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10th July 2020

How effective is fogging in fighting Coronavirus?

Infections in care homes and other social care settings can adversely affect the most vulnerable in society, including those who care for and support them. With a prevalent virus which scientists are still learning about and no vaccine yet available to combat the spread, what control measures can managers put in place to mitigate the spread from COVID-19?

The Spread of Covid-19

COVID-19 has an incredibly fast reproduction rate, with the droplets from coughing, sneezing and saliva droplets from human mouths spreading onto anything the droplets have contact with. When a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or talks, they may spread droplets containing the virus a short distance, which quickly settle on surrounding surfaces. This is called fomite transmission. Surfaces include door handles, computer equipment, touch screens and handrails. You may get infected by the virus if you touch those surfaces or objects and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes.

Research has found the new coronavirus can last up to three days on plastic and metal surfaces and cardboard for 24 hours. With this in mind, and no vaccine or specific treatment, the main advice to prevent COVID-19 is to practise stringent hygiene measures which include cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that people frequently touch.

Even as restrictions are being lifted, there are likely to be more waves of coronavirus infections as people meet others, so it’s important to stay vigilant and continue using hygienic practices.

Decontamination

As part of the programme to stop the spread of COVID-19, frequent high-level cleaning must include basics such as regular handwashing with soap and water to cleaning high traffic areas and contact surfaces.

The simplest way to keep areas clean is washing walls, mopping floors, cleaning desks and workstations, door handles etc. with anti-bacterial spray. However, sometimes this is not sufficient and a thorough deep clean is needed, particularly in areas which have been quarantined.

Fogging

There are several methods of deep cleaning. The most common is known as a TR19 compliant clean in kitchens for cooker canopies and ducting to remove grease build-up and remove other contaminants.

For deep cleaning within kitchens and extended to offices, care settings and industry, there is a method called fogging. This has been used in hospitals for dealing with MRSA.

Fogging is the work of a specialist contractor using specialised products and cleaning methods.  Fogging uses an antiviral disinfectant solution (to BS EN 14476 standard) which cleans and sanitises large areas of a building quickly and effectively. It can kill off the virus and other biological agents in the air and on surfaces. The task involves spraying a fine mist from a spray gun which is then left to evaporate, usually for 6 hours. The task requires the contactor to wear a chemical suit, gloves and an air fed ventilator and sealed mask etc. Once treated, the area must be sealed off completely for some time afterwards.

The product used is safe on equipment such as printers, computers etc. as the mist is exceptionally fine but effective in penetrating all areas to kill off the virus. However, the contractor would discuss this with the client.

The downside to this application, apart from the cost of a contractor, is the 6-hour downtime when a section of the building is not operational. Although it is costly, it’s worth considering the cost of not decontaminating in the context of the risk to vulnerable service users, the impact of the virus on vulnerable staff groups, wider community spread and reputational damage. It is worth noting where staff use their vehicles for work, some Local Authorities also have schemes where keyworker vehicles can also access fogging though you would have to contact your Local Authority.

Electrostatic Broad-spectrum Antimicrobial Spray

In addition to conventional fogging, there is also an electrostatic broad-spectrum antimicrobial spray process. Electrostatic spray surface cleaning is the process of spraying an electrostatically charged mist onto surfaces and objects. The electrostatic spray uses a specialised solution that is combined with air and atomised by an electrode inside the sprayer. Surfaces already covered will repel the spray, making the method extremely efficient. It’s effectively like iron filings being attracted to a magnet.

Can UV Light or a Sunbed Kill Off Covid-19?

The simple answer is ‘no’, and rather than being a way to ‘decontaminate’ and kill off the virus, it probably puts the person at greater risk of skin damage including skin cancer, a high price to pay for a golden tan.

Some providers have invested in UV arches in social care buildings which people walk through. However, there is no evidence to suggest this is effective in combating COVID-19 – The World Health Organisation states, ‘Ultra-violet (UV) lamps should not be used to disinfect hands or other areas of your skin’. UV radiation can cause skin irritation and damage your eyes. Cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing your hands with soap and water are the most effective ways to remove the virus.

Conclusion

  • Key to reducing the spread of Covid-19 is a high standard of personal hygiene through regular handwashing with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Where soap and warm water are not readily available, a 70% alcohol-based sanitiser is to be used
  • Key to reducing the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace is frequent cleaning of high contact areas and surfaces that are frequently touched with an approved disinfectant. A cleaning schedule must be maintained
  • People who have come into contact with someone who has the symptoms need to self-isolate for 14 days
  • In a social care setting where someone has had COVID-19, a full deep clean will be necessary and fogging is the most effective method. However, the area will need to be closed off and not reopened for 6 hours
  • Sunbeds and UV light are not an effective method of killing off the virus

What is my Legal Responsibility?

Employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to provide a safe working environment under Regulation 2 (1).

For more information on COVID-19 and what, as an employer, you need to know, visit the Covid-19 Hub on your QCS dashboard.

 

 

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

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