A Look at Restrooms Around the World on World Toilet Day

Every year on Nov. 19th, World Toilet Day is celebrated with the goal of inspiring action and improving the global sanitation crisis. Sadly, more than 4.5 billion people throughout the world live without access to a household toilet, and this absence of a clean, sanitary environment not only fuels the spread of disease, it reinforces the cycle of poverty. In contrast, restroom sanitation is a key cultural focus in other parts of the world, reinforced through stories and song. In recognition of World Toilet Day, we’re looking at significance of restrooms in two very different parts of the world and how various these societies treat the people who are responsible for keeping them clean.

HAITI: In a place like Haiti where there’s no sewer system, more than 3 million residents (1 in 5 Haitians) use outhouses—so nearly every restroom is “public.” The people charged with cleaning out public toilets are known as bayakou. Their jobs are critical because Haiti is in the midst of a cholera epidemic. Deemed a “significant threat to global public health,” cholera results from poor hygiene, limited access to sanitation and inadequate water supply. While their jobs are critical to the health of people and children in Haiti, bayakou are often so scorned by the public that some never tell their spouses what they do for a living. Oftentimes, they clean at night because the smell is less intense and so they can hide in the darkness.

With no sewer systems in place, public restrooms in Haiti are cleaned by workers known as bayakou who often don’t tell their families about their work because of their shame.

JAPAN: On the other side of the world in Japan, visitors can expect the opposite experience when entering a public restroom. As writer Kaori Shoji suggests in the Japan Times, “you can expect a certain standard of cleanliness and tsukaiyasusa (accessibility) in most nooks and crannies.” This is because the restroom is a “prime feature of Japanese life” to the point that lore suggested daughters who cleaned the family toilet were destined to become beautiful, and would in turn bear beautiful daughters. In 2010, the song “Toire no Kamisama” or “The Toilet God” was a best seller, and just two years ago, the Japanese government launched the Japan Toilet Prize to “ensure that washrooms are always clean and safe.”

In U.S., we’re somewhere in the middle. While we’re fortunate to have access to public restrooms and sewage systems to reduce our exposure to diseases like cholera, it’s far from being treated as the most important room in the house when it comes to cleaning. In many facilities, the people who clean these areas are unappreciated for what they do. In the (OS1) System, we call these workers “restroom specialists.” But because their work goes unrecognized in most buildings, few restroom cleaners take pride in what they do. You’ll often hear custodians joke about being the “queen of the latrine” or “chief of the toilet brigade.”

Yet the role of the restroom specialist is no joke—it’s hard work and critical to business. In a recent Facility Cleaning Decisions survey, 56 percent of cleaning professionals say that restrooms are the most difficult areas in a facility to keep clean. Lack of supplies, trash, odor and spills are common issues plaguing cleaning workers.

From the customer perspective, a dirty restroom is a major turn-off. Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults say they wouldn’t return to a restaurant with dirty restrooms. An article featured earlier this month in Convenience Store Decisions found the same — “Clean Restrooms Are Good Business” it concluded.

So what is needed to help improve restroom cleanliness in the U.S.? A few things:

  1. Educating more people about the implications of a dirty restroom. A dirty restroom not only poses health risks, but also can also be a deterrent to customers.
  2. Appreciating, recognizing and supporting restroom specialists and custodians responsible for cleaning the restrooms.
  3. Moving beyond “the box” mentality. Restroom cleaning isn’t just a little box someone checks off after they have picked up a few pieces of stray paper towels. It needs to be a system that regularly monitors and maintains restroom surfaces in a way that ensures a consistent level of cleanliness—and health.

If you want to recognize World Toilet Day, you have a couple of options. To help reduce the number of people without access to a household toilet, you can donate to the World Toilet Organization, which is a non-profit organization aimed at providing a clean and safe toilet for everyone, everywhere at all times.

You can also take a minute to thank the person who cleans the public restrooms where you work or visit. By letting them know you appreciate what they do, you help improve their appreciation and respect for the work they perform.

Additional resources: “Inside the Hidden Dangers of Life without Toilets.”

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Why Cleaning Professionals Are Flocking to Janitor University

You know that feeling you get when you step off a roller coaster? That disoriented moment when you try to collect your thoughts because the rush was so incredible that “what’s next” becomes secondary to “wow, I can’t believe that just happened.”

That’s us right now, coming off a high from one of the best weeks of Janitor University (JU) in its almost 25-year history. We had the largest class in several years, with a diverse group of attendees joining us from academia, government agencies, laboratories and building service contractors. Some attendees were taking refresher courses to earn their masters or professor certificates, but we also hosted a lot newcomers to the class. Why is this exciting? Because it tells us that many professionals are interested in learning how to manage cleaning in a way that promotes a healthy indoor environment rather than polluting the indoors by spreading around dirt through ineffective products and practices.

As students get settled in on the first day, we talk through the current issues in the industry and why a standardized approach to cleaning is so important.

Since we’re regularly out in the field working one-on-one with managers, janitors and custodians, we have a lot of great images and stories that bring these points to life. The most important lesson during the first day of class is the stigma attached to cleaning and how we need to work in a way that brings professionalism to the industry and pride to the individuals performing the work. tThe first day of this course sets up the next day where we defined what a high performance cleaning system looks like.

On the second day of the program, we review the four most important functions of cleaning management. This includes:

1) Daily kitting and how to monitor the amount of solution and product used by custodial workers.

2) Tracking communication for complaints, requests, mistakes and compliments.

3) Practical tracking of equipment use in order to plan for preventative maintenance.

4) Performing quality assessments internally based on process factors. We like to call this “quality assessments without the white glove.”

Another great piece students to JU enjoy is the work loading exercise. Recognizing that most cleaning professionals can’t agree on a common-set of work loading terms, we distill the components into a game to help simplify the principles behind work loading. Because, simplification! Beyond all the knowledge and education, attendees also benefit from the networking that happens during the event. We regularly hear stories from people who develop professional contacts and friendships that last long after Janitor University is over.

All attendees are encouraged to sign up for the class at least once every three years, because we’re regularly updating the curriculum so it reflects the current recommended best practices for cleaning.

Albert Einstein once said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” As an industry, we have to get smarter and change the way we’re cleaning our buildings. If the students to last week’s JU are any indication, we’re on the way. We’ve had more than 2,000 people complete the program over the years, and attendees regularly tell us that JU is the most comprehensive cleaning management curriculum they’ve seen.

If you’re interested in participating in an upcoming Janitor University, stay tuned! We’ve got exciting news as we’ll be taking JU on the road in 2018. We are looking for more ways to enable cleaning professionals to participate in our courses, so we hope you’ll join us!

 

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Understanding Topophilia and How It Impacts Productivity in the Workplace

Have you heard of the term “topophilia”? It’s a term that highlights how people feel about a place. As we work to create more productive and innovative work environments, ManageMen’s Ben Walker suggests in this month’s issue of Facility Cleaning Decisions that the cleanliness of a work environment will directly impact not just WHAT people feel about where they work, but also HOW they feel while they’re working.

Read the full article here.

How to Stop the Commoditization of Cleaning [HINT: It Starts with Purchasing]

When we first moved into our house, we went to a local big-box hardware store and purchased a lawn mower. We had just moved out of an apartment and had a lot of lawn maintenance equipment to buy, so we took the word of the salesperson at the store who told us that the cheaper lawn mower would work just fine for our needs. We didn’t do any research and made the decision completely on cost—and a recommendation from a stranger.

Well…. It turns out that wasn’t so smart because just last year, three years after purchasing that original lawn mower, we bought another lawn mower.

Have you ever heard the phrase “buy nice or buy twice”?

We also see this happening too often within cleaning operations. While a recent survey from Facility Cleaning Decisions shows that 62 percent of cleaning departments were safe from budget cuts in the past year, 56 percent of respondents said that the “lowest cost” was most important when purchasing products or equipment. And at no fault of cleaning managers, this is often a sad reality for many operations in our industry because cleaning isn’t looked at as a critical area in most businesses. When there’s little value for what we do, cost plays a key driver in many purchasing decisions.

But the initial cost of an item is much different than its price over its lifetime. Think about some of the potential implications associated with buying a poorly designed and/or “cheap” product:

  • Higher cost of ownership: If you’re buying two lower-cost vacuums in the same period of time that you would use another higher-quality vacuum that costs a little more, you’re not saving money.
  • Greater impact on employees: Better quality products often feature designs that make it easier and safer for employees to operate, such as being lighter or more ergonomically designed. They may also be less efficient, requiring employees to have to clean a surface more than once.
  • Higher environmental cost: Higher quality items typically last longer, reducing the number of products headed to the landfill.
  • Reduced employee morale: By not investing in equipment, you’re not investing in employees—and believe us, they take note.
  • Business interruptions and headaches: A more cheaply made product may be more prone to break down. If other equipment isn’t available, it can result in a service disruption while repairs take place.

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Recently, leaders from the ManageMen team had the opportunity to visit the research and development lab of a U.S. based manufacturer that supplies products to the cleaning industry. Filled with engineers, scientists and product designers, the space was something you’d imagine belonging to a high-tech firm in Silicon Valley—not a company developing equipment for the professional cleaning industry.

The environment was designed for creativity, innovation and collaboration. Techs wanted to know the common issues plaguing most cleaning departments and workers so they could design solutions to solve these issues. And the solutions they were creating were incredible — things that could truly change the way we clean our buildings while improving the safety and livelihood of the people performing that cleaning.

The issue is that many of the innovations never leave that lab. When product managers and salespeople have the opportunity to weigh in, they quickly squelch ideas, recognizing that the market won’t support it. Why? Because in most situations, the innovations will come with a high price tag. Developing innovative, products is only part of the equation. Many industry brands require that their products undergo rigorous performance and quality testing before they go to market, and all that testing comes at an expense.

We need to move beyond this cost-driven focus on purchasing. While cost will always play a factor, it should not be the only factor we consider when evaluating equipment and supplies. That mentality commoditizes our cleaning operations.

Instead, we need to think more about the overall PRICE of a product. We need to look at the price of that product over its lifetime—not just the upfront cost, but the cost we pay to make a phone call when it breaks down, the cost of the downtime when that unit is not in operation and the toil it takes on cleaning workers. These considerations, and many others, contribute to its overall price.

If we aren’t the first to put value in our cleaning operations, who will?

The Problem with the Way We’re Training Custodial Workers Today

So he could afford his daughter’s tuition at a local private school, Bob took on a second job as a custodian at the school. He looked forward to the job, much of his day was spent behind a desk, so custodial work would keep him active and involved in her school. He was also was excited to learn something new.

On his first day, Bob showed up for work and was shown a short movie about cleaning chemicals and how to use them. Next, his boss showed him his cart which overflowed with spray bottles, cloths, bags, gloves, floor scrapers and mops. “Duane’s going to show you around tonight,” he advised. “Tomorrow you’ll start on your own.”

“I’ve been doing this for 22 years,” Duane told him as they walked between classrooms. “I know they say to clean from top to bottom, but I’ve got a great system down that works for me.”

The next day, Bob was on his own. The work was hard—much harder than he expected. He strained his back emptying trash and his hands cramped from mopping the floor. When he woke up the next morning, he had trouble getting out of bed. After a few weeks, Bob quit. He found another job at a local warehouse that would help him supplement tuition costs. But had he received the proper training, there’s a good chance Bob would still be there today.

 

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Injury caused from improper lifting or repetitive motions is just one of the many issues that can result when we neglect to train our custodial workers. In many cleaning operations, custodial training includes a hodgepodge of show-and-tell, classroom-style instruction and vendor-led training programs specific to a particular product. Very few cleaning operations have a comprehensive training program in place that not only teaches employees HOW to clean, but WHY they clean. Training should not only provide workers with the overall understanding of why their jobs are critical and how cleaning impacts the health of people in the buildings they clean, but also protocols for how and when to perform specific cleaning tasks.

Last week, we held our annual (OS1) Coach Class. This intensive two-day program provides trainers and instructors with the latest information and resources needed to maintain a world-class cleaning program. One of the key benefits to this class is that participants share best practices and insights they have gathered as they plan their schedule for the upcoming year. We are continually updating our curriculum so that all of the (OS1) trainers and coaches have the most recent research and data to support their cleaning protocols. The coaches then take these training programs back to their facilities and use them to conduct ongoing education for their custodial teams during the next year. 

Participants in our (OS1) Coach Class spend an intensive two days learning and planning custodial training programs for 2018.

Our studies have found that cleaning operations supported with a comprehensive training program, such as that which is provided within the (OS1) System, can improve productivity by as much as 16 percent. In one example, the average square footage of cleaning productivity (SFPE) improved from approximately 27,000 SFPE to 39,000 SFPE. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Cleaning workers understand their importance of their work as it relates to the success of the business and the health of building occupants.
  2. They are taught how to properly perform cleaning tasks in a way that minimizes risk and injury.
  3. Workers are empowered through the educational process and receive one-on-one coaching by expert trainers.

It’s time we stop treating custodial work like it’s something that everyone automatically knows how to do. We can’t just throw a mop in someone’s hand and expect them to go to work. This approach results in the issues many cleaning operations face today: injuries, high turnover and low-morale. Cleaning is a profession, and like any professional field requires proper training and education.

As Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”

If you don’t have a comprehensive training program in place for new employees and continuing education programs for your current staff members, it’s time to give some thought to how you can improve these resources. Your cleaning program deserves more and so do your employees.

Think “Janitor” Is a Dirty Word? No, and Here’s Why.

Janitor University is a three-day, instructor-led class that introduces cleaning organization executives to introductory principles of the (OS1) Cleaning Management Program. When we teach the class, we’ll periodically receive feedback regarding the name of the course. People think that because facility directors, CEOs of large building service contractors and other leaders responsible for cleaning that it shouldn’t be called “Janitor University.” Moreover, they feel that the title of “janitor” is an outdated and even derogatory term for people responsible for performing cleaning responsibilities. They suggest alternative titles like “custodian” or “cleaner.”

While we have no issue with those terms, we encourage any professional cleaner to proudly wear their “janitor” badge.

You see, if you trace the etymology of the word “janitor,” it doesn’t take much research to find that the term is tied to deity. “Janus” from which “janitor” is derived, was a Roman god of beginnings and ends; metaphorically he represented doors and passages. In images, he’s often depicted with two faces that allow him to look to the future and the past.

In the English language, first signs of the word “janitor” date back to the 1500s and originally signified an “usher in a school.” In the 1600s, the word evolved to denote a “doorkeeper” and eventually referenced the caretaker of a building. Modern use of the word denotes someone who handles general maintenance and cleaning responsibilities in a building.

For some people, the term “janitor” is derogatory because it indicates a low-skilled, low-paying position. This is a context that our culture has assigned to the position over time, and not one that is truly reflective of the job description.

Many Americans don’t understand that the job not only requires extensive knowledge of chemicals and proper handling protocol, but that it also is essential for protecting public health.  They don’t know that in Germany, janitors are required to attend cleaning school and serve an apprenticeship for three years before becoming a janitor. Switzerland requires four years of schooling before one is able to seek employment as a professional cleaner. In London, there’s a membership organization for environmental cleaners that is a livery company, meaning that it descended from the medieval trade guilds and is supported by the Lord Mayor and Alderman of the city.

Considering that Janus looked both to the past and the future, it seems only appropriate we recognize the origins of the title of janitor and give those who clean our buildings the respect they deserve as we look to the future.

For more information on Janitor University or to attend our upcoming class Oct. 25-27, please go to https://managemen.com/training/janitor-university/.

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.

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.