Posts

Sustainability Talk, Part I: Understanding Source Reduction

Waste. It’s something we think a lot about in the custodial department because, well, that’s a big part of our job. In recognition of Earth Month and Earth Day (April 22), we’ll be focusing on waste and ways that we can better eliminate waste through waste management strategies, such as source reduction. When fully implemented and with full employee engagement, an organization has the resources in place to become “zero waste.”

A waste management strategy typically includes two key parts: 1) Sustainable Purchasing, which focuses largely on the upstream decisions you make on sourcing and source reduction, and 2) Waste Management, which focuses on the downstream decisions you make related to waste disposal. Throughout each element of your waste management program, employees should be engaged. When employees are engaged, your program has better odds for success. For part one of this two-part series, we’ll focus on the sustainable purchasing or the “upstream” part of your waste management program. It’s something ManageMen has been committed to  since 1992. 

Similar to how we kick off any new (OS1) implementation, an audit is a great way to gain an understanding of your current waste stream. During an audit, you will look closely at the types of waste your building generates, and then see how much of each type of waste is recovered for recycling, or sent to a landfill. 

An audit will consist of four basic steps:

  • Planning: Identify what you want to achieve from the audit. Include key stakeholders throughout the organization to let them know what you’re doing and why. You’ll also want to gather the necessary materials for the audit, such as bins, protective equipment, etc.
  • Collection: Collect the waste and store it in the appropriate bins in a pre-determined location. Waste can be collected and sorted on the same day, or over a period of time, such as a week. 
  • Sorting: This is the messy part. Go through the waste and sort the materials into various waste receptacles. This might include recyclables, compostables and trash. Record your results by measuring the number of items or the weight of each receptacle. 
  • Analyzing: Analyze the data. What does it tell you about your current waste management program? What are the opportunities for improvement?

Contact your local solid waste administration for additional audit materials and resources. 

A Little More about Using Less

Source reduction through sustainable purchasing practices is an effective waste reduction strategy. Sustainable purchasing means buying products in a way that not only considers the cost of the product, but the environmental, social and health impacts. In the cleaning industry, there’s been a lot of focus on sustainable purchasing practices (e.g. looking for products with third party certifications, renewable resources and local sources). But when it comes to source reduction, we have a lot of room for improvement.

Source reduction, or waste prevention, means finding ways to accomplish the same amount of work while using less product and generating less waste.

According to the EPA, source reduction means “purchasing durable, long-lasting goods and seeking products and packaging that are as free of toxics as possible. It can be as complex as redesigning a product to use less raw material in production, have a longer life, or be used again after its original use is completed. Because source reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, it is the most preferable method of waste management and goes a long way to protecting the environment.” 

What does this mean for you? A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Buy nice, or buy twice. Oftentimes, when you purchase cleaning equipment and supplies based on price, there’s a good chance that you will end up having to replace the product sooner than you would have to if you would have purchased a better quality product the first time around. 
  2. Consider the packaging and system. We like the PortionPac system because it eliminates redundant supplies, allowing cleaning departments to reduce their cleaning product assortment by as much as 40 percent. It does this with pre-dispensed chemical that users simply pour into their containers. 
  3. Simplify through standardization. When an engineered approach to cleaning is deployed, you are better able to streamline products and procedures, ultimately reducing waste.
  4. Engage employees. Encourage employees to identify ways they can help reduce waste or reuse items throughout the facility. This will improve the overall success of your effort.
  5. Avoid purchasing hazardous materials when possible. Enough said.

The theme for Earth Day this year is “End Plastic Pollution.” Of the 9.1 billion tons of plastic produced in the world, an estimated 6.9 billion tons is waste. As we kick-off Earth Month, let’s look at source reduction strategies we can use to reduce the amount of plastic used in our operations. 

Three Things You Need for Your Custodial Operation to be Successful

When I started my job as a housekeeper at the only hotel in my small town, I was shown my cart, a vacuum and how to make a bed. The “trainer,” or the woman I was supposed to follow for the day, had called off work, so I was on my own.

“If you have any questions, just dial number one on the phone,” said the housekeeping manager. And off I went.

I was 17 at the time, and my mom will be the first to tell you that I didn’t know a thing about cleaning my own room, let alone 10 rooms in a hotel. I lasted about two weeks. I am process driven and there wasn’t a single procedure in place in that department (at least, no procedures that were shared with me). I also love science, and I had no idea that a lot of what I was doing had a scientific application. When I completed my assigned rooms, I clocked out and told my boss I’d see her tomorrow. That was it.

___________________

Too often, people treat cleaning like it’s something that anyone knows how to do, but there’s a big problem with that approach. It gives the unspoken message to custodians and housekeepers that they are replaceable. If they don’t show up, anyone can come in and do their job. When there’s little to no training, it tells them that the job isn’t skilled. It doesn’t show them that they can actually make a career—a good, well-paying career—in the cleaning industry. Ultimately, treating cleaning like it’s something that anyone knows how to do reduces the value of both the work and the people performing the work.

Is there any wonder why custodial operations have problems with turnover and attracting younger people to the industry?

At ManageMen, when we look at cleaning, we see it as a profession grounded in three disciplines. We refer to these disciplines as the “three-legged stool” of cleaning. When you don’t ground your custodial operations with these elements as your foundation, you’ll be more prone to common issues such as outsourcing, high turnover and low employee morale. There’s also a good chance you’re actually polluting the indoor environment rather than cleaning it.

The three core elements of a successful cleaning operation include:

Engineering: The standardization, simplification, best practices and ongoing benchmarking of a cleaning program amongst top organizations that establishes as a best-in-class operation.

Science: The studies and research that validate the engineering elements of the cleaning operation, methods to improve safety and compliance with workplace safety laws, pollution reduction and development of workplace topophilia (or the love of the indoor environment).

Professionalism: Systems that enhance value of and appreciation for cleaning workers in the overall building operations, through education, skills validation, career path and recognition programs.

We all know by now that the cleanliness of our buildings has a huge impact on the health and  productivity of building occupants, while also playing a key role in an organization’s brand. It can also be a differentiator when trying to attract new customers or employees — who wants to work in a dirty building?

Rather than treating custodial like Cinderella — pushing her to the background while other areas get more attention and budget — we need to start grounding our custodial operations in engineering, science and professionalism.

Custodial work is not a job that just anyone can do. It’s a profession that requires skilled training and respect. When we treat it as such, we’ll not only improve the levels of cleanliness in our buildings, but perhaps we’ll give new workers to our industry a better appreciation for the work and how they can build a successful career in this industry.

 

Custodial Training for Different Learning Styles

In few occupations will you find a more diverse group of workers than the commercial cleaning industry. And while it’s one of the most labor intensive industries in the world, it’s one that is often recognized for its lack of professionalism, inefficiencies and low morale.

We want to change that.

Who is cleaning? Everyone, basically.

Every building needs cleaned and often doesn’t require workers to speak English, so it’s an easy point of entry for individuals looking to begin their lives in the U.S. Custodial work can also be great for people with physical or mental disabilities. Organizations like Goodwill and our friends at the Los Angeles Habilitation House (LAHH) offer programs to provide career opportunities in cleaning to individuals with disabilities.

Custodial workers also represent a variety of age ranges. From a young person who gets their start in the industry as their first job, to an older person who either has been a custodian for several decades (or maybe started cleaning to escape the monotony of retirement), most custodial departments have workers representing several different age groups and generations.

All of these differences can make training a challenge. Fortunately, even though teams are very different, there are similarities to the way people learn. And when you develop a consistent approach to training, you improve the consistency of the cleanliness being performed. Win!

Types of learning styles

Depending on who you ask, there can be as many as eight to 10 different learning styles. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll refer to the VARK model, introduced by Neil Fleming in the late 80s.

According to the VARK model, people best learn according to one of the following four types:

  • Visual (pictures, diagrams)
  • Auditory (lectures, discussion)
  • Reading/writing (text books, note-taking)
  • Kinesthetic (experiments and hands-on activities)

When training custodial workers, it can be helpful to have these types of learning styles in mind to make sure workers are learning—and retaining—as much information as possible.

What’s happening at LAHH

LAHH has built its business on training, believing that only through effective training and education can the organization fulfill its commitment to helping its team members and employees realize their full potential in the building services field. It has a comprehensive training system that ensures workers receive information in a variety of different ways, to accommodate different learning styles and their specific disabilities.

A custodial worker at LAHH takes an online course through ManageMen.

When a worker first joins LAHH, they receive extensive training called Boot Camp, which is provided in a classroom setting using ManageMen’s certification courses. This format enables the (OS1) trainer to see the unique strengths of each employee and tailor sessions and materials to their specific need. It also allows them to move through the (OS1) process using the (OS1) Boot Camp Playbook, at a speed that is appropriate to each student’s learning ability.

Materials presented in the Boot Camp material are very visually heavy, accommodating visual learners and readers who prefer to read through the text. Presenting the material in a classroom format helps auditory learners and systems are then tested to accommodate kinesthetic learners.

How online learning simplifies learning and allows workers to move at their own pace

We’ve been piloting a new online learning system that enables custodial workers to move at their own pace, utilizing a variety of materials presented in different forms to improve the cleaning knowledge workers retain. Covering everything from the basics of microbiology to specific steps for cleaning, the online program offers greater flexibility because it can take place anywhere, at any time.

A new class of graduates have successfully completed their certification.

Seeing the value online training would provide to its workers, LAHH was one of the first to test the online educational platform. LAHH employees were provided with a computer and were shown how to log onto the online Janitor University portal. Through easily navigable prompts, each user was guided through the training curriculum specific to their assignment. The curriculum is presented in the form of videos and slides. LAHH also holds a bi-weekly classroom training to supplement the online modules, but the online system made it easy for team members to guide themselves through the coursework at their own pace. Some users still required the assistance of a mentor/coach or family member, but most employees have been able to navigate the system on their own.

“We’ve found the video and all the educational material, such as the Playbook, scouting report and (OS1)ian language offered in the online system to be very effective for training our employees,” said Guido Piccarolo, CEO. “Our team can access the video and the material from their own devices and it has been very effective in helping them learn and retain the information.”

Looking for a consistent level of clean? Training matters. 

When it comes to training custodial workers, you want to provide a consistent curriculum so you know that everyone receives the same information. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just throw a mop into someone’s hands and expect them to know what to do. You can’t also depend on whomever is on duty to just “show them” what to do.

If you want to improve the levels of cleanliness in your buildings, a good first step is to look at the way your training custodial workers. Make sure they are all being trained in the same manner, using a variety of different methods to appeal to different learning styles.

“It’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.” Queen Elizabeth II

Our Top Seven Posts from 2017

As we wind down an amazing whirlwind of a year, we’d first like to thank you for taking the time to read our musings on cleaning. We’re almost a year into this blogging thing and have learned so much about what you want to read, how you read it and ways we we can continue to deliver great information to help improve the way you look at and manage your custodial departments.

Earlier this month, we also launched the first issue of “Cleaning Matters,” a monthly electronic newsletter with best practices related to cleaning management and information to keep you updated about what’s happening in our world. If you didn’t receive a copy of it and would like to subscribe, please click here.

As we work to develop our calendar for next year, we thought we’d leave you with a recap of our top posts from this year. Here are the five most “liked” and clicked on posts from 2017:

  1. Let’s Take a Minute to Thank a Cleaner: Our tribute to the hardworking people who work when most others are sleeping, cleaning the buildings where we live, work, learn, heal and play.
  2. What Happens When People Walk into a Building and See Dirt: A study found that 99 percent of people would have a negative perception of a business that wasn’t clean. When it comes to repeat customers, it turns out that appearance really matters.
  3. Think “Janitor” Is a Dirty Word? No, and Here’s Why: In this post, we dive into the origins of the word “janitor” and look at the profession of cleaning around the world.
  4. The Problem with the Way We’re Training Custodial Workers Today: Too often, custodial workers are handed a mop and told to clean without much additional instruction. We look into why that approach can yield big issues for a business.
  5. Provo City Schools – Part I: What is “Clean,” Anyway? We examine Dr. Jeffrey Campbell’s ground-breaking study on the impact of cleaning on public health in a three-part series; Part I looks at how we define cleanliness.
  6. A Look at Restrooms Around the World on World Toilet Day: From bayakou in Haiti to tsukaiyausa in Japan, a glimpse at restrooms and sanitation around the world.
  7. How You Can Use Data to Reduce the Threat of Outsourcing: How to get the data you need to prevent your custodial department from being outsourced.

Again, thank you for your support over the past year. We have some incredible things planned for 2018 and are so excited to have you along for this journey. If you have a topic you’d like to learn more about in the coming months, let us know and we’ll put it on the schedule!

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/.

Provo City Schools Research Part III: The Incredible Results of a Systematic Approach to Cleaning

Note: If you’ve yet to read parts one and two of this series, you’ll want to check them out before reading this post. This series is based upon the research of Dr. Jeffery Campbell as presented in his paper, “Clean Schools Initiative: Provo City School District Case Study.”

Like many other aging academic buildings located throughout the U.S., Dixon Middle School has welcomed several generations of students through its doors. Built in 1931, the school has been renovated over the years to accommodate more students — it is now three times as large as its original structure. But it had issues. Not only was the school the oldest in the Provo City School District in Utah, it was also considered the dirtiest.

Cleaning-related challenges weren’t isolated just to this school, however. The entire school district struggled with uncontrolled cleaning costs, a lack of accountability with custodial staff and schools not getting cleaned.

To address these challenges, the district decided to pilot the (OS1) cleaning system. Previous users of the system had found it helped control costs, improve indoor environmental quality and improve the health of the building occupants, so they were eager to give it a try.

Dixon Middle School: Before

Before implementing the program, a baseline audit was conducted of more than 1,242 janitorial-related items throughout the school. This included a review of janitorial positions, management programs, purchasing processes and training. The purpose of the audit was to offer a reference point to measure progress. Dixon received an initial audit score of six percent.

The auditors found that the school had lacked in most areas related to its cleaning program, including supplies, organization, training and processes used.

Custodian job descriptions were insufficient, cleaning tools were broken and dirty, unmarked cleaning bottles littered janitorial closets, dirty mops revealed the same color as the bathroom tile, pipes in the restrooms showed rust and discoloration from the use of improper cleaning chemicals and custodians were generally apathetic. This last point was evidenced by the “countdown to retirement” calendar located in the head custodian’s office.

Additional issues included:

  • No career track or incentive for advancement in place for janitors.
  • No standardization of products or processes throughout the district—each school operated independently without communication.
  • Hoarding of cleaning tools and supplies.
  • No chain of command or accountability for janitors—the head custodian didn’t know who he reported to.
  • Raises were based on the length of employment rather than performance.
  • Activity was more reactive than proactive, meaning custodians spent more time responding to the complaints of teachers rather than focusing on improving the general cleanliness of the campus.
  • Custodians had no guidelines for purchasing chemicals, other than what suggestions vendors offered.

Dixon Middle School: After

A year following the implementation of (OS1), a standardized cleaning program, Dixon’s audit score improved from six percent to 80 percent. That score has continued to increase in the years since.

The changes have been drastic, including an overall improvement in cleanliness, better morale amongst the teachers and custodial workers, improved health and wellness of building occupants, cost savings and more.

Some of the specific results include:

Better Health: One teacher who suffered severe migraines causing her to have to call off from work noted that she had not had a migraine or blackout incident since the new cleaning program was implemented (she also switched to use of green cleaning chemicals at home). She cited fewer allergy issues as well.

Improved Safety: Where containers of bleach and unlabeled chemical bottles once littered closets throughout the building, the school has transitioned to a new chemical management system. A single locked cabinet holds all the chemicals and supplies used on a daily basis. With thorough training and better controls, this has substantially improved the safety of custodians and students.

A Better School: Improving the cleanliness of the school has led to a domino effect throughout the school. Walls were painted to better reflect the cleanliness of the school, teachers became more organized and tidy and students took more pride in their school. Once a major issue, the amount of graffiti at Dixon has virtually been eliminated.

Awards: In 2011, Dixon Middle School received the “Best New Program Award” in the K-12 Category of the Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities, sponsored by American School & University magazine, the Green Cleaning Network and Healthy Schools Campaign.

The Dixon Middle School pilot team is recognized with the Outstanding Cleaning Worker Award.

Each of their pilot team members was honored as an Outstanding Cleaning Worker at the 2011 Cleaning Industry Awards Banquet.

Reducing Costs: While it’s tough to say exactly just how much the change to (OS1) has saved the school (the school didn’t keep purchasing records and funds were drawn from several different budgets), the new system has reduced the average monthly chemical cost to $80.29, making the chemical cost per cleanable square foot $0.00076. When adding in labor and other costs, the estimated cost to clean per square foot is roughly $.77.

This is substantially lower than projected costs from IFMA, which estimate the average   cost per square-foot for cleaning educational facilities to be $1.36.

Improved Morale: The head custodian said the experience changed his life.

“I had been doing [custodial management] for 12-13 years, and it was the first time that someone had approached me and said, “You are important, the job that you do is important. The people that work with you are important and we need to recognize them for that and give them the training, the tools and the equipment that show that your job is really a profession.”

With these incredible results in hand, the Provo City School District made the decision to roll out the program to the rest of its schools. Clean schools are better, higher-performing schools. And when you have data that helps you measure the impact of your cleaning program, including the benefit to teachers, students, administrators and the overall longevity of the building, the decision makes itself.

A Business Revolution: Doing More With Less

“Compression Thinking” is a distillation of 30 years of research by Robert W. “Doc” Hall, who explains his approach to business in this video. This is a new era, where resources are becoming more scarce and the impact of larger human populations on the Earth requires mankind to rethink business practices, which up to now have been seen as gospel truths. However, proven solutions do exist for business problems, both old and new ones, and Doc Hall explores them here… through his concept of Compression Thinking.

The Simon Institute, ManageMen and the (OS1) Users are featured in the video above.

‘Science As It Relates to (OS1)’ by Dr. Michael Berry

[fbshare type=”button”]

[linkedin_share style=”none”]

[twitter style=”horizontal” float=”left”]

Dr. Berry delivering his presentation at the 2006 (OS1) Users Symposium in Midway, UT.

 

 

Over years of professional practice, teaching and scientific research Dr. Michael Berry is a true pioneer in identifying the foundational principles of what cleaning really means. His book, Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health, was ahead its time. Unfortunately those in the industry that should have taken hold of Berry’s principles have continued business-as-usual.

Most cleaners and janitorial operations are still cleaning the way they did 80 years ago. They are driven by equipment manufacturers and chemical companies that dictate the direction of the industry. There is no evidence based research. There is no common language or standards. The only focus of cleaning is appearance based with no thought about contaminants and indoor environmental problems.

Below is a link to the complete transcript of the presentation that  was delivered by  Michael Berry, PhD, at the 2006 Simon Institute Symposium.   In this presentation, Berry discusses the value of cleaning science; the effect of sick and mismanaged buildings; remediating the Frank Porter Graham building with a deep cleaning protocol and the findings from his 2006 publicly funded study of traditional housekeeping vs. the (OS1) cleaning process.  That study evaluated traditional housekeeping methods vs. a high performance cleaning program over the span of three months at The University of North Carolina.  It is also important to note that Berry also discusses key components of a high performance cleaning program in this presentation.

To read full transcript, please click here

Now Available: (OS1) Career Map

[linkedin_share style=”none”]

[fbshare type=”button”]

[twitter style=”horizontal” float=”left”]

 

 

During Class 65 of Janitor University in Salt Lake City, the new (OS1) Career Map was introduced. The map details the educational odyssey for a cleaning worker. Specifically, this new visual aid details the road of becoming a cleaning professional.

It highlights career learning milestones such as: (OS1) Boot Camp, Certification, Floor/Carpet Certification, Janitor University, Workloading, Benchmarking, Awards and Recognition.

The Career Map is now available for purchase in the ManageMen online store.

Are Dirty Schools Making Kids Sick?

[fbshare type=”button”]

[twitter style=”horizontal” float=”left”]

[linkedin_share style=”none”]

 

Two seemingly unrelated events were the subject of news stories in the early weeks of 2012. The first occurred on January 12, when the Vermont Senate gave final approval to Senate bill #92, a bill that requires public schools and “approved independent schools” to ensure that only environmentally preferable cleaning products are used to clean the schools. The bill will now make its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature which will transform the bill into law. Vermont’s state owned and leased buildings have already transitioned to “green” cleaning products as a result of the Clean State Program created by an executive order signed by Governor Douglas in 2004.

Banning Germ Killers in Schools

But the perhaps, unintended consequence of this legislation action goes further. It bans disinfectants and sanitizers in public schools. Is this really the lengths Vermont want to go to be “green”? If so it joins the states like California, Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Neveda, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. It is relevant to note that this legislation has been driven not by the medical community and public health experts but by state procurement officers and purchasing agents in league with the janitorial supply industry.

The Vermont bill allows for the use of disinfectants only when:

  1. Blood, body fluids or fecal soiling is present on any surface; (ignoring that most diseases are spread by invisible germs called pathogenic microorganisms and not visible accumulations listed in the Vermont legislation).
  2.  The State makes a case specific determination that failure to use a disinfectant would create a risk to public health and safety (like MRSA, Avian Flu, SARS, Whooping cough, measles, and the common cold).

Two days later, on Saturday January 14, Dr. Sanjay Gupta CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, aired a report in his series on Toxic America about the sorry, environmental health of schools in the United States. More schools than ever are making kids and school staff sick. While it’s tough to estimate how many toxic schools are in America, most research shows that at least a third or more of U.S. Schools have issues like mold, dust and other indoor air problems serious enough to cause respiratory illnesses like asthma in students and staff. Healthy Schools Network reports that as many as 55 million U.S. children may be attending public and private K-12 schools where poor air quality, hazardous chemicals and other unhealthy conditions can make everyone sick.

The U.S. EPA estimates that at least half of all schools in this country have indoor air quality problems caused by toxic chemical and pesticide use, chemical spills, mold infestations, asbestos, radon, lead in paint and drinking water, heavy metals and persistent toxics, such as mercury, CCA and PCBs.

Other highlights of Dr. Gupta’s story included:

  • A story about a woman who claims school air sickened her son for 53 days last school year
  • New York study finds correlation between building maintenance and illness
  • Studies estimate one-third of U.S. schools have mold, dust and other indoor air problems
  • Connecticut school so plagued with mold officials decided to tear it down

Now the Rest of the Story

Missing from both the Vermont and Dr. Gupta’s story was the recognition of the importance of cleaning and sanitation. There was no recognition that a proven process of cleaning and disinfections leads to improved health, comfort and educational performance.

In 2007, Michael Berry, PhD, wrote a booklet Healthy Schools are Clean, Dry and Productive. Largely ignored, this essay provides leadership for both the “school is making my kids sick” and the “green cleaning” groups. Berry points out that the “importance of a healthy school environment in enhancing the learning process is described in many studies. There is a direct connection between environmental quality, comfort, health and well-being, positive attitudes and behavior, and higher levels of education performance. The quality of the school environment shapes attitudes of students, teachers and staff. Attitudes affect teaching and learning behavior. Behavior affects performance. Educational performance determines future outcomes of individuals and society as a whole.”

Berry wrote:

We need to recognize that the main causes of environmentally related illness in schools are water, food sources for the various bio-pollutants, non-existent or ineffective cleaning, and poor ventilation. We should guard against becoming myopic when it comes to assessing environmental risk in school environments. Too often, we spend a large amount of time looking at air quality alone, especially in recent times with regard to mold. This narrow focus is necessary but by no means sufficient to protect the health of our children and their teachers and the quality of our school environments.

Should the states be banning disinfectants and sanitizers?

To protect health in schools, we need to take a close look at total exposure, and not solely focus on the air route of exposure. Bacteria that come from direct contact with other humans and surfaces cause over 80% of environmentally related illness. The main routes of exposure are dermal and ingestion, not air. Even air poses its most serious threats by delivering bacteria and viruses to sensitive receptors. Sufficiently concentrated airborne mold spore and other airborne allergens, such as cockroach antigen, frequently trigger allergic reactions in sensitized individuals, particularly asthmatics.

Disinfectant and sanitizers are by definition toxic. We use them to “kill” pathogens before they make humans sick. The purchasing agents and cleaning chemical supply marketing organizations who promote the complete ban on poisons and toxins in schools don’t understand what Paracelsus, the father of toxicology, declared in the 14th century “The dose makes the poison.” Using sanitizers are fundamental to food preparation, dishwashing and serving meals. Disinfection of potential cross-contamination points in lavatories, and other common touch points in schools are basic to proper cleaning and school hygiene.

Trainers should expect and be prepared to discuss the risk/benefit analysis of proper cleaning and sanitation. (OS1) has an unequalled dedication to environmental issues. But it also values the benefits associated with properly killing pathogenic microorganisms in the public facilities entrusted to us. The State of Vermont and Dr. Gupta should know about the following scientific studies on the importance of cleaning:

  • Frank Porter Graham Study
  • Alexander Krilov Study

They should also be promoting the benefits and the reported results by workers and patrons in (OS1) facilities like Dixon Middle School and University of Michigan. In 2012, the (OS1) user group will be focusing on three areas to “Protect Yourself” in facilities. They are:

  1. The reduction of asthma-type symptoms due to the performance level of (OS1) that provides negligible dust following the UNC cleaning protocol.
  2. Focus on proper use and application of germicidal chemicals.
  3. The opportunity to dramatically reduce humidity in schools by strategically using portable air drying equipment.

These three strategies are a messaging opportunity for the (OS1) trainers, (OS1) support manufacturers (particularly ProTeam, PortionPac & Dri-Eaz) and the Simon Institute.