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Infection Control

As Seen On The Big Screen

November 10, 2011
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If you haven''t seen the blockbuster movie Contagion yet, I urge you to do so.

As a professional working in the cleaning industry, you''ll see this movie speaks to why cleaning is so important.

It underscores the critical role cleaning professionals play in protecting the health and safety of people and the environment.

Contagion follows the transmission of a virus strain that kills one in five people within days.

What the movie does best is highlight how people rarely pay attention to how much they touch things in public and how often they touch their faces, then repeat.

A line in the movie suggests the average person touches his or her face up to 1,000 times a day.

The movie features a series of carefully placed scenes that show all the different ways the fatal virus is spread via fomites — inanimate objects that may be contaminated with infectious organisms and serve in their transmission — like doorknobs, credit cards, empty glasses, napkins, a bowl of peanuts, airplanes, handshakes, etc.

In one scene, a child infected with the virus is shown in a school wiping his nose, touching door handles and hand rails, spreading the virus with each touch.

The average person might view these scenes and immediately feel the urge to wash their hands or reach for the hand sanitizer.

But, for those who work in the cleaning industry, we quickly wonder, "Where are the cleaning workers; where is the disinfectant; why is no one frequently cleaning the highly touched objects like doorknobs, railings and elevator buttons?"

Cleaning organizations have the power to protect the public from infection from both worldwide pandemics and everyday viruses like influenza and common colds.

Organizations hold that power when they adhere to best practices and standard operating procedures, ensure workers follow the right procedures with a comprehensive technical training program and perform risk assessments.

CIMS As A Guide

ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) is a great guide that cleaning organizations can use to implement best practices and maintain strong cleaning and infection control protocols on a daily basis.

The quality system component of CIMS ensures organizations define and meet cleaning requirements.

It defines service levels and cleaning frequencies.

Risk assessments and inspections help organizations quickly discover why it is important to clean and what happens when cleaning procedures are not followed.

The service delivery section covers workloading and staffing so facilities are covered with the necessary number of full-time equivalent (FTE) cleaning workers.

Human resources requires organizations to have a training policy so workers are performing cleaning and disinfection procedures effectively.

Health, safety and environmental stewardship protects workers with the requirement of personal protective equipment when cleaning around infectious materials, and management commitment ensures policies and procedures are in place and followed.

Contagion coincidentally hit theaters at the start of the annual cold and flu season.

It is perfect timing for reminding the general public — and cleaning organizations — just how essential cleaning is to preventing the spread of infection.

When moviegoers watch the scenes of the film that focus on hands touching the same surfaces we all encounter daily, they will understand how quickly contaminated surfaces aid in the spread of viruses.

Moreover, it becomes incredibly easy to explain what the consequences are for not following cleaning practices and to point out the value of cleanliness and hygiene.

David Frank is a 30-year industry veteran and the president of the American Institute for Cleaning Science. AICS is the registrar for the ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) certification program.

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