Updated 09/10/20

Hygiene is paramount at this moment in time. Staff and volunteers will need clear guidance about when they should stay at home, as well as when they can come back into work, and what changes they will need to make. You may need to adjust working practices and work surfaces to make it easier to clean. You may need to add more facilities, like wash stations, to your site to keep hygiene levels high. For site First Aiders, it is especially important that they should wear gloves for treating all casualties and be prepared for more illnesses presenting in the workplace.

Face coverings will be mandatory in shops and in supermarkets from 24th July 2020. People are also encouraged to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces where there are people they do not normally meet (including museums).

Please note that there are new rules around face coverings. The guidance states that from 24th September, it will be compulsory for retail, leisure and hospitality staff to wear a face covering in areas that are open to the public and where they come or are likely to come within close contact of a member of the public.

You may want to think about the following measures:

  • Consider a deep clean of your building before reopening – it’s very unlikely any virus traces will still be around, but a clean building will inspire confidence in staff and visitors.
  • Surfaces which are touched regularly by people should be cleaned frequently with a detergent and a disinfectant (which must to be left to dry to be effective). Clean door handles, chair arms, kettle handles, light switches and sink taps in this way. Depending on the frequency of use, you may want to clean hourly – and ensure that your visitors can see this happening around them for extra reassurance.
  • Clean toilets and café areas thoroughly and much more frequently to build public trust and keep the risk of contagion low.
  • Ensure soap, hand sanitiser and paper towels are available in all staff and public toilets.
  • Obtain good supplies of soap, cleaning chemicals, nitrile gloves and hand sanitiser. Deliveries may take time, so ensure you order early.
  • Interactives and laminates that are handled by visitors or used by school groups will also need regular cleaning with disinfectant. Take particular care with digital interactives and audio guides.
  • You may want to reduce the number of handling interactives you have available.
  • If you find it difficult to access personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitisers, you may need to delay opening, or come up with more creative solutions. Simple soap and water remains the most effective way to remove the virus from hands. Consider how you can integrate low cost mobile or static washing stations into your venue. You may also want to consider partnering with other local museums or sites to buy personal protective equipment together.
  • You may find that more people ask you about face coverings. Visitors may be uncertain about whether or not they should be wearing one, so make sure this is clearly communicated to your visitors, staff and volunteers. Polite and consistent guidance has been shown to be the most reassuring to the public.
  • You may want to offer visitors the opportunity to buy a face covering in your shop, and could offer interesting and cheerful designs.
  • With regards to museum toilets, have you considered the number of touch points in your toilets? Some museums have introduced sensor technology around flushing, soap/water dispensing and door opening. These, however, are potentially costly interventions and may be beyond the means of many museums.
  • Consider creating social distancing by limiting occupancy, reducing facilities in service and increasing cleaning regimes. The additional resource to manage this may require extra funds, so consider grant funding here. If your museum already suffers from inadequate toilet provision, you may want to clearly signpost visitors to the closest external facilities – and even test these to make sure they are socially distanced and cleaned regularly. Do include this information in your marketing material so visitors can plan accordingly.

A Note on Safety

  • Please stay safe when sanitising your workspace. Following a recent (fortunately non-fatal) electric shock incident in a council setting, please remember that when sanitising your workspace, you should never clean any light switches or electrical outlets/sockets unless you have been given specific responsibility for doing so. If you do have this responsibility, you must clean them using the proper procedure outlined below in order to stay safe.
  • During the pandemic, sanitation has increased in all environments, with particular reference to touchpoints – such as door handles, door plates, tables, chair arms, kitchen white-good handles, light switches, dispensers, flat surfaces such as bookshelves and internal ledges as well as various other areas.
  • If you are responsible for cleaning, or look after staff and volunteers who do, you need to ensure that anyone working in the museum is instructed on the correct method for cleaning light switches/electrical outlets to avoid accidents.
  • Light switches and electrical switch plates must only be cleaned using a slightly damp cloth (e.g. squirt the spray bottle onto the cloth and not directly onto the electrical switch plate or outlet) or with a sanitising wipe. This will help reduce the risk of electrocution.
  • It would also be prudent to have another team member/volunteer on site if cleaning in high risk areas, to provide first aid or call for an ambulance if an incident occurs.


“Around the world museums are developing solutions for opening their sites with social distancing restrictions in place, one area where the solutions are not necessarily as evident are museum toilets. These areas within the buildings have often been designed to make maximum use of the smallest footprint, usually contain only one entry/exit point and probably contain the highest density of touch points within the whole museum. The challenge may also increase within the range of accessible toilet provision where the touch points

are greater in number.”

Ben Melham, Mortice Consulting, @ museumtoilets, 2020


Questions to ask yourself

  • Do your staff/volunteers or visitors need personal protective equipment (PPE) to come into the museum? What level of equipment will you need? Not all protective equipment has the same safety level, and you may find that you have different requirements for different roles. How will you make this clear to visitors in a police and consistent way, and will you need to provide this information in different ways depending on language and access needs?
  • Do you have enough hand washing stations in both the staff and volunteer areas, and the public areas of the museum?
  • Can you organise for your usual cleaners to change their hours – can they clean during public hours to reassure your visitors?
  • Do you need to change or amend your cleaning contracts?
  • If you have interactives in the museum, can these be cleaned more regularly? Do you trust your visitors to clean them? Or do you need to remove them or replace them for a short time?
  • If you are a ‘hands-on’ museum where visitors are likely to be repeatedly and sequentially touching the same artefacts, is there a way you can replicate the experience with hygiene in mind? Do visitors need to wear gloves? Do museum objects need to be rotated to limit the likelihood of cross-contaminations? Can you use objects made of materials which do not support the virus for as long?
  • Consider reserving a separate room (if you have space available) to quarantine anyone (staff or visitors) who become ill. For museums with limited space, how about asking people to sit in their cars whilst they wait for help?
  • Have you considered how to manage traffic flow in toilets and wash station areas? Will you need additional signage, a maximum number allowed into each facility, cones to direct people and hands-free methods of opening doors?
  • Have you considered the storage arrangements for your hand sanitizer? If your supplies are alcohol based, they can become heated resulting flammable vapours being released if stored in hot spaces. These vapours reach flash points in the hot weather and ignite in normal air conditions setting. This can cause a fire risk in enclosed spaces such as cars and sealed cupboards.
  • Have you checked the small print? Some companies are offering to supply hygiene and personal protective equipment, but the small print indicates you may have to sign up to a costly contract, sometimes over years, and wait for long periods of time to receive any stock. Be cautious – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


“Hygiene is two-thirds of health.”

Lebanese proverb



Materials and contamination

 Government advice on face coverings

Face masks versus visors

How to make a face mask (not medical grade)

Government guidelines on decontaminating public spaces during Covid-19

Current guidance from the Resuscitation Council for First Aiders

Sample of personal protective equipment suppliers




Providers of historical carbolic soap



Personal Protective Equipment and Cleaning Suppliers

Appendix 8

Sustainable approached to Museum Waste

Appendix 15

Face coverings and new rules






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