Hygiene in schools – Hygiene plans for greater protection from infection

Why are hygiene and prevention of infections so important in schools?

Schools are busy places: lots of children and teachers are constantly moving around in classrooms, corridors and break areas. Contact surfaces such as door handles, light switches, window handles and tabletops are touched by many different people. Each individual can potentially transmit infection. This is why hygiene in schools is so important. The aim is to ensure the health of children, teaching staff and parents, and prevent the transmission of infectious illnesses – not just since SARS-COV-2 and the coronavirus crisis.

The German Protection against Infection Act(IfSG)

Hygiene measures in schools are based on legislation introduced to prevent and combat infectious diseases under the German Protection against Infection Act (IfSG). The current version came into force on the 20th of July 2021. It aims to prevent infectious diseases, detect them as early as possible and prevent their spread among the population. Schools and other community facilities for children and young people – for example, nursery schools and child daycare centres, as well as schools and vocational facilities – need to draw up their own hygiene plan in accordance with § 36 of the Protection against Infection Act.

Creating hygiene plans

In view of the fact that each school has its own individual structural and functional requirements, it is not possible to create a central hygiene plan for all schools. Each school is therefore responsible for its own hygiene plan. The Education Ministry and relevant health authorities support schools with this task. For example, some federal states provide guidelines and framework or template hygiene plans. Each hygiene plan must be checked regularly and updated or amended. The intervals for this process are specified by each school.

All information in connection with the hygiene plan must also be available to staff at all times. Information provided to all teaching staff and employees in relation to the hygiene plan must be documented in writing. The health authorities’ framework hygiene plans include measures such as regular ventilation in classrooms, thorough hand hygiene including washing and sanitising, surface cleaning, kitchen hygiene and food hygiene, hygiene in first aid rooms, as well as a reporting obligation to parents and health authorities.

Overview of school management obligations

Hygiene management: School management is responsible for managing hygiene. This includes analysing risks in different areas of the school – such as the kitchen or sanitary facilities – and assessing any identified risks, ranging from low to high. Management is also responsible for minimising risk through measures such as disposable hand towels, liquid soap and separate toilets, and for introducing monitoring procedures, regularly updating the school hygiene plan, training staff and documenting this training.

Hygiene officer: The school’s management needs to appoint an internal hygiene officer. This person is responsible for ensuring adherence to health and infection protection rules and the implementation of the hygiene plan. As part of efforts to combat the pandemic, the hygiene officer should also take steps such as ensuring sufficient supplies of sanitiser and implementing one-way systems to avoid contact.

Hygiene management tasks: As well as a hygiene plan, schools also need to draw up cleaning and disinfecting plans for all relevant areas. These must set out measures for cleaning and disinfecting, specify the persons responsible and the intervals at which these tasks must be carried out.

Detailed information on this issue and measures to prevent the spread of covid can be found on the website of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), under the hygiene in schools keyword search.