Hospitality businesses across the country were naturally excited by the Prime Minister’s announcement that pubs, cafes and restaurants could re-open on 4 July. No doubt most want to get back up and running as quickly as possible and are busy working to ensure they comply with the government guidance. One area that cannot be ignored is the washroom.
It’s already been reported that anxiety surrounding public washrooms could be holding some people back from enjoying the activities they could do prior to lockdown and this potentially isn’t an unfounded concern.
Washrooms represent one of the greatest hygiene challenges following the pandemic, as they are spaces in which social distancing could be difficult to maintain. They also contain many shared touchpoints and hard surfaces on which coronavirus can survive and become vectors for transmission.
But there are many practical steps businesses can take to eliminate the fear and anxiety that people may have around using washrooms after the lockdown. It all starts with identifying the key hygiene hotspots within the washroom and developing a strategy to maintain best practice hygiene as well as reducing, where possible, the number of shared touchpoints. Key areas to focus on are the cubicle, washbasin, shared facilities (such as the circulating air and door handles) and the immediate vicinity outside of the washroom.
The washroom cubicle
People expect the washroom cubicle to be a personal space, even if it is within a public facility. It also contains several shared touchpoints. We recommend providing surface disinfectant or toilet seat cleaner in every cubicle to provide patrons with some peace of mind. You should also look to provide a toilet paper dispenser that seals away the paper so that people can’t touch the entire roll and a no touch FHU with a modesty flap that is sensor activated, ensure there is no need for users to touch the unit.
Removing waste from the cubicle is also a vital consideration. Best practice is to safely remove washroom waste and sterilise washroom equipment in-situ rather than swapping out units and risking units being contaminated as they are transported to site or carried to the washroom.
At the wash basin
Providing adequate handwashing and drying facilities is vital to help give consumers peace of mind. To maximum control over cross contamination risks, opt for no-touch soap dispensers and hand dryers with High Efficiency HEPA filters, which trap airborne microbes during filtration, helping ensure that clean air is provided.
Hand sanitiser provides a vital third step in hand hygiene. Dispensers should be installed in the washroom to provide ongoing hand protection for users after they have finished washing and drying their hands.
Providing surface disinfectant dispenses near critical touchpoints – including baby changing stations is a key step in reducing the risk of cross contamination in shard areas. Also consider installing air steriliser units to remove potentially harmful germs from the air and reassures users that the air being circulated is clean. You could also install contactless vending solutions to distribute products such as face masks, PPE or sanitiser.
Where possible, use urinals with automatic flushes to remove the need for communal touchpoints. Urinals may also breach physical distancing guidelines, and therefore some may have to be closed to maintain social distancing measures.
Outside the washroom
The area outside the washroom is an important consideration in the context of social distancing. Electronic display systems such as Initial’s Rapid>Count accurately counts how many people are in the washroom, and gives users a green or red light if it is safe to enter. This helps to eliminate queues near the washroom and it also helps identify cleaning activities and schedule reports. Hand sanitiser stations should be placed just outside the washroom provides users with an opportunity to sanitise before returning to their tables.
Businesses will be very busy in the coming weeks as they prepare to create a safe and pleasant experience for their returning customers. While the washroom has to be one area of focus, it is important to remember that consumers have an important role to play too. The simple act of thoroughly washing your hands can significantly reduce the risk of cross contamination, so be sure to provide consumers with the facilities they need to play their part in reducing risk.
By Jamie Woodhall UK technical and innovation manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene