Why the Wellbeing of Cleaning Professionals is a Top Priority

From hospitals and long-term care facilities to schools, college campuses, and office buildings, custodians and building cleaners have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic ensuring all areas are cleaned and disinfected. Even before the pandemic, cleaning professionals worked tirelessly to keep facilities clean. Ensuring they have the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) or training is key to keeping them safe.

The pandemic is shining a spotlight on the important role that cleaning staff play in protecting public health and safety. It’s more important than ever to recognize the work they do and prioritize their needs. Facility managers who provide their cleaning staff with the right tools to complete their job safely and effectively will foster a loyal employee-employer relationship that minimizes turnover and increases morale.

Recognizing the Risks

When the pandemic hit, custodians and other cleaning professionals were at the highest risk of being affected by the virus due to their essential worker classification. Some custodians were expected to work long shifts without the proper PPE due to widespread shortages. In fact, the Service Employees International Union found that one in five of their members didn’t have gloves and two in five didn’t have face masks.

Expecting custodians to risk their lives by handling biohazards and caustic chemicals, and deal with strenuous and labor-intensive motions without the proper protection is unfair. We depend on cleaning professionals to keep our communities safe and it’s important that we recognize the risks they take each day just by coming to work.

Best Practices to Improve Employee Wellbeing

Consider implementing the below strategies to give in-house staff the support they deserve while reducing risk and turnover. If you work closely with a building service contractor (BSC) to support your facility’s cleaning needs, determine how well the organization lives up to these best practices.

Conduct thorough and regular training.

Training is one of the most important ways to improve your employees’ wellbeing. It should occur during the onboarding process and throughout their tenure to ensure that they are up to date with the most current procedures and information. The pandemic caused a disruption in the supply chain that resulted in many BSCs and facility managers exploring new cleaning chemical options and equipment. Custodial workers needed proper training on these products and technologies to avoid lapses in safety. Investing in education and reviewing your training program annually will result in a larger ROI, ensure consistent cleaning performance, reduce risk and improve employee retention.

Upgrade to non-toxic cleaning chemicals.

Traditional cleaning chemicals contain potentially toxic ingredients and strong fragrances that can aggravate conditions like allergies and asthma. Staff are cleaning more frequently than they were before, which is why it’s important to utilize an on-site generation (OSG) system to create non-irritating solutions with just water, salt and electricity. Otherwise known as electrochemically activated solutions (ECAS), the cleaner and disinfectant are compatible with one another and replace the majority of chemicals required to maintain a facility. This greatly limits the chances of employees creating unsafe chemical mixtures. Utilizing an OSG system also eliminates supply shortages that can result in staff having to use unfamiliar or unsafe chemicals.

Provide the proper PPE.

While using safer chemicals reduces reliance on PPE like gloves and eye protection, it is important for employers to give staff access to equipment that enhances peace of mind. This includes face masks in addition to disposable gloves and protective eyewear when needed. PPE adds an extra layer of protection against contagious viruses while also instilling confidence in building visitors that the facility takes their pandemic precautions seriously.

Offer continuing education and benefits.

Offering continuing education options, such as leadership courses through partnerships with local universities, shows your employees that you want to see them grow professionally within your organization. Give your employees additional educational opportunities by enrolling them in certification courses that expand upon best practices for maintaining safe facilities. Separately from cleaning and leadership courses, consider healthcare and 401(k) options that offer long-term benefits. This can set an organization apart from competitors, as most hourly employees in the cleaning profession do not have access to these benefits.

Show Your Appreciation

As custodians and cleaners continue their work on the frontline of the pandemic, managers can take steps to set their employees up for success. Providing training, safer chemical options, continuing education and rewarding benefits prove that an employer cares about employees. Showing your appreciation can promote a culture that values worker wellbeing and helps reduce employee turnover.

At GSF-USA, we’re proud to invest in our people and their wellbeing, now and after the pandemic. For more information, contact the GSF office nearest you. Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest updates.

How Green Cleaning Supports Indoor Air Quality

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality (IAQ) can often be two to five times worse than outdoor air quality. Indoor air pollution is problematic because it can have short-term and long-term effects on building occupants. Short term effects can include eye and nose irritation, headaches and fatigue, while long-term effects related to chronic exposure can range from respiratory illnesses to heart disease or even cancer.

Numerous types of indoor air pollutants make it difficult for facility managers to maintain good IAQ. These pollutants are often classified into three categories:

  • Biological pollutants: These pollutants often irritate allergy sufferers, and even those without allergies. They include mold, tree and flower pollen, pet dander and dust mites.
  • Chemical pollutants: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like acetone, ethanol and butanal are formed from carbon and other elements. These compounds vaporize at room temperature and are found in many household and commercial items. Other examples of chemical pollutants include lead and radon.
  • Combustion pollutants: These include carbon monoxide, a potentially deadly odorless, colorless and tasteless gas, and smoke from tobacco products.

A more sustainable approach to cleaning combined with tried-and-true tips can help facility managers overcome concerns about IAQ.

Successful Strategies for Improving IAQ

Many types of facilities have indoor air concerns, from hotels in warmer climates to restaurants with kitchen exhaust systems and schools welcoming children with asthma and allergies. It’s important to have a plan for improving IAQ levels over time.

Consider the following best practices for achieving and maintaining better indoor air quality:

Conduct indoor air quality testing.

Before taking steps to improve IAQ, it helps to know a facility’s current levels. This will provide a baseline and enable facility managers to track progress over time. Indoor air quality monitors (i.e., meters that detect IAQ) help managers determine current levels in comparison to indoor air quality standards and set goals for improvement.

Go green with your cleaning.

While a commitment to cleaning and disinfecting is essential, it’s also important for facility managers to take a close look at the types of chemicals being used and the overall impact of their cleaning program. Building service contractors (BSCs) should always use high-quality cleaning solutions that won’t add VOCs to the air. Fragrance-free and dye-free products are often preferred because they can avoid aggravating those with allergy sensitivities.

Some BSCs have even opted to use electrochemically activated solutions (ECAS) that are made from water, salt and electricity. These solutions are sustainable, much safer compared to traditional chemicals, and do not have any harmful additives. In addition to ECAS, there are many other green strategies that BSCs rely on to improve occupant health and safety, and minimize environmental concerns.

Follow a regular cleaning schedule.

Cleaning removes particles in indoor air, and those that have settled on or within surfaces. Regularly vacuuming with HEPA filtered vacuums can help remove allergens like dander, pollen and dust mites from carpet fibers and other types of flooring. Cleaning surfaces also removes dust and improves the look of a facility. Meanwhile, disinfecting kills bacteria that can become airborne. For every cleaning task, opting for sustainable chemicals, tools and equipment is preferred.  They not only reduce risks to cleaning professionals and building occupants, but they also help facilities limit water, energy and waste. Some green cleaning solutions are certified by reputable organizations like Green Seal or the Carpet and Rug Institute, which vouch for the effectiveness and safety of the product or service.

Conduct maintenance on indoor systems.

Regularly maintain ventilation systems and replace carbon monoxide detector batteries as needed. Air conditioning and dehumidifier systems are key to removing excess moisture from the air and eliminating warm and humid conditions that encourage dust mites and mold. Over time, air conditioning coils, pans and filters can become dirty, which negatively impacts the performance and energy usage. Improve air flow and extend the life of assets by following a regular cleaning schedule for equipment. Efficient air systems also reduce the risk that occupants will open windows, which can let in outdoor pollutants.

Be aware of poor IAQ causes and signs.

There are a range of symptoms and signs related to poor IAQ. If building occupants seem especially lethargic or frequently feel under the weather, it may be time to course correct the IAQ strategy to alleviate irritations. Cleaning staff and maintenance personnel should also know how to identify pollutants like mold and mildew. If a facility is smoke-free or pet-free, employees may need to reinforce these rules if they are broken to help maintain good IAQ.

Sustainability Supports Cleaner Indoor Air

Because poor indoor air quality can have an immense impact on the wellbeing of building occupants, it is important for facility managers to prioritize maintaining good IAQ. Regular cleaning and disinfecting can help remove and control indoor air pollutants while limiting the risk of health-related triggers. A sustainable approach is always preferred, as it tackles biological pollutants and keeps some chemical pollutants from being added to indoor air. With a green cleaning program in place, and compliance with the other best practices above, facility managers and BSCs can improve IAQ and ensure that every visitor has an exceptional experience in their buildings.

Achieve cleaner environments with the help of GSF-USA. For more information, contact the GSF office nearest you. Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest updates.

Proof of Clean in the Age of Covid-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in heightened awareness of the importance of cleaning among consumers and throughout facilities. In this new era of clean, it’s critical that facility managers and building service contractors (BSCs) are vocal about the steps they are taking to ensure facilities are clean and safe. Organizations can no longer rely on customers believing “if it smells clean, it must be clean.” Now, they need to provide “proof of clean” to instill confidence among customers and employees who may have doubts or fears about cleanliness and the spread of COVID-19 in their facility.

So how can facility managers reiterate that cleanliness is their top priority? Read on for tips about how to address concerns by making the cleaning process more visible.

How to Showcase your Commitment to Cleanliness

With so many uncertainties, facilities must continue to reiterate the steps their cleaning staff are taking to address viruses, bacteria, and other threats. Consider the following best practices to enhance your cleaning program and provide peace of mind for customers, occupants, and visitors.

Increase the frequency of cleaning.

Businesses should increase the frequency of cleaning in high-traffic areas where people may spread germs more easily. This allows cleaning professionals to regularly address the buildup of germs on surfaces such as doorknobs, handrails, elevator buttons, light switches, and more. Facility managers can also create a log that documents each area’s cleaning schedule and post it on a door or wall so it is highly visible to visitors.

Conduct daytime cleaning.

Prior to the current pandemic, many facilities would schedule general and deep cleanings overnight to avoid disruptions during the busiest hours of operation. To enhance transparency, consider rescheduling cleaning to daytime hours so customers can see cleaning taking place. This not only develops a level of trust between customers and your business, but it also boosts employee morale. Cleaning staff can work more desirable hours and will take pride in the fact that their employer is taking the proper steps to keep everyone safe.

Utilize on-site generation.

On-site generation (OSG) of electrochemically activated (ECA) solutions require just three ingredients. Facilities use water, salt, and electricity to produce a non-irritating and fragrance-free cleaner and disinfectant. OSG allows facilities to meet increased cleaning and sanitization requirements and protects against supply chain disruptions that could result in a shortage of conventional chemicals. With this approach, cleaning staff and customers won’t worry that your organization has run out of essential cleaning solutions or that subpar products are being used.

Select the best products and apply them correctly.

Using safe and effective solutions is key, especially during a pandemic. Although some chemicals such as bleach can kill many viruses and bacteria, the fumes are unsafe for cleaning staff, building occupants, and visitors. However, there are several ways to confirm your facility is using the appropriate products. Check the efficacy claims on the product label or review the EPA’s List N to see if the disinfectant is effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. If you opt for ECA solutions, confirm the on-site generation device is registered and approved to make cleaning and disinfecting solutions.

It’s also important for cleaning professionals to understand how to properly use each chemical. For example, every disinfectant and sanitizer has a dwell time, which is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “the amount of time that [it] must be in contact with the surface, and remain wet, in order to achieve the product’s advertised kill rate.” Chemicals are unique and their respective dwell times may differ. Closely following the manufacturer’s instructions ensures the products are working as intended.

Overcommunicate with employees and customers.

Businesses should develop and implement a thorough internal communications plan that informs employees of new cleaning practices and expectations. An external communications plan is also essential for clearly educating customers on cleaning and disinfecting strategies. Distribute this information via in-person training sessions with employees, customer e-newsletters, social media, wall posters, flyers, and tabletop signage.

Going Beyond “Good Enough”

If there’s anything that the pandemic has taught us, it is that the “good enough” approach to cleaning is no longer “good enough.” Many facility managers have had to readjust their cleaning programs to instill greater confidence among customers and employees. With a sound approach to cleaning in place that focuses on visible, thorough, and regular cleaning and disinfecting, organizations can mitigate uncertainties building occupants may have during their next visit.

Instill customer confidence in the age of COVID-19 with the help of GSF-USA. For more information, contact the GSF office nearest you. Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest updates.