To reduce the spread of pathogens including bacteria and viruses, keeping surfaces clean and washing hands are essential. However, those physical surfaces people touch in your facility can be made to either play host to pathogens, or help fight it.
“There are multiple things in play when it comes to microbes,” says Larry. “Sometimes facilities only address it on one level, rather than considering all of the ways individuals interact with their space.”
Begin by identifying a point-person on your facility’s evaluation, as well as any support they will need to conduct the review. Physically walk through each floor of your facility, documenting all touch points that people using your space may come in contact with.
“Actively take a look at your facility and determine where the touchpoints are that you need to address,” recommends Larry.
Touch points might include:
- Door knobs, handles or door push plates
- Drinking Fountains
- Flush Handles
- Sink Faucets
- Paper towel dispensers
- Hot water dispensers
- Grab Bars
- Latches, locks and partition doors
- Switches for lights and fans
“Think about the surfaces you would touch if you were using that room,” recommends Chris.
For each touch point, identify if the surface is made of an anti-microbial material. For something to be deemed “anti-microbial,” it means the surface materials that the product is made of is inhospitable to microbes.
“The actual metal can either let microbes live there, or not,” says Chris. “One of the best materials for ensuring that standing surfaces and touchpoints are anti-microbial is silver nitrate, which can be mixed with chrome and other metals or plastics to keep bacteria and pathogens from growing.”
Anti-Microbial Flush Handles and FlushometersIf you need to update your flush handles or flushometers, look for products specifically labeled as anti-microbial. These should include inorganic compounds that have been manufactured into the surface of the material, some of the commonly used inorganic options are silver nitrate, copper compounds or zinc-based additives, all of which will keep microbes from growing, breeding, and spreading on the treated surface. Luckily, updating your flush handles to be anti-microbial isn’t a huge expenditure.
Going Touch Free
Touch free flush valves, faucets, and paper towel holders are also becoming more popular.
Going hands free might also have the benefit of encouraging more people to wash their hands, since they wouldn’t be worried about touching the faucet handles. Chris reminds us though, “you still have to touch the door handle on your way out of the bathroom.”
“A touch free faucet is a bigger spend though,” says Chris, “so we see a lot of folks do it in phases, a few floors at a time.”
While many of the medical facilities we work with have installed foot operated, push handle, or automatic doors, these are more expensive upgrades.
One more affordable alternative is to place a garbage can by the door so that people can dry their hands with a towel and then use it open the door handle on their way out. Alternatively, you can put hand sanitizer stations at all entrances and exits.
Chris notes that hand sanitizer stations are only as strong as the behaviors and protocols within the building. At some facilities, there's a strong pressure from floor nurses encouraging people to use hand sanitizer when coming as well as going.
“If the nurses see you’re not doing using it, they’ll come and tell you to use the hand sanitizer,” he recalls. In this case, the hand sanitizer station provided a viable solution to door touchpoints.
UV light for water treatment is an emerging trend in infection control for facilities.
“One thing that’s brand new to the marketplace is a drinking fountain with a bottle filling station and a UV light built in,” says Larry. “That ultraviolet light is killing 98% of the bacteria and viruses that are potentially in the water. Use that with a filter that keeps out lead, odor, and improves taste, and you’ve got an ideal water source setup.”
While medical facilities were the target market for this drinking fountain, we’ve been taking them into the school districts we work with.
“It’s an ideal solution for schools,” says Larry, “since they’re encouraging students to stay hydrated but often run into water quality issues.” Schools don’t have the funding for bottled water or high-end water stations, like the options available for class A office space. Filtration and infection-control at the drinking fountain solves this problem in a more cost-effective way.
“People are worried about microbes in the restroom,” says Larry, “but the place they should really be thinking about is their kitchen.” The same anti-microbial principals apply, but often individual users of a space overlook the behavioral causes of virus spread.
“Change the scouring pad in your kitchen at least once a week,” recommends Larry. “If you use a hand towel, change that every day.”
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Check out the rest of this award winning series: Best Practices for Anti-Microbial Plumbing