Is Your Fitness Center Healthy?
Fitness centers and gyms represent a unique environment that is highly prone to the spread of germs and bacteria. Exercise equipment, rubber mats, locker rooms, and restrooms are all shared resources that your clients expect to be clean and sanitary. As a fitness center owner or manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that your facility meets the high standards of hygiene that your clients expect and deserve.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic gyms and fitness centers need to ramp up their cleaning and disinfecting protocols in order to ensure a safe and healthy environment for both clients and staff. This article will provide you with insights on how to put in place an effective cleaning program for your fitness facility.
Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting
In order to prepare a safe and sanitary environment for your gym or fitness center members, it is important to first understand the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are in fact, very different.
Cleaning removes allergens and microorganisms from the environment. When a surface is clean, soap or detergent has been used to remove dirt, germs, and impurities. Proper cleaning helps reduce the number of germs that can lead to infection, however, it does not necessarily kill any germs. In general, it is safe to clean surfaces where the risk of spreading pathogens from the surface is low.
Disinfecting a surface means that chemicals are being used to kill germs. This does not necessarily mean that dirt, germs, and impurities are being removed from the surface, but by killing the germs, the risk of spreading infection is lowered.
For a disinfectant to kill germs, its labeled dwell time should always be allowed. A dwell time, or contact time, is the amount of time the manufacturer has determined, through laboratory testing, that the disinfectant should remain wet on a surface. If proper dwell times are not followed, germs and pathogens may survive the application.
Sanitary surfaces can be created either by removing germs (cleaning) or killing germs (disinfecting). There are a few different methods used to achieve a sanitary surface: heat, radiation, and chemicals.
To sanitize through the use of heat, steam, hot water, or hot air can be used at the appropriate temperature for the recommended amount of time. For radiation, sanitation can be achieved through the use of ultraviolet radiation.
Chemicals that are effective sanitizers at the proper concentration include chlorine, iodine, and quaternary ammonium. Just as the proper dwell time must be followed for a disinfectant to be effective, a chemical sanitizer must also be allowed to sit for its recommended dwell time.
It is important to note that to truly disinfect anything, it should be thoroughly cleaned first. Once clean a disinfectant should be applied and allowed to dwell for the prescribed period of time.
Protecting Yourself While Cleaning
It is important that you and your staff follow a strict procedure when performing cleaning and disinfection within your facility. To ensure that you and your staff remain safe while cleaning, follow these five steps:
- Wash Your Hands – Prior to beginning, any cleaning hands should be washed with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60%-70% alcohol) for a minimum of twenty seconds.
- Wear PPE – Wear personal protective equipment while cleaning (i.e. masks, gloves, eye protection). PPE helps ensure that your staff is not spreading germs while cleaning and protects them from chemical irritants.
- Staff Training – Train your staff in the proper use of cleaning and disinfecting chemicals. If using sanitizing wipes be sure to wipe in a single direction to avoid cross-contamination and when using disinfecting sprays be sure to allow proper dwell times.
- Maintain Safety Data Sheets – A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) should be kept in a designated area and be readily available. Safety Data Sheets provide information on the safe handling of chemicals as well as disposal and emergency protocols.
- Wash Your Hands – After every cleaning and disinfecting task, hands should again be washed with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60%-70% alcohol) for a minimum of 20 seconds.
To help ensure that your facility is thoroughly clean and disinfected for your staff and clients, consider taking these additional steps:
- Prioritize High-Touch Surfaces – High-touch surfaces like doorknobs, restrooms, telephones, credit card machines, and all gym equipment should be cleaned and disinfected throughout the day. Exercise equipment should be disinfected after every use.
- Encourage clients to do their part – Requiring clients to wear masks, maintain social distancing, wash their hands, and wipe down equipment after each use can go a long way toward limiting the spread of germs. Be sure to provide adequate supplies for your customers (i.e. disinfecting wipes and sprays, single-use towels, hand sanitizers, gloves, etc.).
- Remove soft surface items and equipment – Rugs, exercise mats, rope pulls, and other soft surfaces are much more difficult to disinfect than hard surfaces. Consider removing these items from your facility.
- Consider cold-fog disinfecting – Cold fogging is a process where a disinfectant is put into a machine and atomized into the air. Unlike a spray, a fog saturates the air in a mist and covers every surface in the room effectively killing bacteria, viruses, and germs. You can find professional cold-fogging services here.