Is it really “Hygiene Theater”?

A few months ago, someone shared an article in The Atlantic magazine that discussed the extensive amount of cleaning and disinfection happening around the world, calling it “hygiene theater.” The author’s basic gripe is that too much of the focus of our COVID-19  prevention is on disinfection when it should be on aerosols or droplets that linger in the air.

“COVID-19 has reawakened America’s spirit of misdirected anxiety, inspiring businesses and families to obsess over risk-reduction rituals that make us feel safer but don’t actually do much to reduce risk—even as more dangerous activities are still allowed. This is hygiene theater.” 

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Over the past eight months, cleaning organizations have been unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight. Some, like (OS1) organizations, were prepared for attention and realities brought to us by the pandemic. Others were completely caught off guard. And others looked to capitalize on the opportunity. Some of it, as we discussed, was “hygiene theater.” Much of it was not. 

When you use a systematic approach to cleaning, how you clean doesn’t change whether you’re in a pandemic or not.

This was followed up with an article in Wired magazine, titled “It’s Time to Talk About Covid-19 and Surfaces Again.” Similar to The Atlantic article, this author expresses concern over the fixation over surface disinfection and fomites, saying that such efforts may give people a false sense of comfort when they really should be focusing on issues such as ventilation.

Current science tells us that there’s still SOME risk to the transmission of COVID-19 through hard surfaces. But disinfection is the only element of a comprehensive cleaning program and should be only one layer to your COVID-19 prevention strategy. 

Dusting, vacuuming, trash removal—these are all critical functions that cleaning departments perform that can further aid in controlling the spread of coronavirus. We don’t yet know how coronavirus might attach to a dust particulate that someone can then inhale and become infected. We don’t have science that speaks to dusting or vacuuming frequencies.

As Dr. Michael Berry once said, cleaning is the removal of unwanted matter. We need to continue cleaning in a comprehensive, systematic way to ensure the removal of all unwanted matter—including viruses such as the coronavirus and flu. 

That’s not theater, that’s cleaning.

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Our Top 10 Most Read Blog Posts of 2020

2020: A year that will go down in the history books. That couldn’t be more true for custodial professionals who suddenly were thrust onto the public stage as a pandemic took hold throughout the world. The same goes for most of us in the cleaning industry—while manufacturers battled unprecedented demands on the supply chain, others scrambled to prepare training and new certifications. Us? Well, we were prepared. Our users were prepared.

Our founder, John Walker, had anticipated the potential for something like this to happen, going so far as to prepare a pandemic playbook. A lot of people called us, wanting to know how to better create systems around their cleaning programs. A lot of people combed our website looking for information.

If this list is any indication, we can rest assured that people will appreciate the value of cleaning—and the people who do the work of cleaning—long after 2020 is over.

10. Cleaning Classrooms Safely – Teacher’s Checklist 

How can teachers make sure surfaces in their classrooms stay clean during  the pandemic?  We put together a checklist to help.

See the post and infographic here: https://managemen.com/cleaning-classrooms-safely-a-teachers-checklist-with-infographic/

9. Top 10 Frustrations of Custodial Professionals

The people who make it in this industry are problem solvers. Every day, they put together a new puzzle — figuring out which piece needs to go where to complete the puzzle of a clean building. It’s not an easy job, so to help others know they aren’t alone, we developed a list of the most commonly overheard challenges of custodial professionals.

Read the full list of complaints here: https://managemen.com/the-top-10-frustrations-of-custodial-professionals/

8. Coronavirus Communication: How to Tell Building Occupants We’ve Got This

To assist (OS1) teams with communicating their plans to key stakeholders and building occupants within their facilities, we developed a sample communication to help them understand that all of the necessary systems were in place for pandemic preparedness.

Read that post here: https://managemen.com/coronavirus-communication-how-to-tell-building-occupants-weve-got-this/

7. Why Cleaning Matters

It doesn’t matter where or what you clean, this is not an easy business. We’ve pulled together a list of four extremely important reasons why cleaning matters, along with a printable to remind yourself and your team just how important your work is.

Read that post here: https://managemen.com/why-cleaning-matters/

6. Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to a Cleaning Operation

We can benefit from looking at a cleaning operation from the framework of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. There are certain fundamental needs within a custodial operation that must be met in order for the program to be effective and meet certain higher-level goals. Too often, our conversation about cleaning is just through a specific lens rather than looking at the operation as a whole.

Read more about how you can apply the Hierarchy of Needs to your cleaning operation here: https://managemen.com/applying-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-to-a-cleaning-operation/

5. How the White Wings Cleaned Up NYC

Lacking any formalized sanitation and refuse system, New York City was drowning in garbage and filth in the late 1800s. Its current mayor, William Strong, called for Colonel George Waring to return and assume the position of sanitation engineer. The job of tackling the city’s overwhelming sanitation issues would be no easy feat, and Waring approached the job as he would approach combat on the battlefield. 

Read more about how George Waring and the White Wings cleaned up New York City here: https://managemen.com/from-the-history-books-how-the-white-wings-cleaned-up-new-york-city/

4. The Case Against Spraying Disinfectant Everywhere: Raise your hand if you’ve seen a picture of a heavily suited worker spraying what’s assumed to be disinfectant on sidewalks and streets in the past four months.

For cleaning professionals, this image might be somewhat alarming. Mostly because it demonstrates what we already know—that the majority of people throughout the world have a limited understanding of the science of cleaning. 

Read more: https://managemen.com/the-case-against-spraying-disinfectant-everywhere/

3. Please Take a Minute to Thank a Cleaner: 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. 

Read more: https://managemen.com/please-take-a-minute-to-thank-a-cleaner/

2. Think Janitor is a Dirty Word? No, and Here’s Why: 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. 

Read why Janitor isn’t a dirty word here: https://managemen.com/think-janitor-is-a-dirty-word-no-and-heres-why/

1. Why Dirty Schools are a Big Problemand What We Can Do to Clean Them Up

The top post of this year looks at some of the most common issues that stem from dirty schools—things like poor performance and reduced morale. But it’s not just the issues—we dig into strategies that could help fix the problem of dirty schools. Spoiler alert: It starts with management.

Read the post here: https://managemen.com/why-dirty-schools-are-a-big-problem-and-what-we-can-do-to-clean-them-up/

Cleaning Conversations: Josh Sego, Michigan State University

When the pandemic started, everyone started cleaning but it became increasingly difficult to recruit and train cleaning workers. Josh Sego is an (OS1) Trainer and the 2019 (OS1) Trainer of the Year. He shares some of the updates he’s making to their training program along with advice for other custodial managers who are trying to evolve their training platforms in this new environment.

Join us for “Understanding Disinfectants” a FREE Online Mini-Course Class for Cleaning Professionals

The pandemic has put a spotlight on the critical importance of cleaning and disinfection, but when is the last time you had a refresher on basic disinfectant principles? Couple that with all of the new disinfection technology emerging, and now is a great time to make sure you’re up to date and that your team is following best practices for disinfection.

This mini-course will sift through the claims and dive into the latest data and research on disinfectant technology to provide you with a clear picture of modern disinfectants.

Topics of discussion will include:

  • Understanding kill claims
  • EPA registration and regulations
  • Daily disinfection frequencies
  • Proper mixing and dilution
  • Sequence of work

We will also cover information regarding electrostatic sprayers, foggers, DHP, surface coating and traditional disinfection methods.

Attendees to this complimentary session will receive a downloadable PDF Quick Reference Guide with links to informative CDC and EPA information. 

This is the first in a series of mini-courses on various custodial and cleaning topics. We will announce the full schedule following this session.

Interested in joining us? Seats are limited, so sign up now to reserve your FREE spot at this event!

New Workbook Provides a Blueprint for the Proper Handling of Cleaning Chemicals in the Workplace

With easy-to-follow instructions and engaging visuals, the resource guide is designed for anyone who responsible for cleaning or its management

SALT LAKE CITY—Oct. 21, 2020—In an effort to reduce worker injuries resulting from improper chemical handling, ManageMen, a business management consulting firm for the professional cleaning industry, has partnered with WCF Insurance and WAXIE Sanitary Supply to develop “Cleaning Chemical Handlers Resource Guide.” The nearly 100-page book is designed for any worker with exposure to chemicals used in the cleaning and maintenance of a facility.

The new Cleaning Chemical Handlers’ Resource Guide aims to reduce chemical-related accidents to cleaning workers.

“As many as six percent of janitorial workers experience a job-related injuries resulting from cleaning chemicals each year—that’s almost 400,000 people,” said Ben Walker, Chief Strategy Officer, ManageMen. “These accidents are preventable. We want to equip workers with the knowledge they need to stay safe.”

The need for chemical safety training has grown during the pandemic, due to increased disinfection efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. In April, the CDC reported that calls to poison control centers for exposures to both cleaners and disinfectants had increased by 20 percent.

“We see too many incidents of chemical-related injuries that could have been easily avoided through proper education and training,” said Flint Belk, CIH, CSP, Manager of Industrial Hygiene at WCF Insurance. “Our goal is reduce avoidable risks, and we’re confident that organizations who follow the protocol specified in this program will help mitigate potential risks to their workforce.”

Designed to complement existing training programs or use as a standalone inservice for custodial workers, the resource guide provides a comprehensive chemical handling curriculum to help organizations make sure their workers understand the latest safety practices to stay compliant. It can also be used as an effective tool for businesses looking to differentiate themselves from the competition through improved safety training and reduce injury-related costs. 

The workbook offers an extensive overview of common cleaning chemicals and best practices for handling and storing chemicals. Topics covered within the study guide include: 

  • Tips to understanding the new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) Standards and Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  • The importance of using proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Dangers associated with slips and falls 
  • Cleaning up bloodborne pathogens
  • Understanding the differences between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting
  • An overview of the dangers associated with gasoline, battery acid and propane
  • Tips for effective training

To order your copy of the Cleaning Chemical Handlers Book, please click here. For more information about ManageMen, please visit www.managemen.com.

silhouette of a person mopping a floor with text Cleaning Conversations: Perspectives from the people who keep our buildings clean James Peel, Texas Tech University

Cleaning Conversations: James Peel, Texas Tech University

Looking for a way to schedule cleaning workers at Texas Tech University (TTU), James Peel reached out to the University of Texas at Austin to learn about (OS1), the System they follow for cleaning processes and measurement. They invited him down to see (OS1) at work and James jumped in the car with a few others on his management team.

It didn’t take long to see what the hype was all about—when James and his team saw UT’s custodians line up to receive their daily supply kits and keys to the areas they were assigned, they were sold on (OS1).

That was in 2019, and despite the challenges of the pandemic, Peel has continued leading the custodial team through the (OS1) transition process. They’ve held socially distanced boot camps, multiple workloading sessions (which, he says are his favorite) and inspired dozens of employees with a renewed passion for cleaning and a commitment to providing healthy buildings for students, faculty and staff. We talk to James about this process and more, during this episode of Cleaning Conversations.

What’s the Difference Between Cleaning for the Flu and Cleaning for COVID?

With warnings of a “twin-demic,” and “mingling” of COVID with the flu during the upcoming winter, health experts are urging everyone to prepare for a tough season. While these respiratory illnesses are caused by different viruses, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. To further complicate matters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that it’s also possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. 

One thing we know is that both viruses can spread through contaminated surfaces. That’s why it’s critical that we pay extra attention to our cleaning and disinfection programs this winter. 

What We Know: The Flu
According to the CDC:
What We Know: COVID-19
According to the CDC: 
— The U.S. experienced 24,000-62,000 flu-related deaths during the 2019-20 flu season.— There have been approximately 180,000 deaths in the U.S. involving COVID-19.
— The flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for up to 48 hours after being deposited on a surface.— Coronaviruses on surfaces and objects naturally die within hours to days.
— Flu viruses are relatively fragile, so standard cleaning and disinfecting practices are sufficient to remove or kill them.— Normal routine cleaning with soap and water removes germs and dirt from surfaces. It lowers the risk of spreading COVID-19 infection.
— Special cleaning and disinfecting processes, including wiping down walls and ceilings, frequently using room air deodorizers, and fumigating, are not necessary or recommended. — EPA-approved disinfectants are an important part of reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. 
— If disinfectants on this list are in short supply, alternative disinfectants can be used (for example, 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70% alcohol solutions).

So, what does the confluence of these two viruses mean for you? Well, as you prepare for the upcoming winter, you should get a flu shot—and you should take a good look at how your home or workplace is cleaned.

Where we’ve seen a lot of organizations err throughout the start of the pandemic is in their exclusive focus on disinfection. And it’s understandable. With all the images of heavily suited workers creating the perception that fogging and spraying disinfectant everywhere is how to best prevent the spread of COVID-19, a lot of people forget about the fact that cleaning and disinfection always go hand in hand.

Blue box with graphics illustrating the five steps of disinfection. 1) Clean the Surface, 2) Spray or Wipe the Surface with an EPA-approved disinfectant, 3) wait for the dwell time, 4) wipe the surface clean, 5) repeat on high touch surfaces.
CDC recommended steps for cleaning and disinfection to prevent the spread of viruses such as the coronavirus and flu.

But even before that, we should first make sure everyone has the proper training and personal protective equipment (PPE). 

So how does cleaning for the flu differ from how we clean for coronavirus and COVID-19? It doesn’t. 

Understanding the Terms

As we think about keeping surfaces free from viruses, another frequent area of confusion is distinguishing between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting.

Again, the CDC defines these terms as follows:

Cleaning: Removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Sanitizing: Lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection. 

Disinfecting: Kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

It should be noted that if you are using a sanitizer to clean for COVID, there’s a chance it does not specifically eliminate coronavirus from the surface. Only EPA-registered disinfectants and germicides should be used. 

Spread Knowledge, Not Viruses

There’s a lot of misunderstanding around how to properly clean and disinfect for both the flu and COVID. Whether you’re in charge of a commercial cleaning operation or a teacher in a school, we’d encourage you to share this knowledge with others.

While it’s likely custodial teams will be increasing cleaning frequencies in your facility, we all can play a role in keeping surfaces virus-free and preventing the spread of illneses.

5 Characteristics Custodial Leaders Need Right Now

“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” — John Kenneth Galbraith

Connections. We break them when we clean and disinfect surfaces throughout a building, breaking the chain of infection. Yet as a business leader, it’s also essential we build and maintain connections—particularly with the people on your team.

With so much uncertainty and disruption, many people around the globe are looking for guidance and stability. Childcare, concern of an elderly family member, personal health—these are just a few of the concerns clouding our minds right now, including the people on your team.

This presents an amazing opportunity for custodial managers to inspire and lead. 

According to leadership expert Nancy Koehn, “…real leaders are not born; the ability to help others triumph over adversity is not written into their genetic code. They are, instead, made. They are forged in crisis. Leaders become ‘real’ when they practice a few key behaviors that girls and inspire people through difficult times.” 

As we look to help our teams look beyond the shadows, what characteristics can effective leaders reveal to encourage those around us to see a future opportunity?

1. VISION

Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chairman at Siemens AG suggests that when business leaders consider a post COVID world, they should look at it as a “renewal, not a return.” 

What would a renewal of your cleaning operation look like? If you received additional budget to staff, train and supply your department, what would you want to add and why? Would you do a better job of standardizing your processes? Measuring cleaning performance? Providing additional training?

Facilities managers and custodial professionals can expect to play a bigger role in business operations following the pandemic as leaders will have a much greater appreciation for their expertise. Prepare a vision for the role of your team in a post pandemic environment and how you can improve the service you deliver. Being able to clearly communicate this vision will to only inspire your team, but also the leadership. 

2. FLEXIBILITY

Martial arts master Bruce Lee is coined with saying: “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” 

Due to the nature of the work, flexibility is a characteristic many custodial professionals already demonstrate, but this is increasingly important during a crisis. From inventory to staff, schedules to moods, almost everything is in a state of flux. Demonstrating flexibility and a growth mindset will help you better adapt and “bend with the wind.” 

3. AUTHENTICITY

When COVID first hit, Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson responded less than a week later in a message to Marriott employees. His message was honest, immediately tackling several sensitive topics including his personal health and the impact of COVID on their business. 

“I can tell you that I have never had a more difficult moment than this one. There is simply nothing worse than telling highly valued associates—people who are the very heart of this company—that their roles are being impacted by events completely outside of their control,” he said.

Employees watch their leaders carefully. Don’t hesitate to keep it real with your employees. This will help you earn their respect. 

4. RESILIENCY

Setbacks are inevitable. This applies to life in general, but particularly when you’re leading others during a crisis. Being resilient not only means having a plan in place to protect your team from the impact of a pandemic, but also recovering quickly when setbacks occur. 

Forbes Magazine identifies these key steps to becoming a more resilient leader: communicate powerfully, be coachable, build positive and trusting relationships, embrace risk, develop others, champion change and act decisively.  

Resiliency means creating balance by accepting the things we can’t change and creating meaningful change where we are able. 

5. INCLUSIVITY

Custodial teams are often one of the most diverse groups within a business. Building an environment where everyone on your team feels that they are accepted and belong should be a top priority for every custodial professional right now. 

According to Harvard Business Review, “what leaders say and do makes up to a 70 percent difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included.”

Recognizing biases, demonstrating cultural intelligence, collaboration and humility are just a few of the key traits inclusive leaders possess. Within a custodial operation, these attributes can inspire greater productivity than any new piece of equipment. 

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Cleaning is in the spotlight right now. From profiles highlighting the safety risks to janitors to features of cleaning processes, there’s a lot of dialogue happening around how buildings are cleaned.

By setting a vision for your team and leading them through the other side of this thing, you can help ensure that everyone emerges stronger. 

Cleaning Conversations: Jeff Hawkins, Provo City School District

Approximately 70-75 percent of the custodial team at Provo City School District is comprised of students, so when schools closed in the spring, that left Jeff Hawkins and his team with a massive staffing shortage. With all hands on deck, staff from other departments pitched in to learn the (OS1) System and clean schools.

With so much of the current conversation focused around disinfection, Jeff talks about how the (OS1) System has prepared them for executing cleaning during a pandemic situation, so his team has the training, tools and program to keep students, teachers and staff safe.

Cleaning Classrooms Safely: A Teacher’s Checklist [with infographic]

With the topic of reopening schools leading many conversations right now, we’ve had a lot of questions about how teachers and administrators can work with custodial teams to make sure classrooms and common areas to limit the potential for COVID to spread on hard surfaces.* 

Tips for helping teachers keep classrooms clean and safe.

Whether you work in a school or know a student who will be returning to the classroom this fall, these steps can help teachers keep classrooms clean and safe:

  1. Clean, then disinfect. Kids make messes. And with calls for students to eat lunch in the classroom, those messes will only increase. It’s important to know that in order for a disinfectant to work, you must first clean the surface to remove any foreign substances or barriers and then apply the disinfectant.  
  2. Focus on touch points. Little hands are constantly touching, but what are some of the most often touched surfaces within your classroom? Faucet handles, chair backs, keyboards, door handles and desks are all items that should be disinfected throughout the day to limit the opportunity for virus spread.
  3. Follow label instructions. Just like teachers need time after a long day, disinfectants also need time to sit and dwell in order to work effectively. How much time is indicated on the back of the bottle and can range between 2 to 10 minutes. 
  4. Launder cleaning cloths regularly. Disposable wipes are hard to find right now, so a lot of teachers will be using donated disinfectant sprays or spray from the custodial team. If using your own cleaning cloths, make sure to use a fresh cloth each day to avoid cross contamination.
  5. Safely store cleaning chemicals. Make sure curious hands don’t find cleaning chemicals and be sure to lock all disinfectant supplies in a secure area.
  6. Use bleach in a pinch. With wipes and ready-to-use disinfectants in short supply, the CDC recommends using a diluted bleach solution to disinfect appropriate hard surfaces. To make a solution, mix 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of room temperature water OR 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of room temperature water.
  7. Clear desks and tables nightly. Stack books, papers and supplies on desks to keep tables and other surfaces clear for custodial teams to disinfect in the evenings. A lot of custodial teams will be working with limited resources, so every little bit helps.

* As the CDC notes, hard surface transmission is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads, but recommends several cleaning and disinfection protocols to maintain healthy environments. These tips are designed to supplement regular cleanings performed by custodial teams in a school. Clean schools are critical for learning both now and once the pandemic is over.