number of surfaces that are needed to be touched after washing hands. This may mean keep doors open (which will aid in ventilation) or the installation of foot hooks on the bottom of doors.
When considering any changes, thought must also be given to the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 in terms of provision of disabled toilet facilities, to ensure that accessibility is not reduced upon making the changes.
As well as implementing washroom changes, increasing the frequency of cleaning should also be implemented. Currently, it is believed that Coronavirus can live for up to 72 hours on a surface, so you should consider:
• Increase enhanced cleaning regimes that coincide with toilet usage
• Particular attention should be paid to areas that are most frequently touched. This includes flushes, toilet seats, toilet locks, soap dispensers, taps, paper towel dispensers and door handles upon entry and exit.
• Where paper towels have been implemented, increase the frequency of waste collection.
• Provide cleaning materials for surfaces, such as cleaning wipes for baby changing areas.
• Display cleaning rotas so it is visible that cleaning and checks have been carried out, while also ensuring that cleaning staff have the correct and necessary PPE.
Breaking down the user journey in toilet facilities – whether for customers or employees – will be beneficial in ensuring that you can implement procedures and practices that can help to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. This is a responsibility that all organisations should be undertaking, and by ensuring that practical changes are made and adhered to means that you can keep your employees and customers as safe as possible.
Making the change to waterless, non-flushing urinals will also take a large step in reducing the amount of bacteria transmission in your washrooms. Not only this, but it can also save on your water bills and be more cost-effective. To find out more information about making the switch, contact us today.