Health is at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now because of COVID-19. Not only are people taking precautions with wearing masks and social distancing, but they are hyper-aware of germs and bacteria. Most are washing their hands and sanitizing surfaces several times a day.
People are paying attention to cleanliness like never before. They’re also paying for cleaning services—and peace of mind—as Fortune recently reported about the impending cleaning service boom.
If you run a cleaning business or are considering starting a cleaning service, then you need to prioritize the safety of your employees and not just your customers. Operating a commercial or residential cleaning service during a pandemic means that your employees are working on the front lines.
Your staff is touching surfaces that could be infected with COVID-19 and interacting with potential asymptomatic carriers. As an employer, it is your job to keep them safe. Here is what you can do.
Adjust Your Hours to a Later Time
The most common way that the COVID-19 virus spreads is by person-to-person contact. The closer you are to someone else, the more likely you are to catch the virus if they have it. It’s reported that COVID-19 can live on some surfaces for up to 5 days, but the risk of infection decreases significantly over time.
Consider adjusting your cleaning schedules and work agreements with clients to arrive later in the night. Anyone who is still working in the commercial office will likely have gone home, reducing the number of people your staff contacts. You likely already clean the office or business later in the day, but pushing it another few hours can make a significant impact.
Offer Adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers “are obligated to provide their workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to keep them safe while performing their jobs.”
The required PPE is determined based on working hazards and can include gloves, goggles, face shields, masks, and other forms of protection. Employees should also receive training on how to use the PPE and how to wash their hands after its disposal.
Consider the types of protective equipment your cleaning employees will need. While they likely don’t need a full hazmat suit, gloves and masks may be necessary to protect your staff and prevent the spread of the coronavirus or other viruses.
Keep in mind, OSHA also says that administrative controls (like social distancing and limiting contact) are more effective than PPE at preventing the spread of COVID-19, so you’ll also need guidelines for those safety measures.
Know What Chemicals Your Employees Use
Cleaning employees aren’t just at risk from the COVID-19 pandemic—they’re also risking their health every day by using cleaning chemicals. To make matters worse, clients are also expecting increased sanitization efforts from cleaning services right now, which results in crews using harsher agents and unfamiliar chemicals.
Albina Kalabic, a janitor who cleans Amazon’s offices in Seattle, experienced skin and eye irritations because of the hospital-grade disinfectant that was sprayed by a special cleaning crew. Other popular cleaning agents during the pandemic have been known to cause rashes and burns.
If you change the solutions and cleaning materials that your employees use during this time, set aside time to train them on how to use the chemicals or tools effectively. Explain if they need PPE (including eye protection) while cleaning and discuss the risks involved. You can easily cover this process in a short meeting, email, or video call.
Don’t Force Your Employees to Work
Some companies are forcing employees to enter the workforce again. Any employee who doesn’t feel safe returning to work may be considered a “resignation,” disqualifying them from unemployment benefits. Many workers have a steady stream of bills and expenses, which means they can’t afford to quit a job because of safety concerns.
When your employees show up to work, they put their health on the line while also putting their families at risk. They can bring the virus home and spread it to their older relatives and young children.
Ask your employees if they feel safe working for you. If they don’t, offer to furlough them so they can be financially taken care of through the state unemployment system. Then, you can fill your staff with temporary contract workers who feel safe working during this time.
Do not make your employees choose between feeding their families and their health. With a 15%+ unemployment rate, your workers know there is nowhere else to go.
Grow Your Cleaning Business During COVID-19
With the right protections in place, you can grow your cleaning business through the pandemic. If you want to invest in new equipment or build upon your supplies, consider equipment financing or a business line of credit to help you get the funds you need. You can offer specialty services that companies value, increase your book of business, and build a great reputation for your work and the way you treat your staff.