3 Ways To Fend Off Cold And Flu Season

germ-hotspotsHand Hygiene

It’s no surprise that taking care of your health starts with good hygiene.

A new study has revealed that the hand hygiene and behavior of the people that surround you, including co-workers, family members, and fellow citizens, can have a major impact on your health.

Preparing for Flu Season

Cold and flu season is just around the corner. Adapting the way you interact with your surroundings, and the people in them, could help you reduce your risk of infection. When colleagues you work with, and people you share the bus with don’t practice proper hygiene habits, they put others at risk by potentially spreading germs and infectious agents to others.

High traffic areas and commonly touched surfaces act as catalysts for germs. Schools, hotels, sports stadiums, and workplaces are full of shared areas and high touch surfaces that are petri dishes for bacteria and viruses.

Germ Hotspots

We know that germs love to travel. Contamination levels on common surfaces outside of your home may surprise you, however.

  • The workplace. Break rooms and kitchen areas in work environments are the most notorious germ hotspots. An average of 20,000 germs per square inch were found in office break rooms, places where people eat, relax, and converse. Among the worst offenders were sinks, faucets, and microwave door handles. Additional hotspots include water fountains, restrooms, computer keyboards and mouses, and vending machines.
  • In public. A study of six U.S. cities found that 65 percent of mail boxes and gas pump handles had high levels of microbial contamination. Escalators and ATMs also topped the list. Hand hygiene can significantly reduce the amount of exposure you have and that you create in these hotspots.
  • Schools. Bathroom stall doors, desks, and door handles in schools are among the most contaminated surfaces. Per square inch, teachers are exposed to 10 times the bacteria that their peers in other professions are.

Tips for Fending of the Flu

All is not lost, however. We may live in a world of germs, but there are steps you can take to help reduce the spread of infectious diseases, including the flu, and help make your environment healthier for you and others. Educating yourself and others about proper hygiene can help reduce the impact of the flu season, which was declared an epidemic last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Use these 3 tips as a guideline:

  1. Say something. Let the management, supervisors, or whoever is in charge at your workplace or school that you and your coworkers care about your health. As them to take steps to make sure that the materials people need to maintain proper hygiene are always available to them. On top of the list should be an effective and sustainable hand soap.
  2. Set an example. Wash your hands regularly, cover your mouth when you cough, and clean up after yourself. Others will notice!
  3. Keep it clean. Make it a regular practice to wash, wipe, and sanitize areas in your office after touching them or seeing them touched. Keep your phone, keyboard, and desk clean. Keeping high touch surfaces clean can greatly reduce infection rates.

Remember that your health is influenced by the hygiene of others. Use this short guide to find creative, effective, and polite ways of improving your environment.

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The Rzemieniewski Way to Clean a Stadium

cleaning-metlife-stadiumCleaning a Stadium

Picking up after 80,000 fans is no small task. In stadiums and arenas across the country, commercial cleaners face that challenge on a regular basis.

Henry Rzemieniewski, the cleaning operations manager at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, was recently interviewed by about the unique challenges and processes involved in keeping a major sporting arena clean and sanitary.

Tackling Stadium Cleaning

Cleaning up after a football game actually starts during the game. Rzemieniewski’s cleaning staff sweeps aisles and floor spaces during each sporting event. After the game, the staff divides into three large teams that focus on sections of the massive stadium. The main goal of the first phase of cleaning up is gathering trash discarded by fans; separating the debris into compost, recycling, and trash destinations; and then another full sweep session.

After the trash and recyclables have been picked up and the floors have been re-swept, professional cleaners power wash the floors with commercial equipment.

This process is repeated after every concert, football game, and special event that takes place in the stadium.

Steps Toward Sustainability

One of Rzemieniewski’s goals as cleaning operations manager has been to increase sustainable cleaning methods at the stadium. Working with vendors, distributors, suppliers, his staff, and his fans, Rzemieniewski is well on his way to making huge strides.

His work with vendors in particular has had a huge impact. All of the trash created in seating areas from vendor products can either be recycled or composted. Composting at the stadium has become a leading effort of the cleaning staff. More than 150 tons of waste were composted last year. In addition, forty-five percent of the 1,000 tons of trash the stadium collects each year is recycled.

Monster Jam

MetLife also hosts the annual monster truck rally, Monster Jam. The truck event is a mud-filled dirt fest that poses huge cleaning challenges to Rzemieniewski’s staff. He instructed his workers to literally tape the doors of the stadium shut to keep dirt, dust and mud out as much as possible. Despite their best efforts, dust still made it up to the high-reaching third concourse. The cleaning staff now uses massive plastic tarps to gather the huge amounts of dirt that are displaced during the event.

Public Enemy No. 1

Bathrooms, food service floors, and high traffic hallways may seem like the frontrunners for the most challenging cleaning task at MetLife. Public enemy No. 1, however, is the birds.

“We were having a huge issue outside,” Rzemieniewski said. “Their [excrement was] killing our steel beams. The pigeons and starlings that flock to the stadium have posed a consistent problem for the MetLife cleaning crew.

The stadium went to creative lengths to solve the problem, hiring a falconer, and mounting fake birds of prey to detract the pesky birds. When that didn’t work, and thousands of dollars spent on other tactics also failed, Rzemieniewski finally resorted to large scale netting.

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Improper Hand Washing May Stunt Children’s Growth

child-hand-washing-lgThe Importance of Hand Washing

Hand washing prevents the spread of infection, keeps people healthier, and is considered good hygiene. New research has revealed that it may also affect the development of growing children.

A new study conducted by the London School of Hygiene, and WaterAid, and published by the Cochrane Review suggests that access to clean water and soap, and proper hygiene education may help children to grow taller.

Improving Hand Hygiene

Proper hygiene is important to the health of any community. In particular, the adoption of thorough hand washing techniques can help limit the spread of infectious diseases and keep communities strong and healthy.

The recent Cochrane Review study suggests that communities that adopt improved hand hygiene add an average two tenths of an inch of height to children under the age of five. The study concluded that while clean hands themselves don’t add height to children, the absence of clean water and and proper hygiene increases the chance of an intestinal infection that reduces the amount of nutrients a child’s body absorbs during a key developmental phase. Providing important education addressing proper hand washing could directly affect the health of millions of children.

Saving Lives

Dr. Alan Dangour, the study’s lead author, wrote that “providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene is an effective way to reduce the incidence and associated deaths from diseases such as diarrhea, which remains the third biggest killer of under-fives worldwide. For the first time our analysis suggests that better access to these services may also have a small but important impact on the growth of young children.”

Study Details

14 studies with data on more than 9,000 children from middle and low-income countries were examined by the review. Data was gathered from countries that included Pakistan, Chile, Nepal, South Africa, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia.

Among the studies’ findings, some of the most dramatic improvements could be achieved with simple measures. Using solar energy to disinfect water, providing sufficient hand soap, and improving overall water quality alone would provide an estimated 15 percent reduction in stunted growth.

Stunted growth is a serious affliction that directly affects both the physical and mental development of children all over the world. More than 165 million children suffer from stunting. This new research that links clean water and hygiene to the debilitating affliction seems to offer valuable insights into why certain countries have higher rates of stunted growth than others.

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Survey Shows Importance of Cleaning Industry Suppliers

cleaning-suppliersSurvey Highlights Cleaning Suppliers

Facility Cleaning Decisions published the results of an annual survey it sends to its readership regarding the cleaning industry. Respondents include cleaning providers for healthcare facilities, universities, and the hospitality industry.

Surveys are an important way for any industry to get a feel for the trends, preferences, and movements of its members. This particular survey highlights the importance of cleaning industry suppliers to a variety of industry sectors.

Survey Says…

Survey results showed that commercial cleaning suppliers are important for a variety of reasons beyond the products and equipment that companies need to do their job:

  • 75 percent of respondents use a commercial cleaning supplier. Cleaning departments and in-house managers cited their cleaning suppliers as important sources of industry trends, information, and training. They valued their distributors for this information more than the associations, publications, and trade shows that they were exposed to.
  • Survey respondents preferred consulting their distributors rather than manufacturers for information about training, safety data, bulk purchasing options, and other product availability information.
  • The survey revealed that 67 percent of respondents opt for distributor support for training, bulk purchasing, and safety materials
  • 78 percent preferred distributors and suppliers that had a sustainability component and could assist them in achieving green initiatives through their purchasing practices.

The Importance of Suppliers

The recent recession impacted the entire American economy. While things are on the upswing, its lingering effects can still be felt, especially in the labor market. While a lot of companies came on hard times over the last few years, the recession has forced and in some cases inspired businesses to find creative ways to remain competitive and profitable.

Sustainability, implementing best practices, and improving productivity have helped many commercial cleaners remain in the game. The Facility Cleaning Decisions survey sheds light on the important role that the suppliers commercial cleaners rely upon played a huge part in helping them remain competitive and creative.

Supply and Demand

Well-organized budgets are a critical component to a successful commercial cleaning company. Survey respondents noted that after a sharp downturn during the recession, budgets have remained level for three straight years, giving them some stability when it comes to sourcing their supplies.

Stable budgets are allowing cleaning companies to improve and adapt by choosing cleaning supplies and equipment that help streamline their business.

the demand for easy-to-use products that simplify training, while increasing efficiencies, is up 20 percent in the last two years.

Behind labor, purchasing is the largest budgetary item for custodial managers/departments, which is why Housekeeping Solutions asked readers to comment on trends in this area.

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Optimizing Cleaning Times

cleaning-scheduleCleaning at the Right Time

One of the most important parts of a cleaning job is when it is performed. Many facilities have busy or unique schedules that require creative and expert scheduling to allow for regular and thorough cleaning that cuts the mustard.

Cleaning schedules have a greater impact a commercial cleaner more than just juggling hours and time slots. Employee turnover, security, theft, and energy costs are all affected by cleaning schedules.

Night vs. Day

While some businesses and facilities require a fixed cleaning schedule during certain times of the night (i.e. after business hours, during low-use times, etc.), many buildings can be cleaned during the day.

The benefits of day time cleaning are many:

  • Late night shifts can create massive employee turnover. It is not uncommon for an annual turnover rate of 400 to 600 percent to be a reality for commercial cleaning companies.
  • It is easier to schedule and maintain worker supervision during regular business hours.
  • Security can be compromised at night when a building is opened for cleaning and maintenance. Crime rates can also be higher in buildings that are cleaned at night.
  • Cleaning during the day can also have an impact on your sustainability. Energy costs can be cut by not requiring lights and electricity during the night.

Creating a New Cleaning Schedule

In order to transition to a more beneficial cleaning schedule, you’ll need to look at the needs of your building, your contract service provider, and your staff. For starters, you’ll need to know how the building is used during every hour of the day. You will also need to work with the building manager to organize a schedule that meets the needs of your staff and the needs of the building occupants.

For building that have flexible schedules that can fluctuate heavily, more creative measures may need to be taken. Delivery facilities, healthcare providers, and catastrophe centers can be rapidly overwhelmed with staff when things get busy. Employee and customer populations can spike at a moment’s notice, and when they do, you will need to scale up your cleaning. That means providing more staff, supplies, and equipment.

Cleaning at the Right Time

Working with your complicated schedule may seem like an arduous task, but the savings you can pass on to your customers, the level of sustainability you can reach, and the benefits of low turnover and controlled operating costs are far worth it in the end. Take the time to make a detailed plan to select the right time to clean each of your jobs

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What Your Workplace Restroom Reflects

workplace-restroomWorkplace Restrooms

A national survey released this Labor Day highlights the importance of workplace restroom maintenance. According to the annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey, 93 percent of Americans see workplace restroom conditions as a reflection of how their company values them.

The overall results of the survey showed positive restroom environments. 61 percent of respondents rated their workplace bathrooms as either excellent or very good. Only 6 percent rated their facilities as poor or terrible.

Survey Results

While the survey returned overall positive attitudes about workplace restrooms, respondents still offered areas of improvement. While more than half of survey takers gave their bathroom facilities a high ranking, more than 40 percent of employees noted that they have experienced restroom troubles at their workplaces.

Problems included:

  • Toilet clogs, and commodes that are not flushed because of malfunction.
  • Bad odors and smells emanating from restrooms.
  • Empty soap dispensers, towel, and toilet paper dispensers.
  • Jammed, broken, or malfunctioning dispensers and hand dryers.

A comprehensive and sustainable restroom cleaning program is a key method for ensuring restroom cleanliness. A schedule that incorporates regular cleaning, deep cleaning, and spot cleaning combined with sustainable products and methods, helps keep restrooms disinfected, as well as clean. Many restroom odors result from urea crystals that form in grout and other porous bathroom surfaces. Eliminating these odor causing spots and stains will go a long way in improving the atmosphere of your workplace restroom.

Additional Results

In addition to satisfaction with their restrooms, employees that took the survey were also questioned about overall workplace health. 81 percent said they actively avoid becoming infected by sick coworkers, going out of their way to:

  • Avoid sick colleagues.
  • Wash their hands more frequently and thoroughly during the work day.
  • Refusing handshakes from sick coworkers.
  • Standing at a distance when talking to or encountering ill employees.
  • Requesting that sick workers return home while they recover.

The fifth annual survey is also notable for the importance employees put on hand hygiene. Only eight percent of respondents frequently saw coworkers leaving a bathroom without using hand washing facilities. Overall national hand washing surveying has revealed that more than 30 percent of Americans say they frequently witness people not washing their hands after using a public restroom. Hand washing in the workplace is far above the national average.

Survey Focus Group

1,015 Americans were surveyed for the fifth annual Healthy Hand Washing survey from August 1 to August 5, 2013. Respondents were adults between the ages of 18 and 65 who lived across the country, and evenly divided by gender.

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Preventing Infection in Child Care Centers

disinfecting-day-careDisinfecting Day Care

Battling germs, microorganisms, and viruses that cause infection is challenging task for any commercial cleaner. Disinfecting child care centers takes the task to another level.

Young children and babies spend time crawling on the ground, mouthing toys, and frequently touching surfaces. Keeping a clean environment is paramount to their health.

Choosing Cleaning Products

Because young children interact so physically with their environment, it is also important to avoid using harsh chemicals and detergents when cleaning child care spaces. Hazardous ingredients found in many commercial cleaning products can compromise their health. Green cleaning alternatives are available.

Cleaning for Kids

Chicago’s Healthy Schools Campaign, and other efforts around the country, are partnering with cleaning advocacy organizations to help educate cleaning companies, educators, and children about the importance of proper child care cleanliness programs.

  • Rinse disinfected services with clean, clear water after allowing sufficient dwell time. Rinsing chemicals from high-touch surfaces will help reduce their threat to children, and will reduce dirt and grime build up that chemical films can attract.
  • Opt for green cleaning products that have a low environmental impact and don’t make use of harsh and harmful chemicals. Hand to mouth contact is constantly happening in child care environments. By using green cleaning products, you can reduce the amount of harmful chemicals that children ingest or come into contact with while at day care.
  • Disinfect regularly. While children do need a moderate amount of exposure to germs while their immune systems are developing and learning to fight off infections, it is important that they are exposed to clean environments that are regularly disinfected. Daily cleaning of day care centers is a must.
  • Teach prevention to children by modeling effective hand washing practices. Teach children to wash their hands regularly, and to scrub them with hand soap for 20 full seconds. It can be helpful to suggest that they recite the ABCs or sing Happy Birthday twice while washing their hands. Colorful, engaging posters and informative displays can also remind children the importance of cleanliness.

Effective Methods

Cleaning the most used and interacted surfaces in a child care space is important for the health and safety of children and staff. Surfaces that need regular cleaning include toys, food preparation and service areas, cribs, bathrooms, and diaper changing stations.

Cleaning with soap and water, and a good all-purpose green cleaner is one of the most effective methods for reducing germs and microbes. Thorough scrubbing and washing, along with rinsing, will help keep learning environments clean and reduce the spread of disease and infection among children, staff, and parents.

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OSHA Releases New Floor Safety Rules

OSHA-floor-care-regulationsNew Floor Safety Rules from OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new set of floor safety guidelines this month, raising the bar for safety, inspection and general floor care in the commercial cleaning industry.

The new regulations follow careful research and consulting, including input from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Updated Regulations

The Walking and Working Surfaces (29 CFR Part 1910) document creates industry standards for employers to follow that “protect employees from slips, falls, and trips.” The rules were developed in the 1980s and have served as an authoritative and comprehensive set of guidelines for the cleaning industry, but a steady increase in reported workplace falls and injuries prompted OSHA to generate revised requirements.

At OSHA’s final public hearing, the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) presented recommendations to the Walking and Working Surface requirements.

The current set of revisions highlights some significant new changes:

  • Qualified persons are required for floor inspections. The new rules require “qualified persons” to inspect, maintain and repair workplace floors. A qualified person is defined as being “capable of identifying existing or potential hazards in specific surroundings or working conditions which may be hazardous or dangerous to employees; and has been trained for the specific task assigned.” Employers will have to designate a qualified person that can determine compliance with the new ANSI standards.
  • An effectively implemented housekeeping program that includes floor care is required. Education, training, and a host of other required housekeeping programs that address floor care and maintenance are required by the new regulations.

Studies referenced by OSHA for new regulations

  • ANSI A1264.2-2001 – Standard for Walking/Working Surfaces
  • A Bibliography of Coefficient of Friction Literature Relating to Slip Type Accidents; Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Michigan

Training to Become a Qualified Floor Inspector

Looking ahead to the additional training requirements commercial cleaning companies and facilities managers will have to incorporate to their floor care programs, NFSI is increasing access to its Walkway Auditor Certification Training program, which is located in Southlake, Texas. Qualified floor inspectors need this certification to meet the new OSHA regulations.

The training program will be fully opened in the Fall of 2013 after NFSI achieves official ANSI Accredited Training Organization status. The Walkway Safety Management program is specifically based on ANSI and NFSI’s B101.8 “Floor Safety Management Program for Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention” regulation material.

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Tips for Cleaning Baseboards

how-to-clean-baseboardsBaseboards and Floor Care

Floor care is one of the cornerstones of commercial cleaning. Every facility has a floor, and every floor needs to be kept clean. A closer look reveals that there is more to a floor than just the tile, linoleum or hardwood that it is composed of.

Many floors are trimmed with baseboards that provide a transition from wall to floor, as well as protect walls from scuff, dents and other damage that can floor cleaning equipment can inadvertently cause.

Just like the floor surface, baseboards need to be kept clean both for health and for appearance.

Preparing to Clean Baseboards

Before selecting the products and equipment to clean baseboards, you should determine the material that they are made of. The wrong combination of cleaning chemicals and baseboard material could lead to discolored, warped, stripped, or generally damaged baseboards. It’s a good idea to test an inconspicuous area with your cleaning product before going all out on an entire floor.

Cleaning Baseboards

Baseboards pose unique challenges for cleaning staff. Their long vertical alignment doesn’t give cleaning solutions much time to remain standing on them in order to dissolve dirt and grime and disinfect. Good old fashioned elbow grease is the best way to tackle baseboard cleaning projects.

Focus on one small area of a baseboard at a time, reapplying all-purpose cleaner as needed. By working on a small area and reapplying cleaning solution frequently, you will allow your cleaning agent to fully break down dirt particles and disinfect baseboard surfaces. Cleaning baseboards can be a time consuming job that is labor intensive and requires concentration and dedication. Use a good all-purpose cleaner or degreaser to help the job go more smoothly.

Additional Tips

  • The floor underneath a baseboard should be protected from run off while cleaning.
  • Scrubbing and agitation will often be required to remove stains and other grime. Use a cloth or brush that is the least abrasive while still being effective. You want to avoid scratching or denting the surface of the baseboard while cleaning it.
  • Baseboards are easily bumped and damaged during regular floor maintenance. Take special care not to splash them or run into them with floor cleaning solutions and equipment.
  • When applying finish to a floor, cut in along the edges first to prevent splashing baseboards. Splashed finish can build up on baseboards and create unsightly areas that attract soil and other contaminants.
  • If a baseboard is splashed with finish or floor cleaning solution, it should immediately be wiped clean.

Hopefully these tips will help you keep baseboards on your commercial cleaning projects clean and professional-looking.

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3 “Must Do” Restroom Cleaning Tips

restroom-cleanliness-tipsKeeping Restrooms Clean

Commercial cleaning companies work in all kinds of industries, but one cleaning task remains ubiquitous no matter what type of facility a cleaning staff is working in. Restroom maintenance is an important and impactful part of any cleaning program.

Not only are restrooms present in nearly every type of facility, their appearance, smell, and perceived cleanliness are important for reducing the spread of infection and creating a positive impression.

Restroom Maintenance

Facilities are often judged by their overall cleanliness. The most influential factor in that assessment rests heavily on restroom cleanliness. Does the restroom smell fresh and clean? Are the garbage bins full and spilling paper towels on the floor? Are the countertops and sinks clean and inviting?

“Must Do” Tips for Restroom Cleanliness

  • Create a Comprehensive Checklist: Checklists are helpful because they ensure that cleaning staff have a visual reminder of every part of a restroom that needs to be cleaned. Working through a checklist covers all your bases and can make cleaning more efficient and cost-effective. Creating a checklist also gives you an opportunity to exceed your customer’s expectations by including a detailed schedule of spot cleaning, deep cleaning procedures and timeliness, and daily cleaning tasks. A checklist will also aid your employees in upholding sustainable cleaning practices when cleaning restroom facilities, creating an impressively clean space that is maintained with efficiency.
  • Select Superior Cleaning Products that Provide Positive Results: Stocking a restroom with the essentials is important: high quality toilet paper and hand soap are a must. Additionally, you can improve the user-friendliness and customer satisfaction of a restroom experience by using high quality, sustainable cleaning products. Environmentally friendly products create safe, clean restroom environments that prevent and reduce infection, eliminate odor, and prevent residues that attract dirt, grime, and bacteria.
  • Assess Your Work: A final tip for impressively clean restrooms is a regular assessment of the work of your cleaning staff. Scrutiny of cleaning methods, products, and equipment will help you constantly evaluate and improve your methods. Assessment also gives you an opportunity to regularly train and implement new products and procedures. On a microbial level, you can use an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meter to literally check the level of microbial contamination on high-touch surface areas to determine their cleanliness.

While creating checklists and assessment procedures may seem overwhelming at first, once you implement these three helpful tips, you will enjoy the efficiency and improved results.

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