As the COVID-19 pandemic ends, a new challenge is emerging: how to improve hygiene while controlling cleaning costs. Chris MacDonald, Strategic Business Director at SafeGroup, explains why Touchpoint Shield™ is the ideal solution.
Facilities managers have a really tough job on their hands in the months ahead. One of them is controlling the cost of maintaining hygienic environments that meet heightened expectations of anxious workers.
A key consideration throughout the pandemic has been to up hygienic cleaning to protect staff who, for whatever reason, cannot work from home.
With lockdown measures due to be lifted this summer, thousands of other employees will be eligible to return to offices.
Many employers see office working remaining the norm. Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon called remote working an “aberration”.
Move to prevention
Most expected forms of hybrid working will still require staff to regularly go into offices or other workspaces. So, what do FM leaders do about the higher levels of hygienic cleaning and the huge costs they incur?
Especially when COVID-19 will remain a real concern, not least because of the risks from the Delta variant, and new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that may emerge in the months to come.
A key step, in my view, is a move away from treatment, in the form of cleaning, to prevention.
To be able to show employees that decisive and effective action is being taken to protect their physical and mental wellbeing.
Our response to this challenge is a new antimicrobial coating called Touchpoint Shield™. It’s a very tough coating, half the thickness of a human hair, that improves hygiene standards without the need for costly enhanced cleaning.
We have shown a major London bank (not Goldman Sachs) that by using Touchpoint Shield™, it can reduce its high touchpoint cleaning costs by 80%.
Less cleaning – improved hygiene
During the pandemic, it has been carrying touchpoint cleaning – of door handles and push plates, for instance, every hour.
Our field trials have shown, by applying Touchpoint Shield™, that can be reduced to just three times a day and hygiene standards will improve.
The coating is made from nanoceramics which form a super-strong co-valent bond with a surface. In effect, it forms a glass layer 5 microns thick, half the width of a human hair.
The active ingredient is silver ions, which are proven to destroy bacteria, viruses, fungi and mould.
The coating is extremely tough. It will remain in place, working 24-hours a day against microorganism threats, and can only be removed by applying a special gel.
Touchpoint Shield™ has significant advantages over other antimicrobial surface protection systems.
Clear and durable protection
Firstly, it is near-invisible so it does not affect the aesthetics of a work or customer environment. FM professionals who have considered films or clip-on devices, such as handle coverings, value this highly.
In fact, the coating actually enhances the look of most surfaces, giving them a pleasant sheen.
Its nano-particle structure makes Touchpoint Shield™ extremely smooth and grime repellent. This makes coated surfaces even easier and quicker to clean, reducing costs still further.
It also helps protect surfaces from scratching (the coating was first designed for luxury yachts to protect their highly-expensive hulls).
Independent laboratory test results show Touchpoint Shield™ reduces SARS-CoV-2 on non-porous surfaces by 99.6% and on sofa textile by 99.99%.
It reduces E coli and Staph bacteria on non-porous surfaces by 99.95% and 99.94% respectively.
High frequency cleaning surprise
We did not want to stop there. We wanted to test Touchpoint Shield™ in the real world. Which is why we have carried out our own field trials in different environments.
These include banks, factories and leisure space, including one of London’s top theatres.
The results have been very interesting. Not least because they indicate the limitations of high-frequency touchpoint cleaning.
Using a system approved by our partner independent laboratory, we swabbed touchpoints in these spaces before and after application of the coating.
The laboratory compared results with swabs taken of uncoated touchpoints.
They showed how colonies of potentially harmful bacteria multiply rapidly just minutes after a touchpoint has been cleaned.
However, colony regrowth on surfaces coated with Touchpoint Shield™ was stopped in its tracks.
This showed that intensive touchpoint cleaning, for example once an hour, may be well meant, but is likely to be largely ineffective.
Broad coating application
Meanwhile, Touchpoint Shield™ would continue to suppress the growth of bacteria and viruses, at a fraction of the cost of intensive cleaning.
The coating can be applied to many types of surfaces.
Our first approach was to offer it for treating door handles, push plates, hand rails and chair arm rests and toilet furniture.
Based in customer feedback, we have now extended that list to include work desks, equipment controls and vehicle door handles.
Our thinking, and that of our customers, has been driven by the need to enhance hygiene in the new hybrid workspaces currently emerging.
Hybrid-working is likely to be here to stay (look out for it being a word of the year at the end of 2021).
Researchers in Sweden have defined it as a new paradigm for 2020 and beyond. The focus of working will be at home, they say, with social connections and creativity developed in office spaces.
Hybrid offices are very likely to be more collaborative. There will need to be increased flexibility. Hotdesking will be the norm. Fluid teams will be expected to work intensively and closely together, then probably go away and deliver an agreed plan working remotely.
These spaces will need special hygienic protection. We believe technologies like Touchpoint Shield™ will be key.
Companies will not want to employ cohorts of cleaners running around after each team meeting, disinfecting touchpoints.
Health and wellbeing solution
The objects will disinfect themselves, because they are coated with Touchpoint Shield™.
Standard cleaning regimes will be needed to remove biofilm from surfaces to allow the coating to carry on doing its work.
Mental wellbeing will be central to the purpose of such hygienic protection regimes.
A survey by the Independent newspaper calculated five million people were anxious about returning to work after the pandemic, just due to pre-existing mental health issues.
Another has found 53% of people believe businesses should do more to improve hygiene to keep people safe.
That ‘more’ needs to be effective. Studies show employees will want to be convinced hygiene measures actually work.
I believe Touchpoint Shield™ does that. It demonstrably reduces harmful bacteria and viruses on touchpoints. It is durable and long-lasting.
And it allows FMs to reduce costly enhanced cleaning regimes to normal levels while stating, with evidence, that hygiene standards are improved.