It’s no news that the hospitality industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions and social distancing have brought new challenges for hotels and resorts. International travel and close proximity of guests paves way for germs and viruses to further spread. These uncertain times make PPE for hotels more essential than ever in protecting staff and guests. John Manohar, Cluster Executive Housekeeper, J5 Hotels, speaks to Clean Middle East about the need for having appropriate PPE in hotels and much more.
Undergoing the change
Hotels and resorts are already implementing changes and discarding practices that have been followed since decades. Chances are this will become the new normal in the hospitality world, because it is essential that you provide your guests and staff with an environment that is safe for them. Not using the front desk like you used to, not letting guests line up to check-in and placing minimal things inside the guest rooms are some of the measures hotel owners will have to take. It may even be hard for guests to book rooms as hotels reopen with limited capacity at first, and restaurant services such as buffets will be a thing of the past.
As a business, you’ll be thinking about removing any non-essential items such as stationary, notepads and pens. While these are great branding opportunities, you can still wave the flag of your resort with the PPE you use. As the world tourism and travel industry is undergoing turbulence, it is the responsibility of the hotel operators to provide the best PPE to the guests and to their support staff.
Importance of PPE for workers
Making the workplace safe in times of COVID-19 includes providing employees with instructions, procedures, training and supervision to encourage safe and responsible working. PPE (mask, gloves, coverall, goggle, face shield, shoe covers, etc.,) contributes to a safe workplace, so it is always going to be an integral part of running a successful and safe business. It is the responsibility of the housekeeping and engineering team of the hotels to provide on-the-ground training on a regular basis. We, at J5 Hotels work with the top global chemical suppliers and other PPE suppliers to impart regular training to the team. We recognise the importance of the following:
• Washing hands frequently (at least 20 seconds if using an alcohol-based hand rub, and at least 40 seconds with soap and water), including after exchanging objects such as money or credit cards with guests.
• Adhering to wearing masks and gloves.
• Covering any coughs or sneeze with a bent elbow or tissue and throwing away the tissue in a closed bin.
• Maintaining a 2-metre distance from other staff and guests. This includes avoiding hugging or shaking hands. If you can’t guarantee the distance, wear a fabric/ surgical mask. Be sure to check local and national guidelines on the use of masks.
• Staying behind plexiglass boards at reception and concierge desks can prevent droplet transmission.
• Teleworking is the possibility for some jobs, which can help reduce physical contact with others.
Importance of PPE & guest well being
There are risks of cross contamination to both hotel staff and guests with respect to inappropriate use of PPE. The reasons that can lead to inappropriate use are:
• Lack of awareness about the importance of PPE.
• Time constraints for donning/ doffing the equipment.
• Lack of realisation about the importance of the technique for proper safe removal.
All of the above ultimately relies on staff being properly educated on the use of PPE. Also, it is highly recommended to have a well trained Hygiene Safety Trainer to provide training as and when needed to the staff and to the guests.
Concerns regarding the sufficient supply of PPE and the evolving nature of the current pandemic, with many staff working in unfamiliar areas with unfamiliar equipment, may serve to further compound issues in relation to inappropriate use of PPE and the risks this presents. Updated guidance from DM and DHA has sought to provide clarity regarding the use of the right COVID-19 PPE and is, in some part, a response to the concerns of healthcare unions and national media coverage regarding the risks associated with an insufficient supply of PPE. The updated guidance ensures that PPE is used appropriately in order to ensure stock control, and maintain the safety of nursing staff, key personnel and guests. The guidance relates solely to considerations for PPE and represents one element of infection prevention control guidance for dealing with COVID-19 and it should therefore be used alongside local policies (DM and DHA).
Regulations by authorities
Dubai Municipality has confirmed that the materials used in the disinfection and sterilization operations carried out in various parts of the emirate within the framework of the national sterilization program are completely safe even though they contain chemical components in general. These materials are dealt with by experts, and they use them with calculated and accurate ratios as per globally approved measurements for the ratio of concentration of active substances, while avoiding high levels of concentration that may cause side effects on human health.
Sterilization operations are carried out by specialized teams who are highly trained and are aware of how to use these materials. The teams comply with the requirements and standards approved by the municipality that are compatible with the international standards in force in this field, taking into account careful application of all safety guidelines, product use methods, dilution and mixing ratios, and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to ensure safe use.
All products used in disinfection and sterilization in Dubai are evaluated and registered in the “Montaji” system and they contain the same active substances mentioned in the lists approved by the Dubai Municipality Health Authority (DM and DHA) and the Center for Antibacterial Chemicals (CBC) and are the same materials recommended by WHO as an active ingredient during sterilization processes. The guest, staff and public need to cooperate by committing to staying away during sterilization and disinfection operations in order to ensure their safety, and to help the work teams to perform the tasks assigned to them in a smooth and fast manner.
This procedure is followed around the world because the presence of individuals in the places of sterilization may obstruct work progress and lead to delaying the completion of tasks and the reversal of the timetable set for the completion of operations in a manner that guarantees the entire hotel, society the highest degree of protection and prevention.
The availability and types of PPE
The housekeeping and engineering team in a hotel has to make an assessment of the hazards in the workplace in order to identify the correct type of PPE to be provided and to ensure that PPE is appropriate to the risk. Care must be taken in selecting PPE as certain types give reasonably high levels of protection while others, that may appear almost the same, give relatively low levels of protection. The level of risk must be assessed so that the performance required of the PPE can be determined. It is important to check the validity of the PPE if it is relevant.
• While selecting PPE, proper fitting of the equipment should be taken into account.
• In sourcing PPE, the buyer must select an appropriate PPE which is user-friendly and which fits the individual employee correctly, after adjustment if necessary.
• Special care should be taken where persons suffer from certain medical conditions, e.g. certain types of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) may not be suitable for employees with asthma, bronchitis or heart disease. Where situations such as these occur, the employer should seek medical advice as to whether the employee can tolerate the use of PPE. The responsible teams should make provision for medical conditions where they are aware of such conditions.
• Ensure any PPE you buy is ‘CE’ marked or ASTM or standards of the local regulations and complies with the requirements. The CE marking signifies that the PPE satisfies certain essential health and safety requirements.
About the author
John Manohar is the Cluster Executive Housekeeper for the Swiss Group of J5 Hotels – J5 Rimal Hotel Apartments, J5 Hotels Port Saeed and J5 Holiday Homes - a total inventory of 450 units. In the capacity of Cluster Executive Housekeeper, he is responsible for day-to-day operations in housekeeping, cost control & maintaining quality standards in the hotels without any compromise.