Environmental Cleaning Program: Developing and Implementing

Every health service organisation, no matter how small or large, must implement work practices as part of their Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) program. These essential work practices fall under “Standard Precautions” and must be applied at all times. The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare (“The Commission”) highlights that “Environmental cleaning is a critical element of standard precautions and should be a feature of every health service organisation’s infection prevention and control program.¹” Other elements that are included as part of standard precautions can be found in The Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control on Infection in Healthcare.

To assist business owners and health related professionals understand and fulfil their responsibilities regarding environmental cleaning, The Commission has released a number of resources that clarify steps towards ensuring optimal environmental cleaning, including a 2021 version of their Environmental Cleaning Practices for Small Health Service Organisations.

The development of an environmental cleaning program as part of a health related business’ IPC program primarily falls under the responsibility of the business owner. It should be based on the AICG and NSQHS standards, as well as developed in conjunction with the staff tasked to carry out the environmental cleaning. The Commission recommends addressing the following features when developing and implementing an environmental cleaning program:

  • Processes to effectively identify, assess and where possible mitigate environmental risks appropriately. For example, The Commission considers “Patient areas and equipment, door handles, light switches, taps (and) hand rails” a “high” risk area and suggests cleaning should occur after each patient use or immediately after spills or bodily fluids.²

  • Cleaning staff should receive appropriate training on the principles of IPC as well as the correct use of various products and PPE. An information booklet can be found here to assist business owners with developing this training.

  • A detailed cleaning schedule is developed specific to the needs of the organisation that includes cleaning frequencies, procedures and policies as well as responsibilities of all staff. Examples of a cleaning schedule can be found below.

  • Ensuring suitable cleaning equipment and products are provided and used. When selecting products for your health organisation, it is important to understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting agents – as well as when it is suggested to use one or both.

  • Cleaning programs should be regularly audited to ensure their effectiveness. The frequency of auditing will depend on an organisation’s infection risk, for example, outpatient clinics including consulting rooms are considered a medium risk organisation according to The Commission.Âł The results of audits should be used to continuously improve environmental cleaning processes and compliance with policy.⁴

“Environmental cleaning ensures that clinical environments are safe and hygienic through the removal of dirt and microorganisms from environmental surfaces and equipment.⁵”

Details about an organisation’s environmental cleaning program, the auditing process as well as staff training should be recorded. These records should be accurate and detailed including the frequency, what was included, when it was performed, who delivered the training and who attended. It is also important to be aware of the risks and benefits of new and emerging cleaning technologies.