By Jim Flieler, VP of Sales for Charlotte Products Ltd.

As the winter season approaches, especially here in Canada, we start to see more information about preventive matting, ice melt versus rock salt, and tips for winterizing equipment. While all of those considerations will be important for the winter of 2021, there are a new set of considerations we must take into account as we enter our second pandemic winter. In this article, we’d like to provide educational tips to ensure safe, healthy spaces during the winter months to come.

Improving Ventilation in the Winter Months

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a lot of stress on our facility management teams, and the flu and common cold add another element of risk as the winter months begin. We learned a lot about how proper ventilation is a key component of infection control as we discovered how COVID-19 spreads on airborne droplets. This has led to all types of facilities, from warehouses to schools, to begin opening windows and doors when possible. Many of us have felt most safe socializing and congregating with others in the great outdoors, where we can feel better about breathing in outside air. During these mild autumn months, many public buildings have been able to keep windows and doors open, provide outside dining in the restaurant business, and bring outside air in.  

When the temperatures drop, windows and doors can no longer stay open (here in Peterborough the temperatures often get down to -12° C/ 11°F in January). This means you have fully enclosed buildings and your HVAC systems will be your primary form of ventilation. If you have not done so already, it is time to upgrade the filters for your HVAC system and invest in air purifiers. Health Canada has some excellent resources to help facilities improve indoor ventilation. 

Identify Your High Touch Surfaces

Facilities are breeding grounds for all types of disease-causing pathogens, in addition to those that are transmitted via airborne droplets. Surfaces will always be a prime area of focus for infection prevention measures. This winter is no different.Contamination of a single commonly touched area can impact 40-60% of other surfaces throughout a building in just a few hours. That is why it is so important to make sure you have a plan to clean and disinfect (or sanitize, if it is a food service surface) your high-touch surfaces. Simply using disinfectant more often, or using more of your disinfectant, is not sufficient. Overusing disinfectant will leave behind residual product, which can lead to more contamination. 

Looking Beyond Winter

Moving forward, you have to be looking at ways to improve your team and the work you do. If you continue to operate the way you always have, you won’t be able to succeed as we enter winter and look beyond it, toward the future. Efficiency comes from continuous improvement. 

Here are some of the questions you should be asking yourself and your team as you prepare to meet the challenges ahead, this winter and beyond that. . . .

  • Which cleaning and disinfecting process or procedure best suits my facility?
  • How can I train and educate my employees to increase their protection?
  • Should I develop an SOP process including validation and measurement?
  • What elements or tips can I implement for improvement?
  • Is my current provider offering my facility solid value?

COVID-19 has assisted the industry with improving sanitation levels but you must not lower your guard. Continuous improvement, education and training need to remain in the forefront for you to keep infection at bay and provide health, safe spaces for the public.