Disinfecting The Workplace

Disinfecting The Workplace

Disinfecting Premises Using Fog, Mist, Vapour or Ultraviolet (UV) Systems During the Coronavirus Outbreak

The HSE has issued this guidance. It notes that, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, fog, mist, vapour or UV treatments may be suitable options to help control the spread of the virus, by cleaning and disinfecting a larger space or room. Any use of these treatments for these purposes should form part of the COVID-19 risk assessment. Users must be competent and properly trained.

Selecting the correct treatment will depend on:

  • the size of the area to be treated, its shape and how easily it can be sealed off if delivering an airborne product
  • whether there are hard or soft surfaces – soft furnishings may act as a ‘sink’ for the airborne chemicals and emit them for some time after treatment (it may be possible to remove items such as sofas before treatment)
  • the type of business you have – some areas may be better suited to UV surface treatments than airborne chemicals or vice-versa.

Avoiding harm

Disinfectants applied as a fog, mist or vapour may reach harmful levels during delivery and UV systems may cause eye/skin damage if people enter an area undergoing treatment. Discuss with suppliers what safety features they can provide to prevent inadvertent access to a room during treatment. For example, safety sensors, simply locking rooms during treatment if feasible, or safety signage as part of a safe system of work.

The guidance says:

  • do not spray people with disinfectant
  • do not disinfect large outdoor spaces.

Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you are using the product safely and effectively. Advice on the law on chemicals is set out.

The guidance goes on to cover sealing off rooms – which is necessary to avoid risk of human exposure to the potentially harmful treatments. Disinfectants may reach harmful levels during delivery and UV systems may cause eye/skin damage if people enter an area undergoing treatment. It suggests that rooms that are very difficult to seal may not be suitable for delivering airborne chemicals.

Source: Barbour 2020

HSE: Regulating occupational health and safety during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

HSE: Regulating occupational health and safety during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

As Britain’s statutory regulator of occupational health and safety The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has taken action to ensure that our important role continues effectively as the COVID-19 situation unfolds. These actions are being guided by the specific needs and characteristics of the various sectors we regulate and in line with advice from the UK Government, Public Health England, Public Health Wales and Health Protection Scotland.

HSE recognises the threat presented by COVID-19 to industry, our staff, and the broader community and in recognition of this we have transitioned our workforce to operate remotely.

HSE’s staff and inspectors remain contactable and we continue to engage with duty holders and other stakeholders with teleconferencing and other tools in place of face-to-face meetings.

Despite the demanding circumstances, compliance with occupational health and safety legal requirements remains with duty holders and HSE will continue its regulatory oversight of how duty holders are meeting their responsibilities in the context of the current public health risk and based on our available regulatory capacity.

Our regulatory approach will take a flexible and proportionate account of the risks and challenges arising from the pandemic.

As a consequence, HSE:

  • has suspended targeted inspection activity of high-risk industries that are not part of the major hazard sectors, including construction and manufacturing
  • has carried out a short pause on our offshore oil and gas and onshore chemical, explosives and microbiological industry inspection activities so we can give duty holders time to overcome various immediate pressures and challenges and we will then focus our regulatory work so it is re-prioritised onto critical areas and activities. We will continue to regulate major hazard industries throughout this time undertaking regulatory functions remotely
  • will endeavour to undertake regulatory activities which do not require site visits as normally as possible, for example Approvals and Authorisation work for biocides and pesticides, Statutory Permissioning activities such as Licensing, Safety Case / Report Assessments, Thorough Reviews, Combined Operations Notifications, Wells Notifications, Land Use Planning Applications, Hazardous Substances Consents etc
  • will, across all sectors, continue to investigate work related deaths, the most serious major injuries and dangerous occurrences and reported concerns from the workforce or the public where people are being exposed to risks from work activities and we will still take action to secure compliance with the law. We will conduct as much of our investigation activity using technology as possible, without compromising the collection of evidence and our ability to secure effective control of risk and, where appropriate, justice
  • will do as much of our regulatory intervention work as we can remotely, but we will still mobilise to site, including offshore, where it’s necessary to provide public assurance that hazards are being effectively managed and to secure compliance with the law. Where a site visit is required social distancing guidelines will be followed.

Source: HSE