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Be aggressive: Stop germs in their path

September 19, 2010
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While the likelihood that high-profile pathogens — such as SARS, Anthrax and other bio-terror threats — will hit commercial properties you clean is slim, 24-hour international news coverage makes the perceived threat of these germs seem very real.

While a person''s chances of dying of cancer or in a car crash are far greater than coming face-to-face with Anthrax, the general public''s perceptions of such infectious diseases continue to be magnified.

The impact of germs on facilities

Whether or not building services contractors (BSCs) or facility managers choose to address the health issue now, high-profile germs and the building''s sanitation and disinfection will continue to remain high on the list of occupants'' concerns.

But this heightened awareness of high-profile germs and pathogens doesn''t have to bring additional headaches for cleaning professionals.

In fact, it can actually be a positive thing by not only providing an opportunity to consider the environmental concerns in the marketplace today, but also presenting unlimited opportunities to be rewarded for exceptional cleaning services.

Industry professionals who clean for health, safety and the environment, in addition to aesthetic reasons, are poised to come out ahead as the public becomes more educated about germs.

A client who understands the value of cleaning and is seeking a germ-savvy BSC paired with a knowledgeable cleaning professional will result in a properly cleaned facility.

Everyday germs lurk in commercial properties

In most situations, it''s not Anthrax, Norwalk or SARS that pose the greatest threat to building occupants; everyday germs are more likely to sicken many people.

Building occupants expect their facilities to be clean. Providing a workplace where the facility''s frequently used areas are sanitized and disinfected should be part of the daily cleaning program.

As the winter season quickly approaches, consider contagious influenza (commonly referred to as "the flu") which can result in symptoms, such as: Mild fever, fatigue, chills, muscle aches, and even more severe and life-threatening complications.

Influenza viruses are primarily spread through droplets from a cough or sneeze.

In a commercial property, the virus can spread when a person touches respiratory emissions from another person, and then touches his own mouth or nose before washing his hands.

Objects that can be contaminated include:

  • Desks
  • Cafeteria tables
  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Elevator buttons
  • Telephones

Some viruses can even live two or more hours on such surfaces.

Although illnesses like SARS, the common cold, or the flu can be spread by hand-to-hand contact, a survey sponsored by the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) found that many people aren''t washing their hands in public places and are consequently exposing others to infection.

The ASM study also found that more than 30 percent of people using restrooms in New York City airports didn''t stop to wash their hands.

Assuming the same percentage of occupants in the facilities you clean are not washing their hands, the building''s frequently touched areas are probably covered with germs.

Since you can''t rely on building occupants to do their part, the work of cleaning professionals is vital to reducing these everyday hazards.

Germs truly are your business

Controlling outbreaks of sickness is more than a health issue; it''s a financial one.

Absent employees equate to missed work and missed opportunities.

For building occupants, the flu can mean a week of misery, but consider this from a business point of view.

Flu-related absenteeism, decreased productivity, and increased health care expenses were predicted to cost the economy as much as $20 billion this year.

That''s a hefty fee to pay when the problem can be minimized through proper cleaning protocols.

Proper sanitation and disinfecting procedures

Whether tackling invisible germs or unsightly mildew, cleaning professionals can help building occupants stay healthy with regular use of EPA-approved disinfectants.

Even if a surface appears to be clean, many infectious germs may still linger.

A disinfectant will help ensure that those germs are eliminated, but when dealing with blood-borne pathogens or bodily fluids, be sure to follow Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) guidelines on products and methods of cleaning.

As another warning, most workers use these products by spraying them directly onto surfaces.

A better practice is to moisten the cloth first by spraying it at close range or to apply the solution directly to the surface without spraying.

This will cut down on inhalation of toxic chemicals, benefiting you and your tenants.

Next, cleaning professionals should have a program that is productive.

Because of the many different types of surfaces found in a building, you should use disinfecting products that are fast and reliable.

For example, a multi-purpose disinfecting spray and glass cleaner can save time and simplify cleaning.

This disinfectant should also have a broad efficacy against a range of bacteria.

Having one product that can be used for many applications will both reduce the need for multiple products and eliminate the risk of choosing the wrong product for the job.

Most importantly, a disinfecting all-purpose spray can be used to wipe down and disinfect nearly everything building occupants touch, including switch plates, telephones and door knobs — especially those in common areas.

Cleaning professionals will also appreciate effective, reliable products that perform well and cut down on cleaning time.

Positive reinforcement

In addition to cleaning and disinfecting all areas of a building where germs can be spread, reinforcing cleanliness to occupants is of significant value.

After all, they want the constant impression that the facility is clean. This can be achieved in several ways:

  • If the facility is cleaned throughout the day, cleaning professionals should openly use spray bottles and disinfecting cleaners. This will reinforce to building occupants that the appropriate products are being used. Since germs aren''t visible to the naked eye, this can give the building occupants assurance of clean as they see the products being used.
  • Offer building occupants the opportunity to wipe down frequently used areas if they choose. By providing paper towels and bottles of a recognized disinfectant cleaner in a designated place at the facility, occupants will have the impression that owners care about their health.
  • Post signs in bathrooms and common areas that tout the importance of hand washing and how neglecting to do so can spread bacteria. By educating tenants on the statistics of bacteria-breeding, they may think twice before leaving the restroom without washing their hands.

With the growing concern of certain diseases comes a heightened awareness of epidemic germs that building occupants believe can threaten their facilities.

Cleaning professionals should stay informed of these threats and execute a productive daily cleaning program that addresses the everyday germs that can make many people ill.

Pete Self is a section head with P&G Professional, the Commercial division of Cincinnati, OH-based Procter & Gamble. Self — who helped to develop the P&G Pro Line® brand of commercial cleaners — holds a degree in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and has worked at P&G for 25 years.

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