UK Active published its Fit Together campaign on 10th June 2020 with detailed guidance for the safe reopening of gyms and leisure facilities after the Coronavirus lockdown. Among its six minimum commitments for members to follow are “reducing the risk of viral transmission from surfaces and equipment”.
To do this, it gives specifics, including that operators will:
- “Ensure rigorous cleaning and disinfection regimes throughout the facility
- Ensure regular cleaning of high-contact touch points throughout the facility during opening
- Provide access (for staff and users) to antibacterial wipes, sprays and sanitisers
- Enforce equipment wipe-down pre and post workout (and during where required) this is in addition to the cleaning schedule”
Much of the above is self-explanatory. However, the first point would benefit from some explanation and clarification.
Just how do you define and then deliver “rigorous cleaning and disinfection regimes”?
Let’s break the requirement down and look at its contingent parts.
“Cleaning and disinfection”
Firstly, the document is very clear that operators must both clean and disinfect. There are no grey areas here.
This makes perfect sense because, to be clear, it’s impossible to disinfect without cleaning. As the NHS says:
“Disinfection is only effective if the surface is thoroughly cleaned beforehand”.
It’s equally important to know the difference between disinfecting and sanitising:
- Sanitising is the reduction of bacteria and germs
- Disinfection is the removal of bacteria and germs
Many products historically in-use in clubs were sanitisers, and these will have their place (as the guidance bullet points state), but you must disinfect as a starting point and – as we’ll see – periodically.
This is a two-stage process. It’s crucial to achieve true cleanliness as the first part of this: you must ensure an effective deep clean is done before attempting to disinfect. Any contamination on or within a surface, from dust on keyboards to body fats on exercise equipment handles or dumb bells to ingrained dirt in changing room floor tiles, needs to be fully removed before you can disinfect effectively. Contamination will stop the disinfectant from touching the surface.
All clubs will have been getting frequent cleaning before lockdown, but – certainly in barefoot and wet areas – the cleaning was often not hugely effective at maintaining standards. For example:
This “new normal” expectation is great news for members, of whom, in a survey of 63,000+ run by Leisure-Net Solutions, Max Associates and 4Global, 90.8% said that cleanliness was very important in their feeling safe to return. If the minimum benchmark is disinfected clubs throughout, then clubs inherently must be of an “as new” cleanliness standard too.
Use of the word regimes tells us that this cannot be a one-and-done; operators must undertake cleaning and disinfecting regularly.
This is common sense: as soon as a surface becomes contaminated, whether by human touch, dust or debris, or droplets of sweat, it will no longer be disinfected.
Nor will it be clean if, over time, this contamination is not removed through the cleaning process.
Disinfection doesn’t necessarily need to be a daily occurrence though: if you can get perfectly clean and disinfected for reopening, you can stay on top of this standard with regular cleaning and sanitising. Sanitising is much quicker than disinfection, too (the chemical requires less of a dwell time).
It is possible to use certain chemicals which provide a residual effect against viruses and bacteria, meaning your requirement to clean and disinfect is lessened. These can last from 7 day up to even 6 months. The most popular has up to 30 days effect. Note, though, that you’ll still need to be cleaning and sanitising during this time. We can help with this kind of treatment if needed.
“Throughout the facility”
Whilst many areas within clubs seem likely to be closed for the planned reopening on 4th July, the guidance is very clear that clean and disinfected applies throughout the club. So, as new parts open, these minimum standards must be met.
Some industry commentators have said “we don’t need hospital level disinfection” which is true: the guidance calls for disinfection not sterilisation.
But others have said “just use soap and water to clean” which very much goes against the guidance: soap and water will not thoroughly clean all surfaces (it may be effective on some) and it certainly won’t disinfect. A two-part process is therefore needed.
How you clean and disinfect will need to vary in different areas of the facility. It’s likely to be much easier to achieve this in a sports hall with lots of smooth surfaces than in showers and changing rooms where textured floors and wall grout lines harbour ingrained dirt which requires intensive deep cleaning.
But it’s clear from the guidance that members should expect all areas open for their use to be perfectly clean and safe to use.
How easy is it to “ensure a rigorous cleaning and disinfection regime throughout the facility”?
When reading the single sentence as part of the overall package of measures UK Active has put in place, it might be easy to gloss over this point. Yet to achieve this will not necessarily be easy in all areas of every club.
Disinfection is a straightforward process, it’s just very time-consuming. Disinfectants will require a certain dwell time on the surface. If it says it needs 10 minutes on the bottle, then you must leave it on for 10 minutes otherwise you’re wasting your time.
Deep cleaning is more complicated. Taking a few common examples from within a facility:
- A smooth surface like a wooden studio floor won’t be particularly dirty because it’s not porous. You should be able to deep clean this to remove all contamination using a chemical, some light agitation, and extraction (e.g. wet vacuum) followed by a rinse.
- High-frequency touch points like door handles will be similar
- Sanitary wear like sinks and toilets may need descaling and degreasing before disinfection
- A rubber gym floor is a bit harder than a smooth studio floor because dirt can penetrate within the surface
- Carpets are another challenge entirely and will need time and machinery to deep clean them effectively
- Textured tiles, like those found in most showers, poolsides and changing rooms, are probably the hardest surface to get deep cleaned
How do you know if your cleaning regime is working?
Whilst cleanliness has been valued by operators and members alike, cleaning (not just in leisure but almost all sectors) has often been considered a functional task without much rigour being placed on its outcomes. If you don’t know what outcome you require, how can you assess its effectiveness?
But you can measure the output of cleaning, which means you can manage and monitor it.
I recommend using our 3D Cleanliness model:
The subjectivity of “does it look ok?” is only one element. This may have been acceptable on its own in the past, but a surface that “looks ok” but is teeming with microorganisms that are invisible to the naked eye simply cannot be disinfected.
Measuring hygiene levels is a robust way to know if your cleaning has been truly effective. There are three common methods:
- Laboratory swab testing. This is the gold standard but is expensive and takes 3-4 days to turn around results
- ATP testing. This is common in the food industry and it may be that you have one of these tests to monitor hygiene in your kitchens already. Its output is quick, but it does require a fairly expensive piece of equipment
- Fresh Check. This is a new technology which I think is ideal for the leisure sector. It’s a spray bottle where the liquid changes colour if the surface is contaminated. Quick and easy to use and without the investment requirement of ATP.
Looking at Fresh Check in a little more detail. Imagine your chopping board at home in your kitchen:
- You’ve just chopped up some chicken and tipped it into a pot
- The board “looks clean” because you can’t see any contamination
- If you sprayed across the board, the contaminated areas would change colour – the remainder wouldn’t
- If you then cleaned and disinfected the surface and sprayed it again, no areas would change colour
I see this being invaluable both to get your club ready to safely reopen, but also in the future to manage member expectation. For example, you could prove to members that your cleaning regimes are robust by spraying a piece of equipment after use, then cleaning and sanitising it, then spraying it again.
Whilst this is not a “gold standard” test, it will confirm if you are directionally correct: if you clean a surface but it appears to be just as contaminated as it was before, that tells you the cleaning process needs reviewing.
We are working on getting an industry deal for this technology but in the meantime, if you enter code SSS on the Fresh Check website you can get a small discount.
Another barometer that can be useful is slip testing – just as invisible contaminants might be unhygienic, they can also make floors slippery that would, if truly clean, not be so.
Overall, what should you do to achieve this outcome?
1, You need to get started now with some testing of methodologies
Time is running short; you can’t afford to wait before you validate that your cleaning regime is effective.
My experience is that you can’t rely on what chemicals say on their bottle: just because it says “calcium remover” does not mean that it will remove your calcium on your shower walls, for example – you need the proof that this will work.
Equipment is the same: the traditional blue deck brushes don’t really work on many surfaces. Even machinery might not necessarily be effective on your particular surfaces – you need to check that your system will work for you otherwise you are simply wasting your time.
Remember, until you find an effective cleaning regime to remove contamination, you can’t disinfect.
2, Figure out how long it will take
Spoiler alert, the answer is: much longer than you probably thought.
Remember, this is not cleaning as the industry has known it – this needs proper, effective deep cleaning followed by time-consuming disinfection.
As guidance, see below:
City gym: 6x people – 2x days
Average wet facility: 6x people – 6x days
Large wet facility e.g. London Aquatics Centre: 6x people – 12-14x days
I wouldn’t put more than 6 people on to do this, personally: they will get in each other’s way and you won’t be working efficiently.
Given we are only 3 weeks away from 4th July, you can see that time is hugely of the essence here
We have created a calculator to help you figure out exactly how long you need. Enter the sizes of the various areas of your club into the tool and we will send you a breakdown of how many hours you need to allocate: find the calculator here
3, Use ROTAS to put together both your deep clean regime and maintenance plan
These are the five components of a successful cleaning regime:
- Clean frequently enough
- Know what outcome you want and manage this
- Allow enough man hours
- Have trained and motivated staff
- Equip them with the right kit
Use this methodology to plan out both your relaunch deep clean and your ongoing maintenance.
4, Use 3D Cleanliness to ensure effectiveness of outcome, both for relaunch and going forward
Get a benchmark of where you are on the tests, then try a cleaning process and retest.
Has it worked?
If so, crack on. If not, iterate until you find a cleaning process that does work.
How can I help?
I’ve been helping leisure facilities to be cleaner and safer for the last decade, both working for operators and supporting partners from insurance companies, to flor suppliers and FM providers.
Right now, we have 4x ways to help:
- Free, educational content for you to learn about why this is important, why the sector is in a bad state of cleanliness right now and how – at a high level – you can seek to address this in your club(s)
- A review of your cleaning & hygiene relaunch process, should you wish to try doing this yourself (either your own staff, or using your daily cleaning company)
- A hybrid, done-with-you deep clean and disinfection service model where we guarantee the outcome by controlling the process but engage some of your staff to help us which brings various additional benefits, including cost
- A full done-for-you deep clean and disinfection service where our specialist team completes a clean and disinfection of all areas
To speak to me about this, please book a call by clicking here