Let’s Take a Minute to Thank the Cleaners

When you fly into a city at night, one of the first things you notice is all the lights. Lights from the street lamps, illuminating the roads so drivers can see where they are going. Lights from stadiums, shining brightly on athletes so fans can watch them play. Lights from high-rises and skyscrapers, illuminating rooms so janitors can clean.

When we are done working for the day, the majority of janitors are just beginning their shifts. They work through the night to make sure our offices, stores, schools and hospitals are ready for us to return the next day. As we’re spending time with our loved ones, enjoying nice meals, watching television or entertaining friends, janitors are vacuuming floors, emptying trash and wiping down surfaces so the dirt from today doesn’t carry over into tomorrow.

When we go to bed, janitors are still working. For many of them, it’s a second job. It’s a way to support their families. Families who don’t see them as much as they would like, because they are working.

Please share this image if you appreciate the hard work of custodians.

While we rest, cleaners are lifting heavy trash bags and mop buckets, pushing vacuums and pulling overstocked carts. But this effort doesn’t come without a price. Due to the labor-intensive nature of their work, janitors have one of the highest rates of job-related injuries. Injuries from slips and falls or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that cause extreme pain in areas such as their backs (46 percent of all custodial-related MSDs), shoulders (15 percent of custodial-related MSDs), necks and legs. Injuries that can potentially impact their ability to work their other job or enjoy what free time they have with family.

Because much of their work happens at night while we are away, we don’t often think about them. They are invisible heroes who make sure our buildings don’t fall into disrepair and harmful bacteria doesn’t spread. They play a critical role in providing an indoor environment that allows us to focus, breath easily and do what we came there to do. Commercial buildings account for almost half of the 150 million tons of waste generated in the U.S. each year—if janitors weren’t there to remove that waste, can you imagine what our buildings would look like?

Their work is critical to the overall success of a business, yet in many operations, they receive very little compensation for what they do. In fact, in the U.S. cleaners have one of the top 10 lowest paying jobs. In most custodial operations, janitors receive little to no recognition for the work they do.

It’s time we shine more light on our cleaners. If you manage a custodial operation, make sure to dedicate time to recognizing your team. Host an awards ceremony. Provide a meal. Encourage other departments in your business to show appreciation for the people on your team. Put a spotlight on someone on your team each week so everyone can have a chance to get to know them a little better. Your team deserves recognition.

If you see a janitor in the buildings where you work or visit, take a moment to thank them. Let them know how much you appreciate what they do.

Share your ideas or pictures of the ways you show appreciation for your cleaning staff with us on social media. Use the hashtag #thankacleaner. It matters. They matter.

 

* This blog post was inspired by the work and leadership of Jim Ginnaty, a man who continually worked to recognize and improve the plight of custodial workers.

The Industry Loses a Legend

We are saddened to announce the passing of Jim Ginnaty, an accomplished custodial professional who maintained a passion for improving the professionalism of the cleaning industry, its workers and the processes used within it, throughout his career.

Jim got his start in the cleaning industry after working as the Operations and Maintenance Specialist for the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), an organization serving 18 native communities in southeast Alaska. Working first as a Facility Manager II and then as an Environmental Services Coordinator for SEARHC, he was responsible for managing and overseeing the maintenance, housekeeping and safety within remote native healthcare clinics and administrative buildings within the SEARHC consortium. For Jim, cleaning work was more than just swinging a mop—it was a way to bring education, acknowledgement and pride to his janitors and his community.

Jim was an early advocate for the (OS1) Cleaning System and later went on to become a Training Manager and Coordinator at the University of Michigan as they implemented the (OS1) team cleaning system. Most recently, he was responsible for leading the Simon Institute’s Standards Writing Committee in developing ANSI-Standards for the janitorial and custodial services industry.

Jim’s lust for life was infectious. He continuously sought enrichment and experience. He never backed down from a good debate, fearlessly fought for what was right and treated everyone with compassion. Jim was a loving husband, father, grandfather and regularly shared in the joys of his family. He was also a tireless mentor, friend and steward of the industry, resolute in his commitment to improve the way buildings are cleaned.

Jim’s passing leaves a huge void in our industry and he will be terribly missed by everyone within the Simon Institute family. On behalf of John, Renae, Lisa, Ben and so many others within the Simon Institute family, please join us in keeping Shan, the Ginnaty children and grandchildren in our prayers, deepest thoughts and warmest hearts.

The Simon Institute Announces 2017 Cleaning Industry Award Winners

The Simon Institute, an ANSI-Accredited Standards Developer Organization (SDO) for the professional cleaning industry, presented the 2017 Cleaning Industry Awards during its 2017 Symposium held at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis earlier this week. The awards recognize the top individuals and performing custodial programs in the cleaning industry.

 

The 2017 Cleaning Industry individual award winners include:

  • Mark Samios, PortionPac, winner of the Pinnacle Award. The Pinnacle Award is a lifetime achievement award for outstanding contributions to the cleaning industry and the (OS1) users.
  • Andi Vance Curry, Dunham Communications, winner of the Mark Reimers Cleaning for Health Award. The Mark Reimers Cleaning for Health Award is a commendation for written communication and outreach to improve health, safety and sustainability in the cleaning industry.
  • Charlene Argo, Sandia National Labs, winner of the (OS1) Touchstone Award, an award recognizing the gold standard of excellence in leading organizational excellence.
  • Paloma Jacobo, GMI Building Services, Inc., winner of the Trainer of the Year Award.

The 2017 Cleaning Industry program award winners include:

  • GMI Building Services Inc., La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology; Sandia National Laboratories; The University of Texas at Austin – Biomedical Engineering Building; and The University of Texas at Austin – Main Building – Winners of the (OS1) Green Certified Program of Excellence. The Green Certified Program of Excellence Award is presented to facilities that have submitted to our annual Progress Audit and earned at least an 90 percent score or higher.
  • Mt. San Antonio College Science Laboratories – Building 60, winners of the (OS1) Green Certified Program Award for earning an 80 percent score or higher on its Progress Audit.
  • Brookhaven National Laboratory, winner of the Rookie of the Year Award for a new organization demonstrating significant improvement in the past year.
  • Sandia National Laboratories, winner of the Best (OS1) Audit Award, for possessing the highest audit score.
  • The University of Texas at Austin, winner of the Logistics Award for possessing a high logistics score in the audited network of custodial operations.
  • The University of Texas at Austin, winner of the Safety Award.
  • Los Angeles Habilitation House, winner of the Innovation Award for its beta testing of online training modules.
  • The University of Texas at Austin, winner of the Best Training Program.
  • University of Texas – Main Building for Best Cleaning Team.
  • Sandia National Laboratories for Best Cleaning Program. The recipient of the Best Cleaning Program has earned a high overall audit score for the current audit year, contributed significantly to custodial bench marking efforts and demonstrated a considerable strength in their custodial management approach.

The 2017 Cleaning Industry Awards were held in conjunction with the Simon Institute’s 16th Annual Symposium, an annual gathering of (OS1) users, members of the Cleaning Alliance and other cleaning industry representatives. This unique gathering enables all users of the (OS1) cleaning system to benchmark best practices and share ideas related to their custodial operations.

For more information on the Simon Institute or the (OS1) System, please go to www.simoninstitute.com.

A Closer Look: Why You Need to Treat Restroom Cleaning Like the Sinking of the Titanic

Note: In our “Closer Look” posts, we’ll take a deeper dive into the history of common products and technology used in custodial operations. If there’s a particular topic you’d like us to explore, just let us know!

It wasn’t until 16th century when the plague rocked England seven times in a 200-year span that people started taking a hard look at their cleaning and hygiene habits. The first flushing toilet was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, a wealthy poet and godson to Queen Elizabeth I. Though innovative and not much different from the toilets we know today, royals never took to it because it was a fixed device in a room by itself and they were accustomed to having toilets brought to them. Additionally, the queen felt that having a room dedicated to using the toilet was lewd.

At that time, the type of toilet you used depended on your class. People in lower class societies used communal privies, which often resembled a bridge-like structure and was situated over a river. Individuals in the middle class used chamber pots, which was a basic bowl that allowed for some privacy and was later emptied into the street or river. Royals used fancy velvet-lined stools with a chamber pot situated inside the seat. The stools were brought to them by servants, who would roll them away once they were finished with them.

Several inventors contributed designs that are used in the toilet we all know today. This includes Thomas Crapper, who developed a patent for the flushing apparatus.

And contrary to popular belief that Mr. Crapper’s study of the toilet led to the development of the slang term “crap” as it relates to bodily waste, the term actually comes from Middle English origin and predates any reference to it as bodily waste. At least, that’s what Wikipedia says.

Today, restrooms continue to play a critical role in controlling sanitation and protecting public health. They require more chemicals, custodial products, labor, government regulation awareness and professional cleaning knowledge than any other area in a facility. Restrooms are at the very top of the list of cleaning priorities.

Restrooms are often a top area of complaints, and they also can host the most pathogenic microorganisms, including hepatitis, herpes simplex I and II, along with numerous blood borne pathogens.

We have two primary rules when it comes to managing restroom cleaning:

  1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. 
  2. You never know how much of a mess will be in a restroom during the hours of operation.

Thoughts on Rule 1: If that first impression is negative, it can mean a lost customer. A survey by Zogby International revealed that 80 percent of consumers would avoid a restaurant with a dirty restroom.

Thoughts on Rule 2: We recommend treating restroom cleaning during operational hours like the sinking of the Titanic. You wouldn’t grab all of your photos and put on your tuxedo before jumping ship—just the essentials for survival. The same goes for cleaning the restroom when it’s open—pick up trash and spot mop visible defects. Make sure all toilets are flushed, dispensers are stocked and all water is wiped from the countertops.

Clean restrooms indicate a commitment to quality. Make it a priority.

What Happens When People Walk Into Your Building and See Dirt

We’ve all been told that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but what actually goes into that impression? Research has shown us time and time again that appearance is everything—this goes for whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or patronizing a business. In fact, one study found that 99 percent of U.S. adults would find poor cleanliness would negatively impact their perception of a retail store. When it comes to captivating they loyalty of that ever-elusive generation of millennials, another recent survey conducted by the Health Industry Distributors Association found that appearance really matters, at least when it comes to how they choose healthcare providers.

Appearance matters, but as we all know, its importance can often underestimated when budgets are reduced; custodial operations are often one the first cuts that happen. When labor and cleaning frequencies are reduced, dirt increases—and there’s a good chance your customers and prospective customers are taking note.

Whether you have a staff dedicated to cleaning that includes a day porter or utility specialist or other employees who pickup cleaning responsibilities, keep in mind the following high-visibility areas that could be impacting your customers’ perception of your business:

Entryways: Entryways are one of the first areas a customer sees when they arrive at your building, so this is a critical area to maintain. Floors, doorways, glass, light fixtures and all area leading into the building should be kept free of debris and trash. Using a grabber device, dust pan and or broom, remove all trash that appears in entryway areas throughout the day to make sure your facility shines and leaves a positive first impression with guests.

Glass and Doorways: Glass doors and windows around the exterior of a building quickly shows soil from fingerprints and dirt and leave the impression that the building is unattended when not cleaned on a regular basis. Spray and wipe these surfaces frequently with the appropriate window cleaner on a daily basis, and more often if there is high traffic.

Floors: Protect floors inside the building by using entryway mats both inside and outside the front door. These mats are designed to withhold dirt and allergens, but they also need to be regularly vacuumed and maintained to work effectively.

Inside the building, keeping floors clean requires regular dirt and soil removal by vacuuming carpets. For cleaning hard floors, use a dust mop then damp/wet mop and auto scrubber, depending on the condition of the floor.

Furniture: Restore the luster to hard wood surfaces on furniture by using furniture polish and a clean microfiber cloth. Also be sure to clean upholstery on a regular basis to reduce soil buildup and spot clean as necessary. Furniture can easily move throughout the course of a day and should be moved during cleaning, so be sure to move them back to their original location.

Trash cans: Regularly empty overflowing trash cans and spray and wipe the interior with a cleaning solution to eliminate odors and keep cans smelling fresh.

Vents, Blinds and Baseboards: A good rule of thumb when cleaning hard surfaces in a building is to start high and move downward. Use a microfiber cloth or duster to clean hard-to-reach areas like vents and work downward to lower areas to remove dust and keep surfaces spotless.

Getting the Job Done

Secure cleaning products and equipment in a storage area near the entryway of the facility so they are always available. Make sure cleaning carts are always well-stocked with products, cleaning cloths, gloves and any other materials required to complete the task. And most importantly, establish a standardized method and protocol for cleaning the area so there’s a consistent level of cleanliness at all times.

Cleaning plays a critical role in how customers view your brand. You don’t want them to see dirt when they walk into your facility, because it can mean they might not return. Cleaning for health is critical, but cleaning for appearance also matters as organizations look for ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. If you want to keep customers, make sure your building is clean and that first impression is a positive one.

 

The Five P’s of Pathogen Cleaning

As any professional in our industry knows, cleaning isn’t just about removing dirt, but also stopping the spread of bacteria and infection in the buildings we clean. It’s not just about appearance, but also about health—the health of the people in the building and the people cleaning the building.

As we wrap up our safety series for National Safety Month, we’re putting the spotlight on pathogens. More than ever, educating our custodial teams about pathogens—what they are, how they spread and what cleaners can do to protect themselves—has become critical beyond the healthcare world. Cleaners in a variety of public and private settings are regularly exposed to biological hazards that carry risks and responsibilities. Equipping custodial workers with the education they need to effectively clean for health not only empowers them, but will also improve the health of our buildings.

When training custodial teams about pathogens, consider the Five P’s of Pathogens.*

The five P’s include:

  1. Pathogen types: Broadly speaking, a pathogen is basically anything that can cause disease. Different types of pathogens may include:
    • Bacteria: Bacteria are single-celled organisms that can thrive in extreme conditions. They do not require a living host, such as a human being, in order to reproduce. Salmonella, E.coli and MRSA are just a few of the types of bacteria that custodial workers would encounter.
    • Viruses: Generally smaller than bacteria, viruses require a living host to reproduce. Viruses are likely to produce an outbreak of illness, such as influenza or the common cold.
    • Parasites: Parasites live on or inside a living host. They can cause a variety of issues, including nausea and muscle pain. Examples might include headline or tapeworm, depending on the mode of transmission.
    • Fungi: As the name implies, fungi are molds and yeasts that commonly cause respiratory problems in humans.
  2. Pathways: The primary way a pathogen can enter your body is through inhalation, ingestion (in food or water) or through direct contact with bodily fluids or blood. Custodial workers with cuts or abrasions and who do not use protective gloves can be at higher risk of exposure.
  3.  Problems: If a pathogen enters the body, it can result in temporary illness to the custodial worker, such as influenza or a cold, to something more dangerous and deadly, like MRSA. Because custodial teams often touch many surfaces in a building, they also have the potential  or spreading the pathogen unknowingly, which is why proper hand washing is essential.
  4. Places: Pathogens can be present on most hard surfaces, but are commonly found on fomites, or high-touch areas, which include light switches, elevator buttons, telephones and door handles. Kitchen areas and restrooms can also provide hospitable environments to pathogens.
  5. Protection: Wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential based on the potential hazards that may exist. Protective gloves and hand washing between areas can be an effective way to break the chain of infection.

For custodial workers to take pride in what they do, they need to be educated on the importance of their work and recognized for their efforts. We have a quick reference guide to understanding all of the microbiology used in the cleaning industry that you can use in your educational programs. “Microbiology for Cleaning Workers Simplified” offers the basics to help cleaning workers understand the basics of sanitation, vocabulary and the history of cleaning for health. You can check it out here. 

*This is by not intended to serve as a comprehensive resource on pathogen cleaning, but a baseline primer you can use to help educate custodial workers.

Safety Month Continued: The Dangers of Handling Chemicals [INFOGRAPHIC]

We hear the stories too often: someone improperly mixes cleaning chemicals, which leads to a strange odor. Everyone evacuates the building. People are taken to the hospital for precautionary measures, but in a best-case-scenario, there’s no injury.

But in some cases, there are injuries. Like the chemical mixing incident where an Idaho woman drank iced tea mixed with a cleaning solution and nearly died.

The EPA reports that as many as 2.8 million people in the cleaning industry are exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals each day. And if their job requires that they handle chemicals, it’s up to the employer to make sure they know what they’re doing.

OSHA’s revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012) requires organizations to provide training on the following:

  • Methods and observations to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area.
  • Measures employees can take to protect themselves from these hazards.
  • Details of the hazard communication program developed by the employer, including an explanation of the labels received on shipped containers and workplace labeling system, the SDS and how employees can use the appropriate hazard information.

While the new standard requires training when new personnel assigned to work in a specific area or when a new health or physical hazard is in place, employers can further reduce risk of an incident resulting from improper chemical handling by providing ongoing training and making sure key personnel have demonstrated their understanding of key handling protocols.

Handling chemicals can be extremely dangerous when people don’t know what they’re doing. We’ve put together an infographic to share at your next safety meeting so cleaners understand the potential risks and take the time to understand best practices for handling.

Easy Ways You Can Prevent Common Injuries to Custodial Workers [INFOGRAPHIC]

June kicks off National Safety Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of workplace safety issues. In the custodial services industry, we focus a lot on how we can clean in a way that reduces risks to building occupants. For example, people often ask us the best way to reduce the risk visitors slipping and falling in their facility. We also field a lot of questions about what products and processes people can use to improve their indoor air quality. Each of these questions are important, but they need to happen within a broader conversation about the safety of our custodial operations. 

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When we talk safety, a key focus should be on the safety of the people who clean our buildings. Unfortunately, we’ve found that’s not a focus in enough businesses. According to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the incidence rates of injuries and illnesses to janitors and cleaners actually increased to 657 cases per 10,000 full-time workers in 2015, up from 434 cases in 2014. The National Safety Council reports that more than 46,000 cleaners and janitors are injured severely enough each year to require one or more days away from work.

Custodial workers are on the front lines of battling dirt, but with the dirt comes bacteria, viruses and too often, physical injury. When a custodial worker is sick or injured, it can present a major setback to both the worker and the employer. Cleaning workers often hold more than one job to support their families, so in addition to the pain and suffering from the injury, they may also experience financial hardships.

Employers incur costs from workers’ compensation claims, replacement labor and other soft costs resulting from issues such as reduced morale and productivity amongst other staff members. For a top injury like musculoskeletal disorders, OSHA estimates it costs employers up to $15 billion to $20 billion annually.

At ManageMen, we believe that every worker has the right to go home safely every day and we’ve worked hard to create a system that promotes worker safety.

So what are three of the most common injuries to custodial workers and how can you help prevent them?

  1. Musculoskeletal disorders: Back injuries (about 46 percent) and shoulder injuries (about 15 percent) were the leading musculoskeletal disorder-causing injuries requiring time off work for janitors and cleaners in 2010, according to BLS. One way to reduce the risk of this type of injury is by promoting a warm up program for your custodial team, as we discussed in this blog post.
  2. Respiratory issues or burns: Improper handling of chemicals—either by mixing the wrong chemicals together or improperly diluting chemicals—can result in respiratory issues or burns. Janitors also face increased risk from exposure to bloodborne pathogens. The BLS reports 15.7 incidents requiring time off from work per 10,000 full-time janitors and cleaners. By educating workers on the proper ways to handle chemicals and limit their exposure, you can substantially reduce their risk. We have a big announcement around this in the next few weeks, so stay tuned! 
  3. Slips and Falls: When your work focuses on cleaning up the spills other people make, slips and falls are an inevitable workplace hazard. The BLS reports 11.3 slip or trip injuries requiring time off from work per 10,000 full-time janitors and cleaners. Help protect your workers by ensuring they have the proper footwear and have adequate time for floor cleaning tasks to reduce the opportunity for injuries from rushing.

By focusing on these top injury areas and reducing risks, you can help improve the safety and well-being of your hard-working custodial staff.

Let’s make June a month where we make custodial worker safety a priority. Tell us, what are you planning for Safety Month?

Experts Warn That a Global Pandemic is Around the Corner, but are Cleaning Departments Ready?

The cover of this week’s Time Magazine will likely to grab your attention.

In the article, “The World is Not Ready for the Next Pandemic,” journalist Bryan Walsh chronicles the latest pandemic percolating across China—a new strain of the bird flu called H7N9. While it “mostly” affects poultry, the virus has jumped to humans, resulting in pneumonia (88 percent) and the death (41 percent) of its approximately 1,500 victims.

Experts say that the virus can only be transmitted from poultry to humans at this point, but that’s likely to change. The potential for the virus to evolve and become transmittable between humans is so great that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks H7N9 as the flu strain with the greatest potential to cause a pandemic.

The author notes:

And while a mutant bug that moves from chickens in China to humans in cities around the world may seem like something out of a Hollywood script, the danger the world faces from H7N9–and countless other pathogens with the potential to cause enormous harm–isn’t science fiction. Rather, it’s the highly plausible nightmare scenario that should be keeping the President up at night.

Scary stuff. But it’s even scarier for custodial workers who will be on the front lines of the battle, should the virus evolve. While we can’t know exactly how, when or even if it will spread, there’s a good chance that if it’s not H7N9, another virus will come along that will threaten our health and security.

This isn’t the first time that custodial workers have been challenged with the important job of preventing the spread of infection outside of healthcare facilities. It happened in 2009 with the H1N1 (Swine Flu) outbreak, in 2014 with the Ebola outbreak—it happens each year during cold and flu season.

Because many viruses can live on hard surfaces for several hours, it can spread “like crazy” between unknowing building occupants. That’s why effective cleaning and disinfection is an essential step to keep high-touch fomites, such as door handles and light switches, free of these viruses. That’s why planning to systematically address cleaning operations in an emergency situation like a pandemic is essential.

If you’re even peripherally associated with the cleaning responsibilities in your business, now is the time to start asking questions about how cleaning will be handled during an outbreak or pandemic situation. Is the custodial staff in your facility equipped with the right tools and knowledge to clean during an outbreak situation?

To help custodial teams prepare, we’ve identified the essential components of an effective pandemic preparedness plan. Your pandemic preparedness plan should include:

  1. A Playbook. Custodial teams must have a clearly defined action plan for how to respond in an emergency situation. This playbook will offer different scenarios and action plans depending on the virus at hand. In addition to instructions, the playbook should also include emergency contact numbers for key individuals in the building, suppliers and staff.
  2. Ongoing training for custodial workers. Even before an outbreak occurs, cleaning workers need to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities in an emergency situation. Training should include the following:
    1.  A disinfectant overview: The curriculum should include a primer on the specific viruses the disinfectants are designed to kill and the amount of dwell time required for the virus to be effective. You can’t just spray a disinfectant on a surface and immediately wipe it clean—this will make it completely ineffective. Workers need to understand what to use and how to use it.
    2. Steps for protecting workers: When custodial workers know and understand the risks, they will be more likely to take precautionary measures. This includes donning specific personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks or gloves.
    3. Action plans: Custodial personnel should have a clear understanding of their responsibilities during an outbreak situation. Using a systematic approach to cleaning is an essential step in making sure that surfaces are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  3. Plans for inventory supply shortages. Supply shortages of commonly used items such as PPE, chemicals, tissues and hand sanitizer are likely to occur during an outbreak situation, so make plans for how to address shortages or stockpile items accordingly.
  4. Signage. Effective handwashing is key to eliminating potential pathogen encounters. Place signage around the building to remind building occupants to regularly wash their hands to reduce the opportunity for the virus to spread. Signage can also be used to remind custodial workers of their responsibilities, or  encourage building occupants to assist with cleaning efforts in their personal workspace.

Custodial workers play a key role in protecting the health and safety of building occupants on a daily basis, but even more so in an outbreak situation. Preparing them with the knowledge and tools they need will go a long way in stopping the spread of an infection.