When New Jersey businesses are given the green light to reopen, it is imperative to make sure your facilities are ready. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, such as workplaces, schools, homes, and businesses.
As the CDC guidance emphasizes, reducing the risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) by cleaning and disinfection is an important part of reopening public spaces. To be effective and reduce the risk of liability, the process will also require careful planning.
CDC Cleaning and Disinfection Guidance
While there is still a lot we don't know about COVID-19, we do know what can kill it on most common surfaces. “The virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed if you use the right products,” the CDC guidance states. “EPA has compiled a list of disinfectant products that can be used against COVID-19, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates, and wipes. Each product has been shown to be effective against viruses that are harder to kill than viruses like the one that causes COVID-19.”
As recommended by the CDC, below is a blueprint for cleaning/sanitizing public spaces in preparation for reopening:
- Develop your plan: Businesses should evaluate each area of their facilities to determine what kinds of surfaces and materials make up each area and then determine what steps need to be taken, i.e. routine cleaning or disinfection. The CDC advises that facilities that have been unoccupied for seven days or more will only need normal routine cleaning to reopen the area.
- Implement your plan: The CDC advises that most surfaces and objects will just need normal routine cleaning with soap and water. However, frequently touched surfaces and objects like light switches and doorknobs need to be cleaned and then disinfected with an EPA-approved product to further reduce the risk of germs on surfaces and objects.
- Maintain and Revise Your Plan: Businesses should continue to update their cleaning/disinfection plans based on updated guidance and current circumstances. The CDC further advises that routine cleaning and disinfecting are an important part of reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. It notes that surfaces frequently touched by multiple people, such as door handles, desks, phones, light switches, and faucets, should be cleaned and disinfected at least daily. More frequent cleaning and disinfection may be required based on the level of use.
Additional Cleaning/Disinfection Tips for NJ Businesses
COVID-19 has likely changed our way of life for the foreseeable future. In addition to developing initial reopening plans, businesses will also need to establish ongoing cleaning/disinfection policies and procedures. Below are a few important considerations to keep your premises safe and reduce legal liability:
- Conduct due diligence when retaining a cleaning service: COVID-19 has created a wealth of opportunities for cleaning businesses. Unfortunately, some are making unsubstantiated claims regarding their “disinfection” services. Accordingly, it is imperative to verify that any service providers you retain are properly trained and equipped, i.e. they are using the right disinfectants and applying them properly.
- Be transparent regarding your cleaning and sanitization processes: Disclosing the steps that you are taking to keep your facilities clean can go a long way in reassuring employees and customers that they are safe on your premises. To notify the public about your procedures/standards, consider posting notices in elevators, lobbies, storefronts, etc. To avoid unforeseen liability, it is advisable to consult an attorney when preparing such notices.
- Train employees regarding new cleaning procedures: Employees must be trained on how to carry out your new cleaning protocols, as well as how and when personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used. Of course, businesses should also stress the importance of personal hygiene in the workplace. To help foster compliance, these new policies and procedures should be formalized in employee handbooks and training documents.
- Consider facility upgrades: Given that many experts predict that the risk of COVID-19 will persist, it may be advisable to evaluate facilities upgrades that can make cleaning easier. Examples include automated doors, touchless elevator controls, and better air filtration systems.
- Regularly audit your cleaning procedures: As with any other policy or procedure, you can’t simply set it and forget it. Businesses should develop cleanliness metrics to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their cleaning/sanitization plans.
Federal and/or state regulators are likely to establish minimum cleanliness standards for certain industries, such as retail stores, where the risk of infection is highest. Therefore, it is imperative to stay on top of any new compliance obligations.
If you have questions, please contact us
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, John M. Scagnelli, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.