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Clean the water, clear the air

By | Coronavirus, Ductwork Cleaning, Legionella | No Comments

Writing at a time when the UK is yet to reach the peak of the Coronavirus epidemic, Gary Nicholls, MD of Swiftclean, takes a look at how we should be protecting the users of water and ventilation systems, both in a time of crisis and in the longer term.  

 

In the past weeks, we have become familiar with some new terms; social distancing, self-isolation and shielding; all part of the Government plan to prevent any further spread of COVID-19.

 

It has been absolutely the right decision to encourage working from home and therefore, inevitably to close offices and entire buildings. However, as an industry, this decommissioning has presented us with some new challenges. We have noticed, for example, a reluctance to continue with some regular maintenance, in order to facilitate social distancing. Although this is well meant, it is something of an own goal in terms of maintaining a healthy building in the future.

 

Healthy water systems are meant to be used. In fact, it is the frequent flow of water through a domestic water system which helps to keep it healthy and free from legionella bacteria. When properties are closed, water will remain static in the pipework. As we head into towards the summer months, the ambient temperature is rising and this water can become tepid, rather than cold. Tepid, static water provides the ideal conditions to aid the proliferation of legionella.

 

Legionella is, of course, the cause of the ‘flu-like Legionnaire’s Disease; but this seems to have been forgotten by some, in the rush to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. We must prevent both, as far as we can, as both are potentially lethal. Both attack the respiratory system, and both are particularly perilous for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. What we absolutely must not forget is that Legionnaire’s Disease has a mortality rate of around 12% for those infected – higher, at present, than the rate for those with COVID-19. We also have a severely stretched and overtaxed NHS. The last thing that we need now, as a nation, is a spate of legionella outbreaks.

 

Special consideration must be given to legionella prevention measures when the usage of the water system has been substantially decreased or when recommissioning a building after shutdown. L8, the HSE approved code of practice on controlling the risk of legionnaires disease, recommends a review of the risk assessment where there have been significant changes to the use of a building, such as the number of people using it.

 

Hopefully, before the shutdown period, you will have taken the time to review your legionella risk assessment and ensure that your property is compliant with the Approved Code of Practice. During the shutdown, you should have been following regular, at least weekly, flushing routines for toilets, taps, shower heads and drinking fountains – any water outlet which has been idle. These flushing routines should be carried out with the least possibility of causing fine spray, which those carrying out the procedure could inhale.

 

To be on the safe side, after a prolonged period in which it has not been used, you should call in a specialist to clean and disinfect your water system. This should be done before the regular cleaners start preparing the building to reopen, to ensure that the domestic water supply is safe and legionella free. This will protect not just the end users, but also the property owners and managers.

 

If there is a legionella outbreak, both the organisation and the individuals responsible for risk control can be prosecuted for negligence. Coronavirus will not be a defence in law. In the event of a guilty verdict, the court can impose limitless fines on the organisation responsible, while any individuals convicted may face a custodial sentence.

 

It is best not to delay routine legionella prevention at all – this is essential work. A professional specialist provider will be able to timetable legionella prevention work for completion out of normal business hours, to observe social distancing while they work, and will use personal protection equipment as a matter of course. They can carry out the work safely, even during a lock-down period.

 

The quality of indoor air in a property should not be neglected either, especially at a time when we are trying to ensure as healthy an indoor environment as possible. Clean air is not compatible with a dirty ventilation system and, regrettably, there are still quite a lot of those in existence. Fortunately, since 2013, when the second edition of TR/19, the leading guidance document concerning ventilation ductwork hygiene, was issued by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), there have been testing protocols for new ventilation systems to ensure they are thoroughly clean before commissioning. This has meant that the system was clean at the start of its life, assuming of course that the protocol was followed. However, many systems installed before that date were not cleaned before their first use, and may never have been cleaned since.

 

It is essential that we clean ventilation ductwork in compliance with TR19®, the latest incarnation of the BESA guidelines, which is currently under review, as we seek to improve industry best practice still further. TR19® gives us clear tables to follow when considering cleanliness assessment and regular testing, according to the system quality classification, and the type of function of the facility which the ventilation system serves. Compliance with TR19® is, again, something that we would not recommend putting off.

 

In the current climate we would also recommend adding a further process, cleaning the interior surface of the ventilation ductwork with medical surface disinfectant, especially in areas where there has been a recent suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus. This sensible precaution can be carried out at little extra cost during a routine TR19® clean, or can be conducted as a one-off service to provide deep cleaning and additional peace of mind.

 

With a solution of the same chemical disinfectant, we can also clean more difficult equipment such as radiators, boiler plant, light fittings, heating controls, door handles, soft furnishings and a host of other surfaces, using a fogging method. This will destroy the COVID-19 virus, which is typically accepted can survive for 72 hours on many surfaces.

 

It is a difficult balancing act at the moment, maintaining property and keeping our distance. In the long term, for the health of the nation, it will pay to keep air and water compliance as a top priority.

Stepping up hygiene so we can all breathe more easily

By | Coronavirus, Ductwork Cleaning, News | No Comments

The importance of hygiene best practice in combating the spread of Coronavirus has become all too familiar in the last few weeks. However, we should be applying this to ventilation systems, as well as people.  Gary Nicholls, MD of ductwork hygiene and legionella risk experts Swiftclean, outlines a few sensible precautions we can take to ensure a healthier building.

 

Now, more than ever, it is important to ensure that our indoor environments are as healthy as possible. Yet many property managers are overlooking hygiene in one important area – the ventilation system. This oversight is entirely understandable. In order to limit the spread of this new illness, we are vacating the office and other workplaces in favour of working from home. But is everyone safer at home?

 

In local housing settings which rely on a mechanical ventilation system, we should be giving some serious thought to the cleanliness of the ventilation system itself, in order to ensure good indoor air quality. The whole purpose of the ventilation system is to draw in fresher air from outside and to expel staler air from inside. If we wish to circulate clean air, logic demands that we should be using clean ventilation ductwork. Successful self-isolation will require a clean air supply in order to promote good health. In our modern tightly sealed buildings, it is easy for air to become stale or laden with indoor pollutants such as cleaning products, which can exacerbate existing respiratory conditions such as asthma.

 

Sadly, as ductwork experts we are all too aware that many of our older ventilation systems are far from hygienically clean. Before the second edition of TR/19, the leading guidance document on ventilation hygiene issued by the BESA, came into force in 2013, there was no clear understanding of whose responsibility it was to ensure that newly installed ductwork was compliantly clean before commissioning and actual use. Sadly, the credit crunch of 2008 also meant that ventilation ductwork cleaning became one of the first casualties of the cutbacks.

 

As a result, there are far too many ventilation systems in our multiple dwellings and workplaces which have either not been cleaned for over a decade – or which have never been properly cleaned at all.

 

This is a real concern to us in the current crisis. We do not understand enough yet about the transfer and spread of this disease, but we are clear that the most vulnerable groups include those with asthma and other respiratory problems, which can be made worse by poor air quality. In order to promote good indoor air quality and therefore good health and wellbeing, we need clean ventilation systems, so the cleaning of the ventilation system in accordance with TR19® should now be a high priority for every building manager.

 

The TR19® compliant clean is excellent under normal circumstances, but, at the moment, we strongly recommend a deep clean of the system using medical disinfectant known to attack and destroy almost all known viruses and bacteria. This chemical clean can be performed at the same time as TR19 cleaning at little extra cost, or can be carried out on its own if you are at all concerned about the cleanliness of your ventilation system.

 

Treatment with this chemical solution can, incidentally, also be applied through a fogging process to sanitise all interior surfaces, hard and soft, and to eliminate the Coronavirus from any rooms, or even entire buildings, in which there has been a suspected or confirmed case.

 

It is worth noting that in residential housing with multiple dwellings, we could be accommodating NHS staff and other front-line workers. Sadly, not all our essential workers are highly paid, so are, ironically, quite likely to live in rented accommodation served by communal ventilation systems, the cleanliness of which is always imperative.

 

We also strongly recommend not letting up on essential preventative maintenance such as ACoP L8 legionella prevention, especially in housing situations. We are relying heavily on handwashing to keep people safe, so we must ensure that the water is safe and free from legionella bacteria.

 

Legionnaire’s Disease, caused by legionella bacteria, is also a ‘flu-like illness which poses a potentially lethal threat to those with underlying medical conditions. In fact, the rate of fatalities among those who contract Legionnaire’s Disease is around 12% – greater, at the time of writing, than the toll from Coronavirus. If you manage to avoid Coronavirus only to fall prey to an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease, you will certainly be no better off.

 

Once the crisis is over and people are safe to return to work, you will also need to give a lot of thought to legionella prevention. If water outlets such as toilets, taps and showers have been idle for some time due to lack of use, you will need to ensure that you flush the system thoroughly to provide a supply of fresh, clean, safe water for returning workers.

 

A healthier building provides a healthier quality of both air and water – both of which are essential to our good health. Let’s not overlook the hygiene of our air and water while we do our best to turn the tide on Coronavirus.

Swiftclean expands new Coronavirus prevention services

By | Coronavirus, News | No Comments

Ventilation ductwork cleaning expert Swiftclean has already expanded its new deep cleaning services to combat COVID-19 Coronavirus, in response to demand. In addition to its recently announced ventilation ductwork deep cleaning, the company’s new environmental cleaning for hard surfaces has already been expanded to treat entire rooms and buildings with both hard and soft surfaces, using fogging technology.

 

Fogging is a reliable method of distributing medical sanitising chemical across a wide variety of hard and softer surfaces. Says Gary Nicholls, MD of Swiftclean, “With this methodology we can treat hard surfaces including light switches, door handles, toilets, chairs, tables, telephones, IT equipment, desks, hand rails and other fittings and equipment. This method also effectively tackles softer surfaces such as furniture upholstery, partitions, blinds, floor coverings and all other surfaces within in each room.

 

“This is ideal for areas where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, but it may also appeal to many building managers as a sensible precaution where essential staff must continue to attend the premises and as a safeguard before the full team returns to properties which are currently empty while employees attempt to work form home.”

 

The two new services are a cost-effective way to strengthen hygiene best practice to combat the spread of Coronavirus, says Nicholls. “Many of our customers are choosing to add a ventilation surface deep clean at the same time as scheduled TR19® compliance clean, which we can do for very little additional cost. We can also provide ventilation deep cleaning with a medical surface sanitising chemical as a one-off clean, which is a sensible precaution against the airborne COVID-19 Coronavirus.  Our environmental deep clean fogging service is also quite a cost-effective way of ensuring that there are no virus cells remaining on surfaces once staff return to work, or to protect essential personnel who are still required to attend work in person.”

 

In order to provide these services, Swiftclean is diverting engineers from less time-critical ongoing maintenance services; however, the company advises strongly against delaying scheduled work on legionella prevention. Legionella bacteria, which causes the potentially lethal Legionnaire’s Disease, tends to proliferate in static water. “If your premises are currently unoccupied, or under-occupied, with water outlets which are normally in use being left idle, it is crucial that you follow essential flushing and testing routines, especially as the warmer weather arrives. If you have scheduled legionella work, don’t postpone it, but do make sure that social distancing and safe working practices are followed so it can be delivered in safety. If necessary, reschedule your legionella work for completion out of hours, but don’t delay it or put it off until after the current crisis – we don’t know when this will end. Legionella risk is elevated by higher ambient temperature and we are now moving into our warmer months of spring and soon summer. The last thing we need as a nation is a series of legionella outbreaks in addition to the Coronavirus epidemic.”

 

Swiftclean can be contacted on 0800 243 471 or by email at info@swiftclean.co.uk for further advice and a free quote.

Delaying Legionella prevention adds to public health risk, says Swiftclean

By | Coronavirus, Legionella, News | No Comments

Legionella risk experts, Swiftclean, are warning property managers not to let up on ACoP L8 legionella compliance in the face of the Coronavirus public health emergency. But to ensure proper social distancing is practiced when having the service delivered.

 

Well-intentioned attempts by property managers to protect staff and residents from contamination from COVID-19 have caused them to suggest postponing or delaying scheduled legionella control work and risk assessments; but this is extremely unwise, says Swiftclean. To do so will potentially pose even greater risks to public health. Legionella bacteria, which causes the potentially lethal ‘flu-like Legionnaire’s Disease, remains a very real hazard to public health, especially to those very categories of vulnerable people that the Government is most trying to protect from Coronavirus.

 

“To postpone critical legionella control work or legally required risk assessments, even at this time, could equally cause harm. Legionnaire’s Disease, which can result from exposure to legionella bacteria, is potentially just as lethal as Coronavirus. In fact, the fatality rate for Legionnaire’s Disease is around 12% of those who contract it, which is currently higher than that for COVID-19,” said Gary Nicholls, MD of Swiftclean. “With COVID-19 prevention relying heavily on regular handwashing and the media full of advice to sip water regularly to wash microbes down to the stomach, clean, safe water is absolutely imperative for all of us.”

 

Legionella is a particular risk in unused water systems where water has stopped flowing and can therefore stagnate. In the current crisis, many commercial properties especially are under occupied, and water outlets being used far less frequently, so that people can work from home and practice social distancing and self-isolation. With people using water systems far less regularly, the legionella risk will be increased. If anything, says Swiftclean, the measures being enacted to combat the spread of Coronavirus make it even more critical for legionella compliance to be observed.

 

Swiftclean suggests that rather than postpone, legionella work should be carried out as planned but conducted after normal business hours, when very few property users are in attendance. Legionella control engineers already observe strict precautions to deliver legionella compliance work safely.

 

Gary Nicholls said, “We believe it is a far greater risk to public health to delay planned preventative maintenance for legionella compliance, than to allow our highly trained, fully equipped, expert teams to continue their critical work to minimise the risk of legionella bacteria and keep Legionnaire’s Disease at bay.”

COVID-19 Update from Swiftclean

By | Coronavirus, News, Swiftclean | No Comments

Dear Swiftclean supporter

I am writing to reassure you that during this time of concern over the spread of COVID-19 through the UK population, we are being especially vigilant in ensuring that we take every precaution to avoid the risk of contamination for you, your colleagues and for our own team.

To date, we are completely free of any suspected cases and we have no current cause for concern.

We are continuing to provide the highest levels of service while following all the relevant guidance and advice issued by HM Government and Public Health England.

Best practice for all

  • As a business, we will be embracing all the recommended procedures for preventing infection with Coronavirus.
  • We have reviewed all our hygiene protocols and added several which will help prevent the spread of all ailments, even minor coughs and colds, as we wish our team to be as well as possible.
  • When we visit your site, we will not shake hands with you or stand too close – we’re not being unfriendly, we are simply promoting your welfare and ours. We’re not shaking hands with each other either.
  • Our on-site teams are under strict instructions to report any symptoms of illness, however minor, so that we can minimise any risk to you and to their colleagues.
  • Many of our teams have a broad set of skills, so should we experience sickness absences of any kind, we will do our best to reassign our engineers to provide uninterrupted services.
  • As many of our managers and senior team as possible will be working from home. We are investing in new equipment and technology to make this possible. These include new computer equipment and technology to facilitate remote working and of course we’re using our video conferencing system.
  • Our stores are well stocked and we are being vigilant in keeping levels appropriately high so that we continue to provide all our services as planned and maintain the strictest hygiene practices.
  • Any member of our team who has travelled abroad will self-isolate on their return – including the MD!
  • We will be staying up to date with, and following to the letter, all the latest advice from Government and health services. You can see the sources that we are following online at GOV.UK and Public Health England.

Above all, please be assured that we are operating as normal in delivering our services and that we have zero instances of suspected Coronavirus throughout our business.

We are currently all well, with no serious health concerns. We hope that you too are weathering this crisis successfully and we look forward to serving you diligently despite this new challenge.

With all best wishes
The Swiftclean Team