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In This Together: Tips for Coordinating Cleaning as Buildings Reopen

“We’re in this together” is a frequent refrain of the past two months. From the pandemic to protests, people share these words to express solidarity and unity throughout the many challenges facing our communities right now. 

Within the Simon Institute, (OS1) leaders have been working together throughout the pandemic to share best practices and strategies. However, as federal, state, tribal and local officials in both the public and private sectors move to Opening Up America again, it’s time that we expand our cooperation if we haven’t already. 

It goes without saying that we play a critical role in the effort to protect the people who live, work in and visit the buildings we clean. In fact, the U.S. EPA has recently issued a statement emphasizing the need to continue cleaning and disinfection practices to reduce exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. 

But we can’t do this alone. Through ongoing communication and effective partnerships with key stakeholders, we can work together to keep buildings clean and disinfected. Click here to read the full blog post that identifies who would should be talking to right now and what we should be discussing. 

WHO: Administration 


WHAT TO DISCUSS: Organizations want additional cleaning, but many are not adjusting their scope of services and budgets accordingly. Custodial professionals should be prepared to have conversations about the need for additional resources. This includes being able to identify costs associated with additional cleaning products, labor, PPE and training to ensure buildings are cleaned in a way that keeps everyone safe. 

WHO: Internal Reopening Teams

Teams might include facility managers, safety directors, human resources, marketing and other key administrative professionals within the organization. 

WHAT TO DISCUSS: Make sure your team is involved in helping coordinate efforts as buildings reopen. In these meetings, you’ll want to communicate plans for staffing, cleaning frequencies and any resources you have available through existing supply chain relationships. This might include access to wipes, hand sanitizer and additional cleaning products. 

You might also work with marketing and communications to help create communication tools for building occupants. 

WHO: Building occupants

WHAT TO DISCUSS: When clearly communicating cleaning programs with building occupants, you not only help build peace of mind, but you can also help improve the effectiveness of cleaning programs. 

Topics to address may include: 

  • Any disinfectant/wipes sharing programs to assist in cleaning personal spaces
  • Highlights of the (OS1) System and approach 
  • Specific high-touch areas located throughout the building
  • Dust control initiatives, which limit the potential for the virus that causes COVID-19 to remain suspended in the air by attachment 
  • Requests to clean off desks, conference tables and other surfaces in communal areas to improve cleaning effectiveness

WHO: Distributors

WHAT TO DISCUSS: As a general rule of thumb, you want to avoid overstocking and plan on two units (or two full orders) of critical inventory for consumables, chemicals, and tools. This includes germicidal cleaner, vacuum filters, and pro-duster sleeves. Distributors in the industry have experienced extreme disruption with shortages of supply. Many of the raw materials that we rely upon in the United States come from China – and since China has been experiencing their own pandemic-related challenges, it’s been hard to get those raw materials. Things that we take for granted – plastice bottles, spray nozzles, even microfiber in some instances are going to have longer lead times for the next few months. Stocking up now, and maintaining a lean, but effective inventory will help your operation reduce its overall impact on supply.

Ongoing communication is critical as we work together to keep our buildings safe and healthy  for everyone.

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

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.