Most of us have seen baby changing stations in public restrooms, and they are possibly already installed in buildings we manage or clean.
However, facility managers and cleaning professionals may not know that a bill called the BABIES bill was signed into law by President Obama near the end of his term. The BABIES bill refers to the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act, which requires all publically-accessible federal buildings to have baby changing stations for both women's and men’s restrooms.
While this law may not impact your facility now, it may in the future. Changes like these tend to eventually find their way into privately-owned commercial facilities. This means we can expect more building managers to install baby changing systems and more cleaning workers to be called upon to clean and maintain them.
Several regulations are now associated with baby changing stations, governing how high they must be above the floor, how far they can be from the wall (opened or closed), how much weight they can safely carry, and other viable configurations for when wall space is limited. Further, stations must comply with the Americans With Disability Act requirements and be wheelchair accessible.
Baby changing stations should also have the following health and safety features built in:
Here’s where things can get a bit messy. Cleaning professionals should assume most parents do not clean the station after use. Even if they do, they may just use a sanitary wipe, which is not sufficient for cleaning and disinfecting the surface.
With frequent use, baby changing stations can become home to numerous germs and bacteria. These could include coliforms, salmonella, and shigella, arising mainly from fecal matter.
Working with a local ABC affiliate in 2010, Dr. Michelle Barron of the University of Colorado Hospital conducted a germ and bacteria test of baby changing stations in a local mall, a library, different big-box stores, a coffee shop, an airport, a rest stop, three city-owned buildings, a fast-food restaurant, and even a hospital. According to an article posted by the network at www.thedenverchannel.com, the changing tables in a big-box store and a library tested positive for fecal matter; changing tables from all of the facilities in the experiment tested positive for bacteria. Even changing pads used by parents as a protectant tested positive for bacteria.
Baby changing stations should be cleaned throughout the day, based on usage. Cleaning professionals should follow these procedures for optimal results:
The Healthy Facilities Institute also reminds us that babies and young children are more sensitive than adults to chemicals and other irritants. While it’s typically not recommended to use products with fragrances, it’s important to remember to ventilate the restroom and clear the air of any odors that may linger from your cleaning products of choice.
Babies aren’t just more sensitive than adults to chemicals and odors; they are also more susceptible to germs. For that reason alone, consistently applying proper cleaning principles to baby changing stations is of vital importance and should not be overlooked.