Testing for Cleanliness & Hygiene Standards
Evaluating Cleanliness and Hygiene Standards – Choosing Between Methodologies
Following the Coronavirus pandemic, most people’s awareness and understanding about communicable diseases and infection control have been heightened. There is now a greater demand for cleanliness and hygiene. High hygiene standards are expected to be attained, along with increasing demand for hygiene standards to be reviewed, tested, validated and assured.
Before testing, validating and assuring hygiene standards, it is important to have an understanding of specifically what level of hygiene is required or being demanded. This will lead to the selection of the suitable test which will reliably disclose (with the necessary level of confidence) that the required hygiene level has been achieved, and how this hygiene standard can be effectively maintained by means of cleaning, sanitation, disinfection or sterilization.
In both the professional practice and technical literature on the subject of ‘Public Health and Hygiene’, there is a universally accepted hierarchy of cleaning and disinfection based upon four corresponding definitions. In ascending order of hygienic stringency and rigor, these are as follows:
It is broadly accepted that these four levels of cleanliness and hygiene standards need to be adopted and applied on a situational rationale based on the risk of infection. For example, in the food industry a small wet fish stall will require a different level of cleanliness and hygiene as compared to a large hospital kitchen.
Similarly, an outpatient GP clinic will require a different level of cleanliness and hygiene as compared to an operating theatre performing open heart surgery!
Clearly, there are various demands and requirements that are dependent on the context, accepted best practices, statutory regulations and ethical and moral demands. All these factors drive the process of decision making as to what level of cleanliness and hygiene is required to reduce risk of infection and thereby, the intent of the protocols that need to be adopted.
Depending on the desired outcome which can be basic cleanliness and hygiene or the possible reduction and elimination of pathogens, each and every situation will demand a development of a unique disinfection strategy that will include testing and assuring that the requirement is achieved and maintained. Therefore, there is a clear need to appropriately match the desired level of cleanliness to the test and measurement protocols employed.
Matching the Test to the Required Hygiene Level
Common sense dictates that there is no logic in using a test that is unable to empirically measure and disclose what you are looking for. Therefore, matching the test to the context and the prevailing conditions is pivotal to getting results that will provide useful data and information. The similar approach also applies to cleaning, sanitation, disinfection and sterilisation. However, making a choice need not be too complex and the simple decision-making process below should suffice:
Question: Are you trying to establish whether basic cleaning has been undertaken to provide an aesthetically clean area?
Answer: Visual inspection can be conducted on the surface which has been cleaned.
Q: Are you trying to establish whether thorough cleaning and sanitation has been achieved to provide an aesthetically clean area with a significant reduction in the level of organic residues remaining?
A: Visual inspection can be conducted coupled with ATP monitoring test for rapid results from all living cells, product residues or a combination of both.
Q: Are you trying to establish whether an appropriate combination of cleaning, sanitising and disinfection has provided an extremely clean and hygienic environment with at least a 99.99% reduction in the numbers of all known microbes having been destroyed?
A: Visual inspection can be conducted coupled with quantitative microbial analysis.
Q: Are you trying to establish whether an appropriate combination of cleaning, sanitising, disinfection and sterilisation has provided a ‘hospital grade’ sterile environment with at least 99.9999% of all known microorganisms including pathogens have been destroyed?
A: Visual inspection can be conducted coupled with quantitative microbial analysis including resilient spore testing.