The promise of a new year ahead has been marred by the UK being placed under a national lockdown yet again. While most schools were set to reopen in January, students will now be required to stay home to alleviate the anticipated stress placed on the National Health Service.
The severity of this national crisis makes it even more imperative that schools follow infection control guidelines to ensure staff and student safety when they eventually do return.
It will be vital not only for the safety of those learning and working at school, but also to reduce the risk of transmission beyond the classroom.
School cleaning will be a top priority in 2021.
We recently looked at the challenges of returning to work in 2021 from a general perspective, but there are unique factors for schools, universities, academies and colleges when faced with the need for infection control in the age of the coronavirus.
If you are grappling with questions on cleaning and disinfection for your school, look to these top 5 tips to allow you to safely and effectively welcome back your colleagues and students.
Tip 1 - Support Team GB When Choosing a Professional Disinfectant Product Supplier
On top of the pandemic, we are also dealing with the challenges of separating from the EU. There are still many questions and uncertainties about the movement of goods between the EU and the UK.
At the same time, the outbreak of SARS CoV-2 caused a massive shortage of available disinfectant cleaners. This resulted in an enormous amount of low quality products being produced, notably from countries in the Far East. These products - often dangerous in their composition - have flooded the market and drastically reduced consumer confidence.
How can you be sure that the sanitation and disinfectant products you buy are reliable?
Support Team GB!
Made In Britain® is a trade organisation whose members are proven to be local manufacturers. By shopping from a member on the madeinbritain.org directory, you have the confidence that your students and staff are properly protected through a quality product made by a British manufacturer.
Tip 2 - Look for a proven track record
Closely related to our first tip, we highly recommend looking for a manufacturer that has a proven pedigree. A large number of companies have entered the disinfectant wipes and spray market in the last 12-18 months.
While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is important for you and your school, college or university to forge a relationship with a reliable supplier - one with a proven track record. Making a quality disinfectant product is a science, and requires specific expertise, equipment, knowledge and training.
Buying directly from the manufacturer is also a great way to ensure you get a good price, as it cuts out the middleman.
We recommend looking for companies that have been around for at least 3 years. This ensures they did not just enter the market to profit off the pandemic. It will reduce the risk of being let down by a supplier that could perhaps be a white label reseller (a company that buys from a manufacturer in bulk, and simply places their own label on the product before selling it on).
Buying directly from the manufacturer is a great way to ensure you get a good price, as it cuts out the middleman.
Tip 3 - Safety Data Sheets and COSHH - what are they and why do they matter
It’s extremely important to assess the risk of using any chemical product in your place of work. Cleaning solutions and disinfectants can be particularly harmful to students and staff. Ask the manufacturer or supplier you intend to work with for a COSHH or SDS sheet.
It's your legal obligation to do so.
COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) is the law that makes you responsible for the health of your students and staff, specific to the use of controlled substances that could be harmful.
An SDS - also referred to as an MSDS - is a Manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheet which lists specific information that you can use in order to meet the requirements imposed on you by COSHH.
There is a large amount of information available on the Health and Safety Executive Website. You should familiarise yourself with the appropriate sections. In summary, you should always ask any supplier of disinfectant products for your educational institution, for a copy of the SDS.
This will help in two ways:
- It will ensure that you are dealing with a manufacturer, not just a distributor (unless you prefer to work with a distributor, which is absolutely fine, but this is a good way to confirm who and what you are dealing with).
- It will provide you with the information you require to meet your obligations under COSHH. It will allow you to determine whether a particular product is viable for your school as a safe way to disinfect and keep students and staff safe.
Keep in mind, while it’s vital to disinfect classes, door handles, desks, chairs and other contact areas to ensure you eliminate the virus that causes COVID-19, it is equally important to ensure the disinfectant that kills the virus is still safe for your students and staff.
Tip 4 - Testing standards and kill time
One of the most important tips when considering a disinfectant solution is understanding the value of testing standards and kill time.
Testing standards, specifically those that relate to the elimination of viruses, are guidelines for laboratories to test how effective products are in the claims they make.
We strongly advise against the use of any product that has not been independently tested under the EN14476 standard.
This standard is specific to viruses and will provide you with scientific proof that the product you are using is in fact effective against the virus that causes COVID-19.
If the product has in fact been tested, it will clearly be indicated on the product label. You can also ask the manufacturer for a copy of the lab report. It is not entirely uncommon for labels to make claims that cannot be supported with documented evidence, so don't be shy to ask.
Here is an example of the lab report for 3G Medical Disinfectant Wipes (downloads as a PDF file).
The second and equally important consideration is kill time. If you need to sanitise and disinfect a class between sessions, you do not have the luxury of time on your side. The faster a product can kill the virus, the better and safer for you, your students and colleagues.
We’ve all been told to “wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.” There is a reason for this: it takes time to eliminate this virus. Disinfectant products are no different. They take time to achieve the desired result.
Read the product label. A reputable product will likely indicate the kill time on the label. If the product is not efficient in 1 minute or less, it is likely not a practical solution for your school.
And if the kill time is not indicated on the label at all, that would be considered a red flag requiring additional investigation.
Tip 5 - The bottom line - your bottom line
We cannot put a value on the safety and health of your staff and students, but there is no question that the pandemic has put an extraordinary amount of strain on school budgets.
Whatever the source of funds, there is not a single educational institution in the country that is not feeling the pain of having to allocate a large portion of their budget to additional products and services to ensure they meet the guidance for cleaning and disinfecting.
Price is therefore a key consideration when you have the need to buy disinfectant products in bulk.
We highly recommend shopping around. There are products available at attractive discounts from manufacturers in Britain that are eager to support our schools through a quality product at a very reasonable price.
Additionally, look for a manufacturer that would be willing to extend payment terms. This will help ease your cashflow burden.
3G Medical has been a proud supplier to the UK market since 2015. Our products are Made in Britain, are independently tested and verified and have a kill time of 1 minute or less.
We proudly work with a large number of educational institutions of all sizes across the country. We are able to offer 30 day credit terms to qualifying clients (subject to credit check and application).
Whether your needs are large or small, we will provide you with an excellent product, at an excellent price along with excellent service.
Read more about our company and if you have additional questions or would like to speak to us about your infection control requirements, please contact us at 0208 123 5346 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.