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Infection Control

Academia: A new frontier for infection control

September 19, 2010
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With the rise of infectious outbreaks in academic facilities, school administrators, PTAs, and local communities have started looking at cleaning programs as a means of control and prevention.

Previously known to health care facilities, infectious bacteria have recently become evident in small rural elementary schools, well-funded suburban high schools, large universities, and private colleges across the country.

As a result, facility managers in academic buildings are looking to infection control measures taken in health care to help prevent an outbreak from occurring at their school.

One of the most effective approaches a facility manager can take against infectious bacteria is implementing a comprehensive cleaning and disinfectant system, including disinfectants, microfiber cleaning tools, and staff training program.

This approach will help reduce the opportunity of an outbreak and also limit the impact on the health and safety of cleaning workers and the environment.

Why microfiber?
Several benefits of microfiber were highlighted in a 1999 study by the University of California Davis Medical Center (UCDMC), which showed that bacteria was reduced by 99 percent after cleaning with a microfiber mop compared to a 30 percent reduction when cleaning with a conventional mopping system.

The implementation of microfiber cloths and tools alone, when used properly, can help reduce harmful bacteria.

Meanwhile, microfiber has other benefits for educational facilities.

These benefits include:
  • It’s the “green” thing to do. With the increasing focus on green operations, more educational facilities are going green. According to a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), using microfiber as opposed to conventional mopping methods can reduce water use by up to 95 percent. Using microfiber also reduces the need for chemicals and paper supplies, which can have a negative impact on the environment.
  • Improved worker safety. The less water and fewer chemicals needed, the less workers are required to lift and wring heavy mops. Furthermore, in hospitals, workers are required to change the mopping solution after every third room using conventional mopping systems. This requires extensive carrying and lifting of heavy buckets, which can weigh 30 pounds or more. With microfiber mops, workers are only required to change the mop head. This also helps reduce spills, which lowers the risk of slip-and-fall injuries.
  • Improved indoor air quality. Using microfiber improves indoor air quality, because its magnetic qualities help capture harmful particulates known to pollute the indoor environment. In the 2006 Capital E study, “Greening America’s Schools, Costs and Benefits,” it was found that green building techniques, can improve indoor air quality resulting in improved student health (e.g., reductions in asthma attacks, headaches, and respiratory problems). Another study, cited in the same report, showed that green schools can reduce student absenteeism by 70 percent while improving student performance.
  • Cost reduction. With less chemical and water consumption, overall costs are reduced after implementing a microfiber program. According to the UC Davis study, chemical costs using a conventional mopping system can be as much as $11.55 per 100 rooms. When using microfiber, this cost is reduced to 50 cents per 100 rooms.
  • In addition to product savings, microfiber also saves up to 20 percent of labor costs. Because workers aren’t lifting heavy buckets, their productivity increases, which means more areas can be cleaned and a higher level of cleanliness can be achieved.
While microfiber is easy to implement and use, it is different from a traditional cleaning program; therefore, training is necessary to ensure its safe and effective use.

When training workers in cleaning practices against infectious outbreaks, it is essential to include both how certain tasks are performed and why they are executed a certain way.

As studies show, this will increase the efficacy of the program.

The following fundamental steps also help in training:
  1. Secure buy-in from the staff before implementing a new program. Let them try products at home and ask for their feedback. This will make them more receptive to the new program.
  2. When implementing the program, thoroughly educate all employees on how and why to use the tools and cleaning products.
  3. Ask for feedback once the program has been implemented. Do the workers still like using the system? Do they have suggestions for improved processes that will maintain or improve the integrity of the cleaning program?
Ultimately, combating infectious outbreaks in educational facilities requires a comprehensive microfiber cleaning and disinfecting program with renewed attention to processes and training.

While giving staff the tools they need to properly combat bacteria is important, it is equally important to secure staff buy-in by explaining why cleaning is an imperative component of the process.

By looking to health care cleaning operations, as an example, educational facilities can implement microfiber in conjunction with a cleaning and disinfecting program to help prevent an infectious outbreak at their school.

Successful cooperation
Securing staff buy-in is a common challenge facility managers face when implementing any new program.

For example, George Thomlison, from the University of Alberta, regularly tests new products and techniques with the staff, and therefore experiences little resistance to new programs.

By placing new products in staff members’ hands and soliciting their input, facility managers can gain cooperation and respect.

Cameron Adams is the sector manager of marketing for government and education for JohnsonDiversey North America. For more information, go to
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