Hand hygiene a top priority for all

Whiteley Corporation, the country’s largest manufacturer of cleaning products and disinfectants, has seen demand for its products triple since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its executive chairman, Dr Greg Whiteley, spoke to Manufacturers’ Monthly about the importance of safe and easy-to-use hand hygiene products.

Newcastle-based manufacturer Whiteley Corporation was founded during the Great Depression in 1933, which was a bold move for the times. Now, almost 90 years later, the company is helping fight a battle against a global pandemic.

The company, which has designed, developed and produced medical and industrial cleaning products in Australia since it was founded, is the first in the country to get a label claim approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for a surface disinfectant that kills the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19).

VIRACLEAN is a hospital-grade disinfectant intended for use on a range of medical surfaces, which may be contaminated, to better protect patients and staff from the risk of the COVID-19 virus cross infection. The company is now making the product available to the wider marketing, including manufacturers.

Whiteley Corporation chairman, Dr Greg Whiteley, said the company was proud to provide Australian manufacturers with an Australian-made cleaning agent.

“We are delighted to announce this new claim for our product VIRACLEAN, which is a truly Australian invention,” he said. “Those kill claims have been established through independent microbiology against our product.”

Whiteley believes the new label claim for VIRACLEAN against the virus will add certainty around the level of hygiene in hospitals, as well as for manufacturers where in-person contact is unavoidable.

“If you’re working in manufacturing, having intact skin is one of the most important preventative measures for getting infections,” Whiteley said.

“Keeping your skin in a healthy state, having a good and hygienic product, and moisturising well is really important for people’s healthcare in the workplace.”

Whiteley Corporation not only produces VIRACLEAN but is Australia’s largest manufacturer of medical consumables for cleaning and disinfecting. Whiteley said that

in addition to VIRACLEAN, manufacturing workers should be ensuring that their natural first line of defence, their skin, is kept healthy in what can be extreme environments.

Whiteley said that people touch their face 20 to 40 times an hour, and can thus easily spread the droplets of a virus from a surface into their body. Therefore, said Whiteley, the most important way to minimise risk is through regular hygiene habits.

He said although the risk of contracting the virus is relatively low, the danger comes from touching a contaminated surface.

Good hand hygiene will help reduce the risk of infection. You should regularly wash your hands with soap and water and sanitise with an alcohol-based hand rub when you don’t have easy access to soap and water. Following these simple guidelines will keep your surfaces clean and safe, and your hands free from infectious microorganisms including COVID-19.

Adapting and meeting customer expectations

Whiteley has been taking every step to ensure that the company can provide a consistent and reliable product to Australian manufacturers. The company has had to double its workforce to meet demand, with half of them working onsite at Tomago, outside Newcastle.

“You could call this our ‘COVID-19 headquarters’,” described Whiteley. “We’ve been instructed by governments to give preference to the health care system in places. That’s something we’re now past, and we are really making sure that everyone gets their supply equally,” Whiteley said.

Similar to other manufacturers who have relied upon imported ingredients, Whiteley Corporation has had to contend with disruptions in the global supply chain. This has necessitated rapid adaptations to products to ensure supplies are maintained. In one case, the gelling agent has been difficult to source. Whiteley Corporation got around this shortage by rapidly reformulating the product.

With the Australian economy coming out of crisis mode, but still having to limit any “second wave” of COVID-19, demand has continued to be strong for approved, medical grade products.

“We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed with demand both inside and outside the medical business, and also in the general industrial supply, because we’re rightfully concerned about cleaning and hygiene,” Whiteley said.

With a new crew and new equipment in place, Whiteley Corporation is already in the process of expanding its operations.

“We are in the process of buying a new building to further expand our manufacturing footprint,” Whiteley said.

The new plant will generate jobs to train and retrain staff at every skill level as the company’s business operations continue to expand.