While operators have been scrambling to prepare for reopening, some unscrupulous businesses have been plying substandard products. Warren Edmondson explains how to keep customers and staff safe
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for hygiene and cleaning products has skyrocketed. However, as businesses get to grips with new infection control measures so they can open their doors safely, too many are being caught out by rogue claims and unregulated products, leaving themselves – and their customers – at risk.
The issue has arisen due to the urgency with which businesses are trying to get up and running as lockdown measures ease, sourcing what have now become essential items: hand sanitiser, soap, PPE such as facemasks and gloves, wipes and cleaning products. The internet has been flooded with adverts for these products, which are both in demand and in short supply; even social channels such as LinkedIn have become a trading platform. Unfortunately, the scope for fraud is high.
There have already been instances where millions of litres of hand sanitiser and tens of thousands of gloves have been held up at UK borders as they have failed to reach quality standards. There have been reports of people posing as traders and there are also substantial claims being made over new products and technology that have not been proven and may therefore not be as effective as promised. These are just some examples that have been detected but, unfortunately, many substandard products are already being delivered to unwitting businesses who think they're doing the right thing. Others receive nothing at all.
Sourcing the right products and applying them correctly is a real concern, particularly for hotels, restaurants and caterers as they are among the last businesses to reopen and are therefore last in line for supplies. Hygiene and infection control are the most important aspects of reopening public premises safely. Now is not the time to rush in and fall down on what should be simple and essential checks. The message is clear; be aware of what you're buying and where you're buying it from. Only then will you get things right and keep your business safe.
Four steps to keep your colleagues and customers safe
- The combination of unprecedented demand, low resource and time limitation has created a high-pressure scenario for businesses, particularly in the leisure and hospitality sector, which needs to start trading again and welcome back a stream of visitors safely. However, the key warning to heed is to never fail to perform your due diligence. Think before you buy.
- Ensure you're buying compliant products to the required BSI and EN standards; otherwise there's a danger they will not be effective and you'll end up putting people at risk. Track compliance papers back to their source and choose a reliable, reputable supply chain. It's important to be wary of companies or products that have only cropped up since the pandemic struck. Talk to your supplier and, where possible, order early and place forward orders for further down the line.
- Question any documentation; unfortunately, there are a lot of fake documents out there. Read them carefully, ask where they are from and who is substantiating the claims within them. Choose tried and tested products and methods to guarantee their effectiveness. There are a lot of claims being made, but many just have not yet been proven – and it's not worth the risk. Dubious product claims include those for products that claim to keep surfaces clean for up to 30 days. While this may be true in a lab environment, it is not the case in real-world settings. Some cleaning products have also been found to be corrosive, creating toxic fumes and chemicals that put staff and visitors at risk.
- When it comes to cleaning protocols, it's crucial you adhere to the correct method of application. Some products must be left for 30 seconds or even up to five minutes in order to be effective – it's not just a case of spraying and wiping.
Keep monitoring for guidelines and advice, as these will change as scientists learn more about the virus. You need to have strict implementation protocols in place for after-use cleans, periodic cleans and deep cleans – all with the correct, certified PPE and chemicals.
Warren Edmondson is managing director of workplace consumables provider PHS Direct
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