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Provo City Schools Research Part II: The Importance of Measuring Cleaning

In the first part of this series, we explored the definition of “clean.” Now that we know what “clean” is, how do we get there? Ah, the million dollar question.

Just as no single agreed-upon definition of “clean” exists, no single standard or process for cleaning exists. As a result, we measure janitorial productivity in a variety of ways, which is largely dependent on the type of facility being cleaned.

To understand the importance of measurement, we’ll first look ways cleaning programs are currently measured, and then we’ll review a few examples of the benefits of measurement through a standardized approach to cleaning.

Current Strategies for Measuring Productivity and Their Limitations:

Visual Inspections: A visual inspection may reveal if a surface looks clean (e.g. is free from dirt or dust), but it does not reveal what is invisible to the eye, such as bacteria or viruses. Visual inspections are most common in retail environments where the emphasis is on appearance.

Cost-Per-Square-Foot Method: Often cleaning professionals want to evaluate cleaning productivity by establishing the cost for cleaning their facility. This method can present obstacles because of different surfaces that may or may not be factored into the equation. For example, do you factor the tops of books on a shelf as cleanable square footage? Should table surfaces be included as well? Not all cost-per-square foot method evaluations are created equally.

ATP Meter Readings: One of the newer methods for measuring cleanliness is Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) Testing. ATP is an enzyme present in all living cells; ATP meters detect the amount of organic mater that remains on a surface after cleaning. This method can lead to discrepancies between testers and not provide a true reflection of the cleanliness (or dirtiness) of a surface.

When we look at cleaning in an academic settings, the need for effective cleaning and cleaning measurement becomes most apparent.

Why Clean Schools Matter

In Dr. Campbell’s Provo City Schools research, he states:

Standards set a level of safety and performance for most industries. Therefore, a cleaning standard that ensures the building’s air quality, safety and health of the people therein should exist. Research shows that students in K-12 schools have improved capacity to learn when school environments are clean.

He identifies a survey conducted by the National Parent Teacher Association that revealed that cleanliness in schools was so insufficient that more than half of teachers (56 percent) purchase their own cleaning supplies to clean their classrooms.

While the immediate response might be to look at the school janitor, Dr. Campbell is quick to highlight research from the National Education Association that supports the need for better job descriptions for janitors:

* 38 percent of janitors have no job description

* 32 percent of those who do have a job description feel it does not match the scope of their work

64 percent of janitors often or sometimes perform work outside of their job description

YIKES. So teachers are taking it on themselves to clean their classrooms, but janitors are left with their hands in the air, because they aren’t clear on their responsibilities.

Why does this matter? Because the confusion surrounding the issue and the absence of a standardized approach and effective cleaning measurement tool to cleaning goes beyond issues of infection control and cross contamination.

Research shows that indoor air pollution (resulting from cleaning chemicals, dust and other particulates that can be breathed in) can result in lower work performance and higher rates of sickness.

Dr. Campbell cites multiple sources, including this research published in Indoor Air, Dr. Berry’s study at Charles Young Elementary School and this study published in Indoor Air Journal — all offering conclusive evidence that indoor pollutants negatively impact student health and performance.

Clean schools are healthier and more productive. But how can we make sure our schools are clean if there’s difficulty measuring janitorial productivity and cleanliness?

In the part three of this blog series, we’ll review how a standardized approach to cleaning establishes measures for janitorial productivity and positively impacts health and the indoor environment, as evidenced by the study at Dixon Middle School.

University of Michigan Saves $2.1 Million Per Year and Improves Cleaning

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Submitted by ProTeam
CGN Editorial

The ProTeam Super CoachVac was featured in a series of posters at University of Michigan to educate the community about the elements of the new cleaning program.

 

In 2009, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor started a five year rollout of a comprehensive, high-performance cleaning management system, ManageMen‘s Operating System 1®, (OS1). John Lawter, Associate Director of Plant Building and Ground Services, chose (OS1) to improve productivity in light of ongoing budget cuts.

“We knew we were facing multiple years of reductions so we offered up 10% over 5 years with an understanding we would have a couple of years reprieve to protect our new program.” said Lawter. And since implementing (OS1), “We have met that 10 percent goal of $2.1 million and managed to improve services at the same time.”

With 200 facilities to clean covering a total of 15 million sq. ft., Lawter’s staff has gone from cleaning 36,000 sq. ft. per custodian to 40,000 sq. ft. per custodian, while improving the health of the environment. One of the biggest tenets of (OS1) is to clean for health first, then appearance. It was this and the simplified workflow that appealed to Lawter who wanted more consistency and fewer products.

“(OS1) was the only operating system we could find that was comprehensive and had been tested in a University setting for better than 10 years,” said Lawter. “We visited those programs as part of our due diligence and were impressed.”

In (OS1), custodians specialize in specific tasks, and they do all tasks of a single function at one time. This reduces wasted time switching tools and backtracking. Vacuum specialists may vacuum for an entire shift using a backpack vacuum designed by ProTeam® to reduce strain to the user.

“Dr. Berry’s study at the University of North Carolina showed us that, used properly, the backpack vacuum was a more ergonomic and effective product than an upright,” said Lawter.

Lawter swapped a ramshackle collection of uprights of different ages and models for ProTeam’s 11-pound Super CoachVac®.

“There’s no beater bar to throw dust around,” said Lawter. “It reduces the amount of dust particles in the air.” Two of Lawter’s staff who suffered from allergies reported their symptoms noticeably improving after switching to the backpack vacuum. ProTeam is partnered with the American Lung Association in efforts to educate the public about the importance of healthy indoor air.

Prior to implementing (OS1), the biggest problem Lawter faced was inconsistent performance, a symptom of the zone cleaning system they were using previously.

“No two custodians clean exactly alike,” said Lawter. “So, when one custodian is responsible for everything in an area, there will naturally be differences in the level of service. Our customers noticed those inconsistencies.”

According to Jeffrey L. Campbell, Ph.D., Chair of the BYU Facility Management program, Most custodial operations: “1) have no quantifiable standards; 2) are based solely on appearance; 3) have little or no method of measuring effectiveness and performance; 4) are not based on actual research; and 5) are driven by chemical and equipment manufacturers.”

Campbell recorded the story of the University of Michigan’s cleaning success along with the University of North Carolina and two other universities that implemented (OS1) in the article “Cutting Costs and Improving Outcomes for Janitorial Services” which appeared in the September/October 2011 issue of Facilities Manager and was reprinted in the Cleaning Gazette Newsletter the following May.

“In an industry that has been around as long as public buildings themselves, janitorial methods have seen little progress. As a matter of fact, most janitors today use the same tools and processes that were used 50 years ago,” said Campbell.

In addition to the timesaving backpack vacuums, (OS1) reduced Lawter’s chemical inventory from 50 products to less than 10. Individual use portion packs ensure that custodians get what they need and only what they need to clean every day. For Lawter, this hugely simplified the process.

“We used to have a committee of 30 people that would meet once a month and review the latest and greatest new products that came down the line,” said Lawter. “It was very inefficient, time-consuming, expensive, and led to a proliferation of products out there being tested by our workforce. ManageMen has a research and development arm for (OS1) users that does that, so I don’t directly deal with salesman. I love that.”

John Walker, President of ManageMen and progenitor of (OS1), explains how the echo chamber of product claims in the cleaning industry is rarely substantiated by science. “Everyone sells productivity tools. People buy them to save money and time, but they never document that they did it,” said Walker. “The University of Michigan’s janitorial department is a pioneer in documenting over $2 million in savings. They gave it back to the university.”

As reported in the Cleaning Gazette Newsletter last July, Sightlines, a prominent facility management assistance firm, did a thorough evaluation of the University of Michigan in the fall of 2010. They compared the data to a database of 300 institutions of higher learning and a group of 10 peer universities chosen by the administration.

This survey was taken in the midst of the (OS1) rollout at the university. The custodial department had not yet reached the 80-percent audit they hoped for. They were still rated as the number one organization in cleanliness evaluations. The study also showed high production rates and low cost of materials in comparison to their peers and the greater database.

“They got to a 2.5 cleaning level on a 3.5 APPA budget,” said Walker. “And in the Sightlines study, they beat virtually everyone in the country and in their peer group after adopting (OS1). There has never been a collection of data like this.”

In their most recent (OS1) audit last month, the University of Michigan surpassed their goal of an 80 percent audit, reaching 83 and 87 percent. According to Walker, it is the work of people like Lawter and his staff in documenting the effectiveness of (OS1) that will someday take the cleaning industry by storm. When cleaning is standardized, workflows are simplified, and productive tools are utilized, unbelievable savings are possible. “You can reduce costs and improve results with this documented system,” said Walker.

Cleaning for Health at The University of Texas at Austin

A control cabinet at The University of Texas of Austin holds approximately three months of chemicals used to clean the buildings on campus.

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By Bobby Moddrell – Custodial Services Division
The University of Texas at Austin

 

For the past decade, the Custodial Services Division of The University of Texas at Austin has maintained over 12 million square feet of the campus using our (OS1) process. (OS1) promotes the standardization of the custodial operation through the use of environmentally friendly products, ergonomic tools, worker safety, strategically assigned workloads for each Full Time Equivalent Employee (FTE), and a robust training program. With this process, Custodial Services has maintained a consistent cleaning program across campus despite the size of the operation and the varying demands of each building.

The (OS1) process has also ushered in a sustainable approach to cleaning, that is easily reflected in our chemical program, water usage, paper and plastic products inventory, team cleaning system and indoor air quality. Prior to (OS1), UT Austin’s Custodial Services’ chemical program consisted of over 200 different chemicals which is fairly standard for most cleaning operations of this size. Since the implementation of (OS1), that number has been reduced almost 88%, a grand total of 25 chemicals. This reduction is due in large part to PortionPac, a company that provides environmentally responsible chemical concentrates which are packaged in individual pacs that are pre-measured for a specific container. By using one pac per bucket, bottle or tank of water [known in (OS1) as “the rule of one“], we realize a safer, more accurate use of chemicals, thus eliminating unnecessary waste and environmental pollution. Of our four daily use chemicals, three are Green Seal Certified and the daily germicide used to reduce pathogenic microorganisms is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Subscribing to the (OS1) process has also decreased Custodial Services’ annual water usage by roughly 70%. While the effective measurement and use of chemicals contributes to this figure, it is the use of two-sided mop buckets and microfiber cloths that has had the greatest impact on water usage. Traditional mop buckets hold five gallons of water, but the two-side restroom and utility buckets used in our program hold 1.25 and 2 gallons of water respectively. Additionally, a two-sided mop bucket system keeps clean solution and contaminated water separate, thus ensuring the longevity of the cleaning solution and reducing cross contamination. The coordinated use of microfiber flat mops also helps conserve water.

Traditional string mops transfer more water than necessary to hard floor surfaces, making it difficult to clean and absorb the dirtied water effectively. Moreover, the fibers of a traditional string mop are incapable of trapping the microorganisms targeted in common cleaning procedures. Microfiber mops, however, absorb up to six times their own weight in liquid pick up and retention and their unique fibers have been shown to reduce bacteria up to 96%. The use of two-side mop buckets and microfiber mops have been instrumental in our decreased water usage. The switch alone has brought our estimated water usage from 863,340 gallons annually to 262,302 gallons for a savings of 601,038 gallons of water each year.

Custodial Services’ commitment to sustainability is reflected in the choice of paper and plastic products used across campus. Both our toilet paper and hand towels contain high percentages of recycled fiber and post-consumer content. Custodial Services has also made the switch to a more sustainable trash liner. These new liners are made from linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and meet the EPA’s Comprehensive Procurement guidelines. This means the liners’ post-consumer content can range from 10%-100%. All liners contain 100% post-consumer recycled resin. The liners have reduced our annual liner waste to landfills by an estimated 36%. Our previous liners contributed 220,459 pounds of waste annually, but the new liners will only contribute an estimated 141,847 pounds for a reduction of 78,612 pounds per year.

Through the daily maintenance of campus buildings, Custodial Services is doing its part to sustain the built environment. This effort not only prolongs the life of buildings and materials therein, but also improves the quality of life inside these buildings by all occupants. The Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) posits that individuals spend nearly 90% of their time indoors, whether at work, home or in transit. As such, it has become increasingly important to maintain an indoor environment free of pollutants. A recent study measured the indoor air quality of a building maintained with an average upright vacuum and found the level of pollutants equal to roughly twenty times what the EPA allows Americans to pollute from their cars. This is not surprising considering cloth filter bags on traditional upright vacuums only remove 30% of pollutants from the air. In an effort to improve indoor air quality, Custodial Services elected to use Super CoachVac backpack vacuums manufactured by ProTeam. These vacuums provide four-level filtration, removing 99.9% of lung-damaging particles.

Additionally, these vacuums help protect carpet, extending the life of carpet and reducing the need for replacement. It is this high level of carpet care and air purification that has earned the Pro Team Vacuum the Carpet Research Institute’s (CRI) green label certification.

Are Dirty Schools Making Kids Sick?

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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.