As we flow through 2022, it may feel as though the pandemic is over. Well, not so fast.
COVID-19 continues to be a prevalent threat to public health, and there’s also a broader shift we need to recognise: namely the piqued interest and heightened respect for public hygiene.
Sure, we all knew about germs before COVID-19, but we all watched as the world awakened to vigorous hand washing and vigilant sanitising, wearing facemasks, and of course, the expectation that businesses would engage in regular cleaning of surfaces and equipment
Amid the possibility of future health issues, being conscious of cleaning deeply should continue to be top of mind for all brick-and-mortar businesses, even if regulations have relaxed.
For practitioners and business owners in the physical fitness space (including gyms, clinics, and classes) it’s hard to imagine a sector that needs to maintain their cleaning schedule more.
The gym: a common environment for harmful germs
Fitness instructors can of course operate different kinds of fitness facilities including gyms, small studios and even a home gym. But no matter the business premises, all these potential fitness spaces bear surfaces and objects touched by various people.
Multiple research studies found that the gym contains large amounts of viruses and bacterial particles on various surfaces such as the floor and the equipment.
One 2021 study by Fitrated – which undertake fitness equipment reviews – found that:
“The average exercise bike harbours 39 times more bacteria than a cafeteria tray. Typical free weights have 362 times more germs than a toilet seat. And the treadmill you’re running on averages 74 times more bacteria than a typical public bathroom faucet.”
With this in mind, here’s a plan to keep your fitness premises sanitised and hygienic in the wake of the pandemic.
Do your research
Guidance for COVID-19 business cleaning procedures is best handled by professionals, (this isn’t your home gym equipment.) new guidelines for cleaning and disinfection released by SafeWork Australia (with detailed information about cleaning and disinfecting fitness businesses) should be your first port of call.
SafeWork also provides important COVID-19 safety plans, which are highly recommended to be entrenched into your normal practices. Although enforceable restrictions have all but disappeared, this does not mean complacency should set in – particularly in such highly tactile and well-trafficked environments like gyms and fitness businesses.
As the health threats from highly prevalent and harmful bacteria are rife in gyms, according to Fitrated, a relaxed approach is not recommended when it comes to your cleaning procedures and regularity.
Create your cleaning plan
It’s important for every fitness centre to take the next steps towards an orderly and clear plan for cleaning a gym and gym equipment.
When determining your cleaning plan, make sure that this will become your permanent cleaning protocol as a ‘new normal’ and will not just be a temporary solution for reopening your doors post-pandemic.
Part of preparing your plan may be asking your workers or clients to sign a document that outlines your expectations around the cleaning procedure.
Things to consider when planning:
- Types of cleaning (such as wiping surfaces or mopping floors).
- Areas to be cleaned, such as bathrooms. locker rooms, and exercise spaces.
- Frequency of cleaning.
- Cleaning products/cleaning tools required.
- Who will be responsible for each task.
- Notices and signage.
- Clients requests.
- Cycles such as deep cleaning and short-term cleaning.
Train your staff
Whether you have a large team, or just one staff member, your entire company needs to know about the importance of your cleaning procedures and the consequences if they do not do it correctly—training your staff in cleaning solutions and disinfection techniques before getting started is vital.
Your workplace policies on cleaning and hygiene should also be up-to-date in your employee handbook or even workplace contracts. And you should also clearly communicate your cleaning plan —and your expectations as to its undertaking, to your staff.
Also, give your staff a clear explanation of how to consider their safety while following protocols, and what kind of equipment you will supply – such as gloves or masks.
Communicate your cleaning process to your clients
This advice is two-pronged:
- You need to communicate (with signage or similar) what kind of cleaning you undertake and how regularly. This is to ease your client’s mind and let them know that their health and safety is a priority for you. With a certain level of pandemic anxiety in the community, this is important. You may also want to update your website with your plan and assurances.
- You also need to describe clearly any steps required by your clients and visitors in terms of cleaning/disinfecting your gym/fitness centre’s equipment post-workout. Perhaps you require the use of a disinfectant wipe after every use, or for people to bring and clean their own yoga mat. It’s wise to have this signposted. You also need to be sure you provide all equipment necessary – such as fitness equipment wipes, hand sanitisers and paper towels.
Stock up on supplies
Keep an adequate stockpile of cleaning materials in your cupboards. Make sure the products you buy are certified or recommended for COVID-19 as well as many common forms of bacteria – don’t go for cheap and untested products.
So how much intensive cleansing is necessary? Test your plan by running a week or two of cleaning procedures and noting the quantity of supplies that were used.
Source cleaning products accordingly and be sure to overorder rather than under order, to keep a sufficient supplies on hand (to maintain procedures in the future.)
Protect yourself while cleaning your workout facility
Trainers, staff, and gym operators are advised to wear protective gear when cleaning gym equipment to protect themselves. Personal protective equipment (PPE) typically includes clothing, hats, glasses, and eye protection.
Take a look at the advice from the Australian Health Department around cleaning, including recommendations for:
- practising good hygiene
- wearing disposable impermeable gloves, a surgical mask, and eye protection or a face shield
- washing hands with water and soap (use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap is not available) before and after wearing protective gear
- disposing of gloves and masks in a leak-proof plastic bag.
Be advised that this advice is general in nature, Better Clinics does not give formal health advice.