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Creating the “Ultimate COVID-19 Checklists”

What a COVID-19 Checklist needs to achieve

Before we even started, we asked the fundamental question of what are we trying to achieve. 

We wanted a check list that had enough information in it for people to think about an issue, but not so much information that they got bogged down in detail.

We also wanted a check list that would not be out of date in 2 weeks. That meant avoiding any specifics like how many people in a room.

We also wanted a check list that would still be useful in a year or two because everything that is said about Covid-19 is just as relevant for the flu or common cold. This was an opportunity for a long term improvement in how we do things.

 

What is the COVID-19 risk?

The critical question when coming up with a safety check list is, what is the actual risk?

For COVID-19, the risk is both air-born and from surfaces. That means we have a range of options:

1. Avoid others (work from home and have a total lockdown)

2. Social distancing (always keep far enough away from others)

3. Avoiding contact with surfaces

4. Regular cleaning (you can’t avoid crossing paths with others, so make sure surfaces have been cleaned before you touch them)

5. Just carry on and hope you don’t catch it, or if you do, hope it’s not too bad

For a check list, options 1 and 5 really aren’t going to help us, and it is all about focusing on the middle 3 options.

It can be simply summarised as:

What do you have to do to avoid COVID-19?

AVOID

DISTANCE

CLEAN

Where are the actual COVID-19 risks?

Where do we have to try and apply the rules of avoid, distance and clean?

For every business, there are basically two groups of people that are present:

Staff

Customers
(or patients
or students)

Now we ask four very simple questions:

How can staff infect other staff?

How can staff infect customers?

How can customers infect staff?

How can customers infect other customers?

If you chunk it down this way, you can very quickly brain-storm the risks that exist.

It helps you look at specific parts of your business and specific interactions. It also breaks the problem down into smaller parts and is less daunting.

Let’s look at each question in a bit more detail:

How can staff infect other staff?

For office and industrial businesses, this may actually be the majority of what they need to assess. For restaurants, cafes, schools and GPs the staff are the minority of people present. 

The answer this question, look at how staff enter and leave the premises, where the work, where they mingle, and what they use.

The goals are to minimise the amount of movement they need to do, minimise the sharing of equipment, desks etc, and to ensure that common areas are regularly cleaned.

Things like hot desking are now a bad idea (they always were, now it is just a bit more obvious).

As I said, or offices etc, this is where they will spend most of their time, but what I really want to stress is that for customer focused businesses, they need to spend the time on this question. For example, in cafes the staff are working in very confined spaces and social distancing isn’t an option. Instead, an effort needs to be made on trying to group staff together and have them on common shifts. If one is sick, they will only infect one group of people over the couple of days they work. Having dedicated equipment and work spaces will also help avoid a sick staff member infecting others.

How can staff infect customers?

For retail, this is by far the biggest risk. They employ a small number of staff, but those staff come in contact with hundreds of customers. The opportunity for COVID-19 to rapidly spread is huge.

We are now seeing more social distancing and reduced contact. The move away from cash and to contactless payments is a great way of reducing the risk.

The exercise here is to look at every point of staff to customer interaction, as well as looking at what staff handle prior to the customers. 

The biggest one, however, is really obvious but in most COVID-19 outbreaks was ignored. If a staff member has any COVID-19 symptom, do not let them work. It’s doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out that someone with a sore throat should not be allowed to work until they have been tested and cleared. It is amazing how many people continued to work despite exhibiting known COVID-19 symptoms.

How can customers infect customers?

For many businesses, they just do a total cop out on this one and rely on social distancing. Some go a bit further and wipe down trolleys and the really frequently touched surfaces.

As time goes by, I expect businesses will get better at identifying items, and this was where we became much more creative in our thinking.

GPs shouldn’t have magazines in their waiting room. Likewise, cafes should not have printed menus (or if they do, have disposable ones). 

Then look at what a customer touches in a store. In cafes they use the fridge door to get a cold drink. They rest on counters. They touch serviette holders. 

How can customers infect staff?

Now we complete the loop and look at how customers can infect staff. The big risk with COVID-19 is that one of the hundreds of customers will infect one staff member, and that one staff member will then serve hundreds of other customers. 

And, of course, we want to make sure that staff are protected from the ravages of COVID-19!

By this stage, many of the risks will have been identified already. Something that passes COVID-19 from staff to customer is just as likely to pass it from customer to staff.

But then there are some additional risks that are specific to staff.

One common item of furniture that will disappear in the years to come is the reception desk where the staff are below the customer. This is just a disaster in a pandemic. Perspex shields will help fix the problem.

Did we miss anyone?

Of course we did. 

There are suppliers that you need to consider.

And tradespeople.

External contractors like cleaners.

If you are in a shared building, you have to consider the other tenants.

Now what?

Avoid, distance, clean

Can it be avoided?

Can it be distanced?

Can it be cleaned?

But the big question, especially when a large number of staff or customers are involved is…

Can it be enforced?

It is one thing to say that there can only be one person every x metres, but how do you actually enforce it?

Which then brings me to the next question:

Is the solution causing other problems?

At a local hardware store that will remain anonymous but rhymes with “Runnings”, they have staff at the end of aisles enforcing the “4 people per aisle” rule. The problems with this solution are:

1. they are forcing a packed queue to be created in the walkway at the front of the store. Ironically this is where the most foot traffic is happening, and so they are forcing customers to stand around and have other customers try to dodge between them. It just doesn’t make sense. Even if there were more than 4 people in an aisle, there would not be dozens of customers trying to get past them. 

2. they have staff standing there trying to count customers and enforce the rule. They are adding staff to a crowd to try and avoid a crowd. Last week there were three staff, each responsible for an aisle. Go figure.

A last word on cleaning

Where?

Every checklist about COVID-19 has cleaning as a central part to it.

The challenge is to actually be aware of all the places that are touched. Imagine you walked into a place with black paint on your hands and then did your normal job. Where would it end up? On tables, on chairs, or cups, on doors, on pens, on … almost everything.

But you may not want to actually do this with paint. A fun experiment (especially for schools) is to use a product like Glitterbug powder to show the spread of germs from one surface to the next, and using a UV torch to reveal the places that it has spread to.

When

In theory, you need to clean a surface between every person.

In practice, that’s not going to happen on all surfaces. There are some surfaces where a lot of effort is going into this, like trolley handles and checkout screens.

But then there are surfaces that are just forgotten about. The handles on fridges in cafes come to mind. 

Effectively

Make sure you have a cleaning solution that is appropriate to the surface and effective. Hand sanitisers need to be at least 70% alcohol. 

Another tip, however, is to make sure that the correct technique is being used. When washing hands, for example, most people won’t spend enough time doing it, won’t use soap, and have the totally wrong technique. Now is the ideal time to train staff in the correct way to wash their hands. Glitterbug Lotion is the perfect training tool to firstly demonstrate that they don’t know how to wash their hands, and then to help them learn.

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