From the Frontlines: Michigan State University

Keeping academics, students and faculty safe has always been a priority for Brandon Baswell and the custodial team at Michigan State University, but the coronavirus and COVID-19 have definitely impacted the way they clean, train, staff and budget. Brandon shares some excellent insights on what’s happening now, and how they’re planning for the fall, in our second episode of Cleaning Conversations. 

“You can’t do ANYTHING if you don’t have a clean and healthy environment.”

Brandon Baswell, Michigan State University

The Future of Cleaning and Hygiene

Cleaning professionals, start your engines. 

We’re at the starting line of one of the most important races of our lives. Never before have people paid so much attention to how cleaning is performed. As a profession, we’re stepping out of the shadows and onto the stage as people start to understand that cleanliness isn’t just about what you see, but also about what you don’t see. 

In “Science, Cleaning and the Built Environment,” cleaning scientist Dr. Michael Berry stated, “Effective cleaning is not widely recognized as a form of insurance or that ineffective cleaning has a high cost in the long term.”

With the coronavirus and this pandemic, that has changed. People now see the critical importance of effective cleaning, because public health safety is at stake.

Whether you’re an (OS1) user or someone who stumbled on this blog post looking for ideas on how to better clean your facility, you can bet that once we get through this pandemic, people will be asking a lot more questions about your cleaning program. As we stated in this post, the business case for better cleaning has never been stronger; and evidence of this paradigm shift is popping up all around us. 

Cleaning Takes the Stage

Last week, Delta Airlines introduced “Delta Clean”—their “new standard of airline cleanliness—now and always.” In a video announcing the initiative, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer Bill Lentsch discusses the various steps Delta plans to take to improve the cleanliness of its planes. 

Delta rolls out “Delta Clean” a new standard of cleanliness.

A recent article in National Geographic suggested that to fight germs wherever you go, you  should ask about “cleaning practices” at hotels. 

“Before you book a hotel or a vacation rental, ask about the cleaning process. Often, the answer will give you a clear idea of whether or not this is a place you want to stay.” – Jason Tetro, microbiologist and author of the book The Germ Code.

Singapore has developed a stamp that helps visitors and locals easily identify hotels and other businesses that achieved a standard level of cleanliness. The “SG Clean” stamp is placed prominently at the entrance of an establishment and designed to give people “peace of mind,” says Keith Tan, CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board. They aim to eventually certify more than 37,000 establishments. 

On April 9, the Google Doodle (the fun logo updates you can find on the Google homepage used to commemorate holidays and special occasions) was changed to a person holding a mop and bucket to recognize cleaning workers—this feels like a moment, right?

The Future of Cleaning

Products. Processes. Training. Measurement. These four key critical pieces of EVERY cleaning program will be the subject of scrutiny once buildings start to reopen. People will need peace of mind that they can step into buildings without concern of contamination. 

This is good news for (OS1) users! There’s a good chance you can speak to each of these elements better than you can recall certain family members’ birthdays. From training to annual audits, the (OS1) System ensures that people understand not only HOW to clean, but WHY we clean. 

If you’re not an (OS1) user, you need to be prepared to speak to cleaning processes, products, training and measurement protocols. 

People will want to know what products and processes are used, and how cleaning performance is measured. Are you ready for that challenge? 

Protecting Custodial Workers: What Every New Cleaning Worker Needs to Know

Long before COVID-19 infected patient zero, a large percentage of the 3.25 million cleaning workers in the U.S. received little job training. In some circles, the assumption is that most people know how to clean, so the absence of training might not seem like a big deal. Individuals in these groups treat it as an inherent skillset that people are either born with or learn at an early age. 

But the thing is, not everyone just “knows” how to clean. As a recent survey showed, the majority of Americans aren’t disinfecting properly. And the processes you would use to clean a building are different than how you would clean your home or apartment.

There are many issues with the lack of occupational training in the cleaning industry, but a primary issues is the increased risk and exposure to workers. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that cleaning workers suffer the second highest rates of job-related injuries of any occupation—injuries heavy lifting, overexertion, chemical exposure and slips and falls are most common.

Reducing Risks to Cleaning Workers Now and After the Pandemic

When it comes to COVID-19, cleaning and disinfection is essential in stopping the spread of the disease. Aside from person-to-person spread, COVID-19 spreads when a person comes into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. So when businesses slowly begin to open again over the next few months, all eyes will be on cleaning workers. Regular, systematic cleaning and disinfection will be key to controlling the spread of the virus and limiting the additional waves of the pandemic. 

For these individuals to clean—and to not pollute the surfaces and buildings they are meant to protect—they need training. They also need training to protect themselves. 

During this period, we can expect to see a swell of new cleaning service providers. Many people who have been displaced from current jobs in the hospitality or foodservice industries may find themselves working in a position where they’re being asked to clean in a commercial environment for the first time. 

We’ve seen way too many headlines highlighting cleaning workers who are concerned because they don’t understand the routes of transmission or how they could become infected. Too many people who are asked to use new disinfectants and don’t have training to do so. Too many people who aren’t equipped with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their hands and faces from exposure. 

We need to reverse this trend and make sure ALL cleaning workers have the knowledge and training they need to clean safely and protect themselves.

If you’re new to cleaning, we’ve pulled together a checklist of things you should know before you start working.

This is not meant to replace any existing training programs, but rather serve as a supplement. Our hope is to help provide a resource for those individuals who may not receive any training from their employers. If that’s you, we’re here for you. Please feel free to reach out with any questions about what you can do to protect yourself during this time.

Cleaning in the Age of Coronavirus

Right now, cleaning and disinfection is a focus for people around the world because of the coronavirus. For people in our industry, this is somewhat of a seminal moment — we’ve arrived at a place where there’s greater appreciation and understanding for the importance of the work we do. Of course, we wish it didn’t take something like a pandemic happening to get here, but we’re thrilled to see that the message is being heard.

When we get to the other side of this, there’s little question that the world of cleaning will change. Already, Singapore is implementing mandatory cleaning standards, beginning with “higher-risk premises such as childcare and eldercare facilities, schools and hawker centers [food courts and markets], according to Channel News Asia

Combined with social distancing, cleaning is the next most effective way to control coronavirus. 

The thing is, cleaning needs to be done correctly, or else it’s not effective.

In the future, we can expect government standards around this to ensure cleaning is done properly. For now, it’s left to each cleaning professional and organizations to make sure they’re following best practices.

Here’s what we know (with some great links to help explain things!):

  • The coronavirus spreads by hard surfaces or fomites. The most recent research found that it lasts on hard surfaces such as stainless steel for up to two-three days. 
  • Cleaning workers form a critical line of defense in helping to stop the chain of infection, killing the virus on the surface before it has the opportunity to jump to the next host/hosts. 
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential to protecting cleaning workers. Follow guidelines from the CDC, which includes using gloves and gowns and understanding how to don (put on), use and doff (take off) PPE. 
  • OSHA requires training for all workers who use cleaning chemicals and disinfectants. All organizations should maintain Safety Data Sheets on ALL cleaning chemicals used in their facilities. 
  • Not all “cleaning” kills coronavirus. It’s critical that people understand the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection, explained in full here.
  • Remember, clean first — then disinfect. A disinfectant will never work on a visibly dirty surface. Clean using a cotton or microfiber cloth—never a paper-based product.
  • Read the directions! Each EPA-approved disinfectant used for killing coronavirus indicates the dwell time, or the time the surface needs to remain visibly wet, in order to be effective.
  • Hand washing is everything. Make sure workers wash their hands before they begin cleaning and immediately after removing gloves. 
  • We must work together. Encourage individuals throughout the facility to assist with cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, per CDC recommendations.
  • Communication is key. Make sure to communicate what you’re doing with stakeholders in your buildings. Share images on social media to help people at home see how hard your facility is working to keep buildings clean for their return. 

We’ll get through this; effective cleaning is essential in that effort. And when we do get to the other side, we hope there will be a much broader appreciation for the critical work that cleaners, janitors, housekeepers, environmental service workers and other cleaning professionals do in protecting the health of the public. 

We’ll be holding FREE training around chemical handling in the coming week. Sign up to our newsletter for dates and times.

Coronavirus Communication: How to Tell Building Occupants, “We’ve Got This”

As the coronavirus continues to dominate headlines, a lot of people have questions about best practices for cleaning and disinfection in public spaces. (OS1)® organizations have a Pandemic Plan in place to prepare for an outbreak of this nature, and are well equipped to handle additional cleaning loads.

To assist (OS1) teams with communicating their plans to key stakeholders and building occupants within their facilities, we’ve developed this sample communication which you can copy to send as an email or print to post in a public area.

Subject: Cleaning for Coronavirus

Dear [building occupant],

With the Coronavirus at the top of everyone’s minds right now, we wanted to brief you on the cleaning practices used within our facility and the pandemic preparedness plans we have in place. Most importantly, we want to reassure you that our organization uses best-in-class cleaning processes to stop the chain of infection and limit the opportunity for pathogens to spread throughout our building.

As you might know, our organization uses the (OS1)® System, which is a comprehensive, high-performance management system for custodial organizations. Each worker within our department has received extensive training and has been certified to complete specialized tasks within the system. They are kitted with special tools and chemicals for their job function, which includes the use of a germicidal cleaner in an outbreak situation.

As a part of our pandemic planning, we have completed or are in the process of completing the following steps to combat the Coronavirus within our facility/facilities: 

  1. Identified all potential routes of transmission.
  2. Conduct a survey of all direct and indirect contact fomites (high-touch surface areas) throughout our buildings.
  3. Provide custodial workers with additional training and instruction on proper disinfection protocols.
  4. Provide custodial workers on Protect Yourself” training so they understand routes of transmission and how to best protect themselves when cleaning.
  5. Stockpile additional cleaning and disinfection supplies.

It is important to note that at this point, the CDC has not recommended additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning. However, our teams are meeting on a regular basis and are prepared to increase cleaning frequencies when it is deemed appropriate.

We ask for your ongoing cooperation in this effort. Our staff is working diligently to keep high-touch areas cleaned and disinfected, but we encourage you to use wipes placed throughout the building to disinfect community surfaces when cleaning staff aren’t available.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update our cleaning protocols as necessary. 

Again, thank you for your continued support and cooperation.

Sincerely,

<<NAME>>

<<TITLE>>

<<PHONE OR EMAIL>>

Want to KEEP Cleaning Workers? Start Here.

When you were a small kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A race car driver? A doctor? A park ranger? 

Did you have hopes of joining the millions of people in the professional cleaning industry?

Probably not.

Heck, ask most people in the cleaning industry how they ended up in it, and most will say they fell into it. They answered a job ad, took a second job to pay for a big expense or offered to help out a friend for a weekend.  

Current figures suggest approximately 2.5 million people work as cleaners in the U.S., and that’s probably a conservative estimate. But a lot of the people who begin working in the industry quit shortly after they start. 

This happens for a lot of reasons—reasons you already know. 

It’s hard work. 

It doesn’t pay much. 

It gets little respect. 

Another thing we know? We’d be totally screwed without cleaning workers. Cleaning is essential for any high-performing organization—and society. 

And right now, we’re experiencing a big issue of attracting and retaining talent. In Facility Cleaning Decision’s 2018 Reader Survey, staffing challenges were one of respondents’ top areas of concerns.

Historically low unemployment rates and stricter immigration policies are causing employers to look for alternative solutions, such as reducing frequencies and cross-training employees to cover labor shortages.

Changing Perceptions: It’s More than Just Dirty Work

Cleaning workers are an essential part of an organization. We know that, but in order to change the perceptions cleaning workers have of the work they do requires involvement from others within the organization.

A recent study looked at the social interactions of hospital cleaners and how those interactions impacted their perceived self worth. It looked at what researchers called “valuing acts” that cleaners experienced throughout the day and how those experiences made them feel. 

Researchers stated, “A hospital’s effectiveness depends on the work of the cleaning staff…Those who clean hospitals ensure a safe and sanitary environment for the execution of routine and complicated medical procedures.” (p. 14)

So while the researchers recognized contribution of cleaners, they found their critical role wasn’t recognized by other people in the hospital.

Here’s what they found:

  • Many cleaners recognize the importance of their work and take “great pride” in it. 
  • Their self worth is tied to social encounters they experience on the job — encounters with other people in the building, such as patients, nurses and doctors. 
  • Simple acts, like a doctor or nurse getting out of the way when the cleaner is pushing a cart through the hallway or acknowledging their presence with a simple nod contributes to a cleaning worker feeling valued.
  • On the opposite side, acts like not cleaning up after themselves (e.g. not picking up paper that has fallen beside the waste basket or a spill for which they’re responsible) along with not involving them in a hospital wide event may contribute to the cleaners feeling unappreciated.

Ultimately, seemingly small gestures can leave a big impact on cleaning workers and can help them feel more valued—or devalued—within an organization.

How can we KEEP more cleaning workers?

Few people grow up wanting to be in the cleaning industry. The goal is to KEEP them in our industry once they get here. 

How can you do this? Try following the KEEP acronym:

Keep employees at the forefront. Take the time to talk to your staff members and get to know them. Listen to them and learn the names of people in their families. Ask them questions and show you’re interested in them as a person, not just as a work. 

Explain the importance of what they do. Help them understand the importance of their role. Make sure they know that cleaning isn’t just about helping a building look nice, but it’s about keeping people in that building stay healthy and safe too.

Empower them with training and advancement opportunities. Cleaning workers are one of the best customer service tools in your building. Empower them with training so they understand how to interact with others in the building and strategies to do their jobs better so they can be promoted and grow within their career. 

Preach their importance to other people in the building. In a hospital, that might be doctors and nurses, in a school, that could be students and teachers. The key is that other people in the facility have a greater appreciation for how cleaning workers help them. 

Studies routinely show that more engaged workers are higher performing. Showing workers that you truly value them will help KEEP them on your team in a competitive job market. 

Check it out!

The short film “Keepers of the House” aims to highlight the importance cleaning workers. Developed to educate others in a hospital about the vital role housekeeping/custodial workers play in developing an environment of care, the film will be used as a learning tool to help create better, stronger businesses.

Why We Clean

Cleaning gets a bum rap. Just try googling quotes about cleaning and you’ll find that most of them portray cleaning—specifically, house cleaning— negatively.

“I hate housework. You make the beds, you wash the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again. – Joan Rivers

“Housework can’t kill you, but why take the chance?”  – Phyllis Diller 

“We dream of having a clean house—but who dreams of actually doing the cleaning?” -Marcus Buckingham

While a couple of these quotes hopefully made you laugh (just a little?), they still highlight the  negative association of cleaning. It’s an association that follows cleaning wherever it goes—at home, in the office, on vacation… This is largely why the profession also gets swallowed in a negative stigma. 

But for those of us who have made a career cleaning up, it’s important to remember why we clean. Sure, it’s a job, but the work performed has many benefits that extend beyond a paycheck. Cleaning is a service that benefits anyone and everyone who steps into the building.

Why We Clean

We recently ran across a list from Dr. Michael Berry, an evangelist of the critical importance of cleaning. In a presentation to the Simon Institute, he shared the following list of the tangible and intangible benefits of facility cleaning:

  • Reduces environmental risks
  • Creates a healthy condition
  • Prevents Illness
  • Provides living space
  • Breaks the transmission chain of infectious agents
  • Protects valuable materials
  • Maintains the value of real estate
  • Encourages “topophilia” or the love of place
  • Instills ownership
  • Promotes human dignity
  • Shows you care
  • Projects a professional image and promotes business success
  • Enhances human productivity and reduces direct costs
  • Prevents crisis and reduces the full range of costs
  • Accents aesthetics
  • Manages wastes and contributes to environmental protection

Dr. Berry’s assertions aren’t arbitrary claims. Several studies support his statements, also highlighting the health and business benefit effective cleaning:

Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily routine of cleaning, that we forget to step back at the bigger picture of WHY we clean. And as the data shows, cleaning has big implications for not only people’s health, but also business. 

So the next time someone asks you what you do for a living, tell them proudly that you’re in the professional cleaning industry. And keep our list handy so you’re always mindful of why what you do is so important.

Here’s to the Janitor

As we close out this decade, we wanted to send a quick thank you to all the hard working people who keep our buildings, homes, streets and cities clean.

Here’s to the Janitor, who works in the shadows.

The person who pushes a mop,

Takes out our trash,

And removes the dust

To keep the buildings we visit, learn and heal clean.

Here’s to the Janitor, whose name we don’t often know.

The person who works as a housekeeper,

A cleaner,

Or a custodian,

People who perform important work that impacts us all.

Here’s the Janitor, the person at the front lines during an outbreak.

The person who dons the mask,

And sprays the disinfectant,

Deep cleaning and decontaminating spaces.

Whenever Norovirus, influenza or another serious virus strikes.

Here’s to the Janitor, who never stops moving.

The person who is constantly lifting,

Bending, 

And pulling,

Often taking home more than just a paycheck.

Here’s to the Janitor, whose hard work often goes unappreciated.

The person who helps us breathe better,

And focus better,

By removing the germs, dust and mold

To keep our indoor environments healthy.

Here’s to the Janitor and cleaners all around the world. 

To the person in Tokyo who starts their shift

When the cleaner in New York goes home.

Here’s to all the cleaners!

We see you, and we thank you. 

Keeping an Eye on Candida auris: How Cleaning Departments Can Prepare

Unless you’ve been on a break from the news and social media over the past week (which we highly recommend doing every once in awhile!), you’ve likely heard the news about a new fungus spreading through nursing homes and hospitals everywhere. Setting its target on people with compromised immune systems, Candida auris spreads rapidly. Cleaning professionals should monitor the situation as the fungus can live outside of the body for a long period of time—up to a month or longer, according to CDC expert Tom Chiller. 

What makes it so significant? Cadida auris is multi drug-resistant, meaning that it doesn’t respond to common anti fungal drugs. Further complicating the issue is that it’s difficult to diagnose and treat. 

Where is it? Because it targets people with weakened immune systems, it is known to spread in hospitals, nursing home and other healthcare environments. 

How does it spread? In addition to living on the skin of an infected patient, Candida auris lives on surfaces. It can spread from person to person, or from a contaminated surface to a person.

How will custodial teams be impacted? Environmental service departments will play a key role in preventing the spread of C. auris in a facility. The CDC recommends that patients with Candida auris be placed in a single room that may require frequent cleaning with a high-grade disinfectant (those effective against Clostridioides difficile) listed here. Infection control will work with EVS teams to ensure regular and thorough cleaning.

How can I prepare? As outlined in our Pandemic Planning playbook, here are a few steps custodial departments can take to prepare for an outbreak of C. Aureus in their facility:

  1. Conduct a survey, list and map locations of all direct and indirect contact fomites (hard and soft surfaces) in the building.
  2. Stockpile disinfectants, spray bottles, gloves, hand soap and germicidal wipes.
  3. Re-familiarize yourself with the CDC’s Disinfection and Sterilization Guide and provide updated training on the principles of cleaning and disinfecting environmental surfaces for cleaning workers.
  4. Provide “Protect Yourself” training for cleaning workers
  5. Regularly check the CDC Website to review the latest guidelines on managing C. aureus. 

Ultimately, the key is preparation, not panic. For additional resources, you may want to check out our Pandemic Planning Playbook. While the material outlines specific steps for (OS1) operations, it can be used as a template for all cleaning departments. A full review of microbiology basics is available in Microbiology for Cleaning Workers. This book offers a great guideline for worker training. 

The Good Fight

Note: Each month, Ben Walker shares his monthly musings for our e-Newsletter, Cleaning Matters. April’s column is located here. If you aren’t subscribed to Cleaning Matters, you can do so by clicking here.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to present during the Clean Buildings Expo, which is sponsored in part by Trade Press Media Group, the publishing company for FCD. No question it was a career highlight, as I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting so many of the people who have read my columns over the years. There were a few times when I had to pinch myself because I felt like a celebrity! People stood in long lines to have me sign copies of their Cleaning Times books and to say hello.

Ben Walker speaks to a packed house of facility and cleaning management professionals during the recent Clean Buildings Expo.

One of the people who stood in the line following my session asked if I would have time over the next few days to speak with her further. She owned a contract cleaning business and was looking to improve some of the processes in place. I told her I’d sit down with her the next morning for coffee and we’d talk. Just talk, no consulting fees, no selling—just talking through some of her issues ,sharing ideas to help her make her business more efficient. 

I don’t tell you this to pat myself on the back. I share it because the high from last week’s event was still fresh on my mind when I started digging through my email this morning and came across this expose just published by Variety magazine, a weekly entertainment guide: “How America’s Biggest Theater Chains are Exploiting Their Janitors.”

Please take the time to read through the article and share it with your peers. It’s important that we support publications that bring the labor issues that run so rampant in our industry to light. It’s a story we all know too well—when cleaning is treated as a commodity, cleaning workers ultimately lose.

The article shares details of children of janitor’s being brought to work, sleeping on the floor or theater seats. Janitors going unpaid or receiving $350-$400 a week after working eight to 10 hours a day, seven days a week.

“I don’t know what Hell is like, but I think it would be like that,” one cleaner told the reporter. “Sometimes I was crying because my feet couldn’t take it anymore. My back couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t know how I could finish the work I had to do.”

******

There are so many cleaning companies that play in this arena who exploit the people performing the work for their profit. However, there are also a lot of companies out there trying to doing the right thing, like the woman I met during the Clean Buildings Expo last week. 

As an industry, we have so much work to do. 

Professionalism. Integrity. Standards. 

By standing on these principles, we will continue driving the industry forward. 

When we don’t, we only hurt ourselves and the people around us. And we enable conditions like those described in this article to continue thriving. 

Thank you for joining us in this fight.

Ben.