6 tips to protect your cannabis facility from virus outbreaks
April 20, 2020 By Troy Henderson
As news of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it can be easy to overlook the current steps you have in place to ensure you and your team stay healthy. To prevent the spread of infection in your cannabis facility, it’s essential to review and optimize your infection prevention strategies.
#1 Reinforce hand hygiene
Washing your hands is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of pathogens and keep your staff healthy every day. Your team can utilize alcohol-based hand sanitizers as they are effective at killing germs. However, they cannot be used as a replacement for hand washing when soils are present. Nothing replaces soap and water to physically clean and remove dirt and germs from your hands. You can also promote routine hand washing by hanging up posters around the facility and showing the proper steps required.
#2 Routinely disinfect non-production surfaces
Many pathogens, including COVID-19, are known to survive on surfaces, and Health Canada recommends cleaning surfaces and objects to prevent this route of pathogen transmission. Your current sanitation procedures likely focus on ensuring the appropriate cleaning and disinfection of production areas, including growing rooms to prevent plant pathogens. However, you should also ensure disinfection in other areas of your facility where people congregate, such as office spaces, desks, staff room areas, bathrooms and kitchens. High-touch surfaces should be disinfected on a regular basis. This includes your work surfaces, desks, computer keyboards, doorknobs, light switches, phones and more, to prevent the spread of infections.
#3 Avoid harsh cleaners and disinfectants
With the news of outbreaks and more resistant microbes, there can be tendency to think harsh chemicals will provide improved efficacy and create a safer environment for staff. However, even novel pathogens such as coronaviruses, can be killed by registered disinfectants following label use directions. Several of the most-used disinfectants rely on relatively high and hazardous concentrations of chlorine releasing agents, quaternary ammonium compounds, and alcohols. Many of these substances present risk of permanent eye, skin and mucous membrane damage. Therefore, it’s important to not only select a disinfectant with broad-spectrum efficacy, but one with an excellent safety profile that is non-irritating at in-use solutions.
#4 Develop a plan
Like most businesses, cannabis facilities may not have a plan in place for outbreaks such as COVID-19. Infection prevention is a true team effort, and everyone at your facility has a role to play in developing procedures that work for your facility. Your plan may include: mandating workers stay home if they feel ill and outlining how they will be compensated; ensuring you have appropriate supplies including disinfectants, PPE and hand sanitizer in times of demand; and developing a disinfection schedule for high-touch, non-production surfaces at your facility.
#5 Communicate with your customers
You have likely received COVID-19 updates and other notifications from companies you regularly deal with keeping you up-to-date on how the organization is handling the situation. You can also communicate with your clients to share how you are protecting staff and the current infection control initiatives you have in place. It is important to let your customers know you always have infection prevention top of mind to not only provide quality products but also to protect your workers.
#6 Review protocols and schedule team training
With your standard sanitation procedures in place, it can be easy to forget to assess if improvements can be made. However, your facility’s cleaning and disinfection processes may be labour intensive, complicated for staff, potentially dangerous, and overly expensive. You should schedule time to review the procedures, receive feedback from workers on pain points or issues, and keep a look out for new technologies that can streamline the job. There may be new application equipment available or new disinfectants you should consider with the ideal balance of efficacy, safety and simplicity. Stay up to date on the latest technology and always connect with experts in the industry to help.
Although the current climate may be one of fear and uncertainty, it’s important to keep in mind that we can all take precautions to do our best to keep ourselves and others healthy. In times like these, implementing effective infection prevention throughout your facility is the best investment you can make.
Troy Henderson is an LP consultant at Virox Technologies Inc. He specializes in streamlining and designing biosecurity programs for producers and educating them on SHYIELD One-Step Disinfectant Cleaners for Cannabis Facilities (www.SHYIELD.ca).
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