Environmental Services Preventing the Spread of Coronavirus

With over 47 mil­lion con­firmed coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) infec­tions in the Unit­ed States (as of 11–18-21), health­care facil­i­ties have been main­tain­ing pro­ce­dures to man­age the virus among their patient pop­u­la­tion and pro­tect their front­line staff.

When a dan­ger­ous out­break occurs, our minds go direct­ly to pre­vent­ing the spread by human behav­ior (hand­wash­ing and mask­ing are still top pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures). But, as more peo­ple have begun to rec­og­nize, the oth­er side of the equa­tion in infec­tion pre­ven­tion is stop­ping the trans­mis­sion via the envi­ron­ment with the help of the Envi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices Depart­ment and Infec­tion Pre­ven­tion.

ES Optimizer Users Weigh In

When the pan­dem­ic first took hold in the Unit­ed States, we asked some of the Envi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices Direc­tors using ES Opti­miz­er how they were prepar­ing their team to han­dle COVID-19 in the event there was an infec­tion at their facil­i­ty. They were work­ing with their Infec­tion Pre­ven­tion and Com­pli­ance pro­fes­sion­als on estab­lish­ing and fol­low­ing pro­to­cols to ster­il­ize the envi­ron­ment.

These lessons can still be applied in the present, and in the future should the U.S. ever expe­ri­ence anoth­er out­break. Here’s what we learned from them about an effec­tive response to a pan­dem­ic like COVID-19.

That response involves:

1. Disinfecting the environment when COVID-19 is present

EVS pro­fes­sion­als must ensure they have the right clean­ing agents on hand by fol­low­ing CDC rec­om­men­da­tions to deter­mine which dis­in­fec­tants are effec­tive against the virus. They also must adhere to instruc­tions for prop­er use and pro­to­col exact­ly. See the lat­est clean­ing and dis­in­fect­ing rec­om­men­da­tions from the CDC, as well as a list of the types of dis­in­fec­tants that are effec­tive against COVID-19 from the EPA.

2. Keeping EVS professionals who are cleaning the environment safe

Envi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices Tech­ni­cians per­form­ing the work must have the appro­pri­ate PPE (per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment). Hos­pi­tals need to plan ahead and pro­cure this if they don’t already have it. EVS pro­fes­sion­als must be trained in prop­er don­ning and doff­ing pro­ce­dure for PPE so the virus isn’t trans­mit­ted by the equip­ment. The CDC pro­vides guide­lines for this as well.

3. Safely discarding waste

EVS depart­ments have to famil­iar­ize them­selves with CDC guide­lines for safe waste dis­pos­al, then devel­op a process that puts the hos­pi­tal in com­pli­ance. One EVS Department’s pol­i­cy will be to wrap the PPE and clean­ing mate­ri­als three times in red bio­haz­ard bags and then auto­clave it.

4. A plan to ensure compliance with these and CDC protocols by the staff

Hav­ing a pol­i­cy is the first step. Mobi­liz­ing the work­force to fol­low it is next. EVS depart­ments need to devel­op strate­gies for relay­ing emerg­ing infor­ma­tion about the coro­n­avirus to employ­ees, and make cer­tain that all EVS pro­fes­sion­als are fol­low­ing CDC guide­lines.

One facil­i­ty iden­ti­fied a few spe­cial­ly skilled EVS tech­ni­cians to han­dle the affect­ed areas. They received reg­u­lar train­ing and updates on the pro­ce­dures. Lim­it­ing this func­tion to a few high-per­form­ing employ­ees made man­ag­ing com­pli­ance eas­i­er.

More Resources

Infec­tion Pre­ven­tion is best man­aged with a col­lab­o­ra­tion between human inter­ac­tion and the envi­ron­ment. EVS teams help to main­tain a safe envi­ron­ment, mak­ing them a crit­i­cal part of the hos­pi­tal, infec­tion pre­ven­tion, and patient health. Below are more resources for facil­i­ties and envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices pro­fes­sion­als to track devel­op­ments in the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic as new infor­ma­tion is dis­sem­i­nat­ed by the experts.