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What Businesses Need to Know Before Hiring A Contractor to Clean and Disinfect

Businesses want to do their part in keeping their employees, as well as the public, safe by having their workplaces cleaned and disinfected amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many water damage and mold remediation contractors are now offering cleaning and disinfection services. You see some of them promoting their services on television, and you might have noticed they are using a fogging machine to disinfect surfaces.

Prior to hiring a contractor, it is important to know their cleaning and disinfection protocol, who will be performing the job, the type of training they’ve had, and most importantly, the names of the cleaning agents they will be using.  It is important to know and list the cleaning agents to ensure they are EPA-approved disinfectant solutions.  This will also come in handy at a later time when workers return to the building, and they complain of irritation, malodor and other health-related issues.  Additionally, the list of the cleaning chemicals will serve as a starting point when trying to determine the cause of the complaints.  

Businesses need to know that any chemicals used to kill bacteria and viruses can also have many health-related implications to certain individuals.  These chemicals are irritants and can pose sensitivity issues to certain worker populations.  Many cleaning and disinfecting agents release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. VOCs have short and long-term adverse health effects and depending on the level of exposure, VOCs can cause mucous membrane irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue just to name a few.  During the cleaning and disinfection process, the levels of VOCs inside the building will be exponentially higher than outdoors.

Below are some recommendations businesses can use to reduce worker exposure to VOCs and minimize worker complaints post cleaning and disinfection:

  • Make sure the areas are well ventilated
  • Make sure there is enough time between last application and building re-occupancy to ensure the levels of VOCs are no longer a threat
  • Make sure there is no noticeable odor in the building  prior to re-occupancy
  • Make sure the HVAC system is operating properly

If despite these efforts, building occupants still complain of  health-related issues that could be attributed to VOC exposure, it is wise to consult with a certified industrial hygienist (CIH) to assess the workplace and investigate the complaints.  Industrial hygienists are trained professionals in the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of workplace conditions that may cause workers’ injury or illness.  Another option is to be proactive and consult with an industrial hygienist to assist with formulating a pre-occupancy plan to minimize further business interruption due to worker complaints.  

While cleaning and disinfecting workplaces is prudent, it could also result in secondary harm to employees.  Hopefully, by knowing this information beforehand, businesses are able to implement strategies after cleaning and disinfection of their workplaces and before workers return to work so that they can prevent or minimize worker complaints.


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