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Public toilets during Covid-19

The reopening of shopping malls and restaurants thanks to the gradual easing of lockdown regulations has led to an increase of foot traffic at these public spaces. This puts a new challenge and demand on public toilet facilities, especially as far as cleaning routines are concerned.

Emma Corder from Industroclean explained that people expect that public restrooms to be cleaned properly and fully functional. 

“All required health and safety measures must be in place to ensure a safe and hygienic setting, otherwise, thousands of people could potentially be exposed to any number of viruses or bacteria which they could then transport with them as they move around,” said Corder.

Recent surveys and research reports have detailed the many virus and bacteria that could be found inside a public restroom, long before the arrival of the coronavirus. One journal found genetic traces of more than 77,000 kinds of bacteria and viruses in restrooms.  

Shopping centre management experts say that there is a list of guidelines that are usually followed when it comes to keeping restrooms clean and it would be wise for managers responsible for heading up cleaning operations to abide by laws and regulations such as the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHASA) as guidelines. Keeping public spaces clean and safe must be a team effort; the responsibility cannot just rest on the shoulders of centre management.

“It should never be assumed that hygiene measures in place pre-COVID-19 will still be sufficient. Enhanced cleaning in public toilet areas is required. Tackle this armed with an extensive cleaning plan, and increase the frequency of cleaning based on a proper risk assessment,” said Corder.

Enhanced monitoring of restroom facilities is required to ensure that proper hygiene is maintained. Use a two-step process, first cleaning surfaces with soap and water and then disinfect to remove viruses and bacteria. Only approved disinfectant, not detergent-based products must be used – these products must comply with the minimum safety requirements and must be registered by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS).

Corder adds other tips:

  • It is also advised that reusable equipment should be removed and replaced with disposables (e.g. fabric towels, baby-changing mats).
  • Covid-19 survives on hard surfaces present in toilets for at least 72 hours. Areas of particular concern are the frequently touched areas including toilet flush button, toilet seat, cubicle locks and handles, taps, paper towel and soap dispensers and door handles on access or entry points.
  • The correct PPE should be provided for all cleaning staff.
  • Cubicles provide suitable ‘distancing’ barriers but washbasins and urinals (trough urinals, in particular) will require greater consideration. One may need to consider whether additional measures are required, such as physical barriers to adhere to social distancing.

The public need to also do their part and stick to the three basics:

  • Wear a mask at all times, even in your cubicle.
  • Social distancing is important.
  • The best thing someone can do is wash their hands thoroughly and to use a tissue or paper towel to turn off the faucet.

“Being vigilant during these times is key to staying safe. I believe that the use of the right products, proper training and equipping of staff, and the public playing their part will help all of us to stay safe and healthy,” added Corder.

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