By Lonnie Fritz, Senior Market Professional, Construction Industries, Caterpillar Inc.
Most construction firms do a pretty good job of keeping the exterior of equipment clean. By regularly knocking off mud and rinsing off dirt and grime, you help machine components last longer, improve visibility for safer operation and send a positive message about your business. But what about the interior of your equipment — is it as squeaky clean as it needs to be? If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that everyday surfaces can double as powerful germ-spreaders.
Here are some simple tips for sanitizing equipment cabs that only take a couple minutes to implement. Follow these steps at the start or end of every shift, or between shifts, especially if multiple workers operate the same piece of equipment. Doing so also helps protect any maintenance or repair technicians who may climb onboard when the machine’s out of operation. Additionally, technicians should perform machine sanitation practices upon completion of their service work to the machine.
- Mask and glove up. No, cleaning equipment isn’t brain surgery — but take a cue from actual surgeons and put on a mask or face covering and a pair of latex gloves before you start. That reduces your risk of exposure to any germs or viruses in the cab and also prevents you from reinfecting any surfaces as you clean.
- Start by removing dirt. Once you’re inside the cab, check all the hard surfaces — interior door handles, windows, armrests, consoles, joysticks or steering wheel, knobs and levers, switches, displays (including touch screens) and other touchpoints — for dirt and debris. Clean them off with a cloth or sponge soaked in soapy water.
- Apply disinfectant. Once cab surfaces are clean, spray them with an EPA-approved disinfectant or a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution. Both options neutralize viruses and other harmful substances, and they won’t damage equipment components. You can let the disinfectant air-dry after spraying or wipe it down with a damp fiber cloth if you prefer. Avoid solutions composed of household bleach or solvent-based solutions.
- Don’t forget the seat. Are the seats in your cabs fabric-covered? You can use the same cleaning process — just be gentle. Don’t let any soapy water soak into the material, because that can lead to mold or musty smells. And don’t use any product containing bleach, which can damage upholstery.
- Fill the hand sanitizer. If you haven’t already started keeping a bottle of sanitizer inside every cab, now’s the time to start. Make sure there’s plenty available for operators to use throughout their shifts. You can buy big bottles for refilling at most home improvement stores or warehouse clubs.
- Leave exterior surfaces for last. Make sanitizing any exterior door handles or grab bars your final step, following the process above, as you exit or climb off the equipment.
Even in non-pandemic times, sanitizing and disinfecting equipment is a smart business move. Helping your employees avoid catching colds, the flu or other transmittable illnesses means they spend more productive hours on the job — and that’s one of the keys to a healthy bottom line.