Issues surrounding infection control and cleaning's role have forced manufacturers and end-users to reassess their products, systems and procedures. Today, facility managers and building occupants are able to connect the dots between clean surfaces and healthy environments. Cleaning workers can strategically safeguard their facilities from outbreak by implementing certain infection control measures, such as focusing on commonly touched surfaces and encouraging proper hand-washing.
Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine recently interviewed Felicia Roy, trade advisor for Cascades Tissue Group, to discuss these preventative infection control measures.
Cleaning & Maintenance Management: In what specific ways can professional cleaning workers help control infection outbreaks in a facility?
Felicia Roy: Professional cleaning workers have many ways to help control infection outbreaks in a facility. In fact, a proper hand-washing protocol is necessary to be followed in every location in a facility. It is a well known fact that the average person does not have proper hand-washing habits. Even with the research and education done on the topic, most employees do not follow the best prescribed hand-washing protocols. Most people wash their hands inadequately, that is, for approximately 10 seconds on average instead of the 20 to 40 second recommended by health officials. Drying is the most important step in the hand-washing routine, but it is often forgotten or done rapidly. Wet hands pick up and transfer up to 1,000 times the number of bacteria as dry hands and provide the moisture and warmth that bacteria need to grow. The result is simple; poor hygiene can lead to contamination.
Moreover, the supplies used in the facility have a repercussion on the control of infection outbreaks. Facility managers and workers should carefully choose the products and dispensing systems installed and used in their plants. Hand free dispensing system, as paper towel dispensers and wiper dispensers, are a good way to use a sanitary system with a great feature minimizing cross-contamination.
CMM: How can products, such as color coded equipment or hand free towel dispensing, assist these efforts?
FR: In my opinion, an important concern for facility managers regarding the control of infection outbreaks would be the assurance that plants are thoroughly cleaned and that staff is trained to ensure proper cleaning procedures. Accessible and easy to maintain cleaning systems would also offer great benefits to operators, while reducing training time and ensuring cross contamination prevention.
A color-coded towel system along with proper sanitizing procedures can be a solution to help eliminate the risks of cross-contamination by keeping cleaning functions separate and distinct. A color-coded towel system can help identify certain cleaning tasks with a specific color coded towel, which is a method that is simple to implement and easy to visually monitor. Cross-contamination can be caused by a towel that is used to clean all surfaces. Implementing a color-coded towel system greatly reduce these risks.
At the washing stations and restrooms, workers can reduce contamination by using hands free towel dispensing systems, therefore eliminating the contact with the dispenser.
CMM: What other measures should cleaning department or building service contractors (BSCs) take to grow awareness of infection control and preventative steps?
FR: In plants, some obstacles can keep employees from adopting proper hand-washing habits. Tools are unavailable or inconveniently located; no clear signage or reinforcement exist; the schedule includes high turnover rates; health risks are not understood or recognized by employees due to lack of education. A lot of obstacles can therefore be simply addressed by employers; by offering proper hand-washing and drying tools, access to quality information, and by including hygiene routines in the schedule. As examples, employees could be encouraged to wash their hands after using the bathroom, after using a public phone, when one is sick and after sneezing or coughing.
It is a fact: most people do not do a good enough job of washing their hands and do not follow the best prescribed hand-washing protocols. As much as 80 percent of infections are transmitted by hands.