Two essential tips for cleaning safety barriers to protect against COVID-19


15.05.2021

At the Swiss Epilepsy Foundation (EPI), approximately 250 acrylic glass panes protect against the transmission of COVID-19. When cleaning these protective barriers, it is important to avoid two common errors. In this report, we discuss how employees on the EPI premises prevent these mistakes using Wetrok specialist cleaner Plexistar Pro, why some restaurant tables have as many as three partition walls and what an alpaca has to do with these protective measures.

Please note: You can find a short interview with the Division Manager further below (after the report)

In a meadow with a beautiful view of Zurich Lake, an alpaca is grazing on the extensive grounds of the Swiss Epilepsy Foundation above the Zürich Tiefenbrunnen train station. Whenever a pedestrian stops, the alpaca briefly lifts its head, assesses the danger and then returns to grazing peacefully. Contrary to popular opinion, it hardly ever spits at anyone. People, on the other hand, are another story: when we speak, we often (unintentionally) spray airborne particles. Because COVID-19 is transmitted via droplet infection, all it can take is for an infected person to splutter when they speak. To prevent the risk of infection during interpersonal contact, the Swiss Epilepsy Foundation has installed transparent protective barriers on the entire grounds along with the general protective measures such as mandatory mask-wearing and distancing rules.

20,000 Swiss francs invested in protective barriers
The Swiss Epilepsy Foundation was originally founded to accommodate people who have epilepsy. Over the years, the foundation has developed into a diversified enterprise. Its divisions include EPI WohnWerk, EPI Spitalschule, EPI Zentrale Dienste, the Oberstufenschule Lengg school, the Schenkung Dapples children’s home and Klinik Lengg AG. Approximately 950 employees are dedicated to a range of tasks at these operations. People with and without disabilities live and work side by side at the EPI locations. With so much personal contact, protective measures are essential. In areas involving reception, advisory and service, transparent protective barriers are implemented along with the general measures. These barriers have been installed at the clinic’s reception area, various doctor’s surgeries, the restaurant, the pharmacy, the property administration office and the gardening shop. There are a total of 250 barriers, most of them in the area of catering. The safety of employees and customers is a top priority for the Swiss Epilepsy Foundation: “In order to ensure a secure contact environment, we invested around 20,000 Swiss francs in acrylic glass panes last summer”, says André Arndt, Head of Hospitality Services at the EPI. This is an investment that must not be ruined due to incorrect cleaning under any circumstances. That’s why the foundation relies on Wetrok specialist cleaner Plexistar Pro. Division Manager André Arndt takes us on a tour around the grounds and shows us his team’s exemplary work with the delicate task of cleaning acrylic glass.

Acrylic glass requires gentle specialist cleaner
It is 10 o’clock in the morning when we meet reception employee Romy Thoma at the clinic’s reception desk. She has already attended to dozens of clients today. Finger marks and small particles of dirt can be seen on the protective barriers. Romy Thoma opens her desk drawer and draws out a Plexistar Pro spray bottle along with a fleece cloth. She sprays a few splashes of the blue liquid onto the cloth and then removes this dirt completely from the pane in just a few wipes. Reception employees perform this task regularly. When cleaning acrylic glass, one mistake is particularly common: Acrylic glass should never be cleaned with a conventional glass cleaner. This is because glass cleaners can cause fine tension cracks or milky clouding on the sensitive panes. At a reception desk, this would be inconceivable for aesthetic reasons alone – after all, this is the first point of contact and the public face of the clinic. For this reason, all acrylic glass panes on the premises are cleaned using Plexistar Pro. The special spray was developed by Wetrok specifically to handle sensitive acrylic glass cleaning, so it works extremely gently. Its fresh, hygienic scent is another advantage: The fragrance conveys the assurance of a high level of hygiene and a safe medical environment.

Smooth fleece cloths for acrylic glass
The next step on our tour takes us to the time-honoured original building with a magnificent view of Zurich Lake. This building houses the EPI Park restaurant with two conservatories and a large patio. The seminar rooms are also located under the same roof. Due to the current COVID-19 situation, both areas are affected by major restrictions: While external seminars are completely suspended for the moment, the EPI Park restaurant is still allowed to offer takeaway menus and to maintain its internal catering for company employees. “Normally, our restaurant team prepares around 400 meals per day – currently, because of our restricted operation, they prepare around 200 fewer than that”, reports André Arndt. To protect employees, the strictest safety precautions have been adopted at each restaurant table: At a four-person table, there are actually three acrylic glass panes to prevent against droplet infection: one pane in the centre of the table for each pair of diners seated across from one another, and a continuous pane down the middle to protect each neighbour on the same side of the table. By now it is 1 p.m. – groups begin to leave the restaurant one by one. As soon as a table becomes empty, service specialist Vera Sousa hurries over, pulls out the Plexistar Pro spray and frees the acrylic panes of sauce splashes, droplets and finger marks. The result: Absolutely no streaks, the grease stains have disappeared. But protective barriers have not only been installed at the tables: they can also be found at the food service station and at the till. Here, Seminar Manager Alexander Buchner currently cleans the acrylic glass panes after every lunch service. He also has a Plexistar Pro spray bottle and fleece cloth always at hand. A smooth fleece cloth is the best choice for acrylic glass because it cleans the sensitive material particularly gently. Microfibre cloths are often used for this purpose in industrial cleaning, a mistake that can have disastrous results: The fine fibres in the microfibre cloths can scratch acrylic glass panes, thus impeding visibility. The EPI team is aware of this and only uses microfibre products where they are called for – for example, for window cleaning.

Microfibre cloths for windows
On sunny days, you can see every speck on the glass panes of the conservatory. Finger marks or residual dust are quickly eliminated by the cleaning team under Carmen Suarez (Assistant Head of Cleaning). As soon as ell employees have left the restaurant after their lunch break, she and her colleague André de Sousa start cleaning the window facade. Materials made of microfibres are recommended here, in contrast with acrylic glass panes, since they pick up lots of dirt, ensure efficient work and cause no damage to the glass surfaces. When cleaning glass, André de Sousa uses the Wetrok window cleaning set. First he uses a wet microfibre cloth to wipe off the frame, then attaches a microfibre cover onto the wetting tool, dampens it with cleaning solution and begins washing the panes from bottom to top. Then he wipes off the surface with a window cleaner (rubber lip) from top to bottom. After a short drying period, you can see Zurich Lake again through the panes as clearly as if you were standing right before it.

From specialist staff to the Assistant Head of Cleaning to the Division Manager, everyone plays their part on the EPI premises each day to ensure a safe and hygienic environment and to enable people with epilepsy to live as independently as possible. Given these exemplary efforts, we can only hope that in the near future, the kitchen crew will be able to impress outside visitors with their culinary creations, the seminar rooms will be able to hold lively debates and that one day it will be possible to meet again “without barriers”. Until then, the alpaca will probably have to graze its fair share of grass on the meadow.


Short interview:
4 questions for André Arndt, Head of Hospitality Services at the Swiss Epilepsy Foundation (EPI)

“Thanks to the specialist cleaner Plexistar Pro, our acrylic glass panes still look good as new”

Mr. Arndt, there are people on the EPI premises who belong to risk groups for COVID-19 – what does this mean for the protective measures in your facilities?
That’s right. At our locations, we have various groups of people coming and going – many of whom belong to a COVID-19 risk group. For this reason, our protective concept includes the strictest safety precautions. The four most important elements: Maintaining distance, regular hand-washing or disinfection of hands and touchpoints, wearing masks and regular hygiene training.

You clean the acrylic glass panes using specialist cleaner Plexistar Pro – why not use a glass cleaner?
That’s we did immediately after acquiring the panes – but that was a mistake. After long-term use, glass cleaners can cause tension cracks and milky clouding on acrylic glass panes. Even for financial reasons alone, we wanted to spare our panes from suffering this fate. Also, non-verbal, visual communication is important – especially for our clientele – which means that maintaining clear visibility through the panes is essential for us on the long term.  That’s why we switched to the specialist cleaner Plexistar Pro from Wetrok, which was developed specifically for acrylic glass panes and cleans particularly gently but thoroughly. Our hygiene committee gave the go-ahead for this specialist cleaner, which has become indispensable to us – and our protective barriers continue to look good as new thanks to Plexistar Pro.

Are the protective barriers cleaned by the employees working in each area? If so, how did they react to the fact that they now have to carry out cleaning tasks?
Yes, our employees have the Plexistar Pro spray at hand in their drawer at all times and they clean the protective barriers at their workstation themselves. Given the current situation, there have been no problems: Our employees understand the necessity of cleaning. Cleaning is also about protecting yourself and your sense of well-being: No one likes sitting in front of a dirty barrier. Quite the reverse: Our employees appreciate taking control and responsibility to ensure that their own workplace remains hygienic.

Do you believe that these protective barriers will completely disappear from public spaces after the COVID-19 pandemic?
I do hope that when we sit down together at a restaurant table a year from now, we won’t be saying “Bon appetit” through a barrier (laughs). Nevertheless, I could imagine that these protective barriers – used seasonally and sparingly – could also have a valuable preventive role at stations where there is intensive contact, even after the pandemic. For example at the clinic’s reception desk during the flu season in winter.

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