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Concerned about hygiene? These steps will make your return to work COVID-safe

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With more workers set for a return to on-site work after COVID-19 lockdowns, new research has revealed that many Australians are concerned about hygiene and germs at their workplace.

New research reveals that 63 per cent of Australians have become very aware of not touching surfaces when away from home, while more than a quarter have become anxious about germs since the start of the pandemic. 

Rune Sovndahl, Fantastic Services Group CEO, says their research illustrates Australians' changing attitudes towards cleaning during COVID-19.

Key Points

  • Many Australians are concerned about hygiene at their workplace.
  • Applying simple principles of COVIDSafe plan can help manage back-to-work anxiety.
  • NSW Safe Work advises following normal cleaning protocol unless there's a COVID-19 outbreak. 

Lana Bogunovich is among those who expressed concern about an increased risk of infection while commuting to work or sharing workspace with her colleagues. 

When I returned to work, I was definitely more conscious about surfaces that I touch, about how close I stood to people.

Ms Bogunovich says the challenges presented by COVID-19 made her reassess the meaning safe work environment.

Safe work environment in a time of COVID is having strict policies in place, having a tap on how many people are allowed in the meeting room at any one time." 

She says she is also conscious about the importance of being physically distant from others, sanitizing her hands and using disinfectant wipes to clean the shared desk before using it. 

"And also, the temperature checking machine as well upon entering, I think that has also given me an added level of feeling safer,” says Ms Bogunovich. 

Employees going through mandatory temperature checks in office
Workplace temperature checks can help employees with the confidence and peace of mind that their workplace is safe.
Getty Images/Luis Alvarez

NSW SafeWork Director of Health and Safe Design, Jim Kelly, says applying the COVIDSafe Plan's simple principles can help manage the back-to-work anxiety.

COVIDSafe Plan

  • Practising good hand hygiene
  • Practising physical distancing
  • Wearing a face mask when required
  • Avoiding interactions in enclosed spaces 
  • Creating workforce bubbles
  • Supporting workers to get tested and stay home even if they only have mild symptoms

Rune Sovndahl encourages employers to focus on minimising contact with high traffic surfaces like handles, taps and light switches.

He says it may be worth investing in removable “foot-handles” like those used in commercial kitchens to open doors hands free.

The practise of germ-proofing high traffic area can help not just feel safe but be safe. 

Man applying social distancing sign at office
Practising the COVIDSafe Plan's simple principles can help manage back-to-work anxiety.
Getty Images/mixetto

Besides providing staff with hand sanitisers, antibacterial wipes, and socially-distanced desks, Mr Sovndahl says many employers have decided to invest in antiviral sanitisation, also known as fogging. 

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But due to Australia’s effective COVID-19 response, SafeWork Director of Health and Safe Design, Jim Kelly, says that deep-clean services like fogging are only required in case of an outbreak at the workplace.

Assuming that the virus hasn’t entered your workplace there is absolutely no reason why you should change your normal cleaning protocols.

For more advice on minimising the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at your workplace, visit the SafeWork Australia website.

A man in protective suit disinfecting office work space
SafeWork Director of Health and Safe Design, Jim Kelly says that deep cleans services are unnecessary unless there is an outbreak in the working environment.
Getty Images/South_agency

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