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Management And Training

Attention to detail: Why cleaners should care

September 19, 2010
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“Wash your hands before dinner,” “Clean your room,” and “Don’t forget to vacuum under the bed.”

These are common phrases used by mothers all over the world.

As children, we dread being told to perform such tedious and torturous tasks.

But as adults, existing in a society where an estimated 155 million people develop asthma caused by the release of pollutants into the air, we are forced to concede that, in this case, mother knows best.

Maintaining adequate cleaning standards is essential to our quality of life.

On a broad scale, establishing and enforcing — or ignoring and neglecting — certain standards of cleanliness can greatly impact our society.

Seeing is believing
For example, back in the late 1980s, graffiti on New York City subway cars was seen as an invitation for criminal behavior.

It not only created a sense of lawlessness, but it instilled daily fear in commuters, making it appear that New York City was not in a position to properly manage its subway system.

Once the graffiti problem was under control, the city and its residents experienced an instant satisfaction with measurable results.

By cleaning the subway cars, a message was sent to the vandals: Their crimes would not be tolerated and the health and safety of its residents is paramount.

Nearly 30 years later, New York City’s subway system is strictly monitored to prohibit such disarray from ever happening again.

Why promote quality?
Just as the poor conditions of the subways affected the physical and mental status of commuting New Yorkers, the atmosphere in our workplaces can create the same uneasiness.

In a world where the average American spends over 10 hours a day at work, in an enclosed structure, building-related illnesses are increasingly contributing to absenteeism and reduced productivity.

As a result of consumer health and safety concerns, cleaning professionals focus on improving the quality of the indoor environment.

Property owners have begun to seek a regularized maintenance regime with the intent to clean for health, not appearance, which is when the accumulation of soil becomes visible.

By developing innovative ways to ensure that a high-quality job performance is not only implemented, but also successfully monitored, the cleaning and maintenance industry plays a vital role in relation to the health and safety of a building’s tenants.

Assuring results
Janitorial service providers have begun to employ quality control experts to make unexpected visits and regularly monitor properties in their portfolios.

From the highly visible windows to the obscure base of a light fixture, a careful assessment of every aspect of a building’s hygiene and cleanliness is meticulously recorded.

These efficient and frequent inspections are key to maintaining high quality maintenance cleaning services and increasing objectivity as well as productivity.

Quality control efforts administered through routine checks ensure that cleaning inconsistencies are not ignored.

It is often the simple and routine maintenance procedures that are not consistently executed and can easily morph into more complex, cumbersome problems for both the property owner and the tenants.

The effects of neglecting cleaning maintenance duties, such as vacuuming and dusting furniture and heating vents, can lead to asthma, allergies, and other health- and safety-related risks.

Contributing factors
For example, carpet affects the air quality of an indoor environment.

Acting as an environmental sieve, carpet fibers firmly clutch impurities from the air that we breathe.

Without frequent ventilation of carpet, dirt buildup and contaminants begin to negatively affect the quality of air.

According to Michael A. Berry, Ph.D., former deputy director for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Criteria and Assessment Office, “The single leading cause of poor indoor air quality in built environments today is poor maintenance.”

Carpet and upholstery must be cleaned to remove trapped contaminants before they overflow and are released back into the indoor air.

Through frequent vacuuming and periodic professional cleanings, indoor air quality can be drastically improved.

Another example is the presence of mold in the workplace due to lack of adequately implemented cleaning quality control standards.

Mold thrives on the everyday dust and dirt that accumulate in moist areas and as it grows, it can become harmful to an indoor environment.

Also, improper maintenance procedures can cause elevated humidity levels in a structure, resulting in the growth of mold.

The potential health concerns related to long-term mold exposure can lead to allergic responses with hay fever-type symptoms, such as a runny nose, red eyes, and dry cough, as well as asthma attacks, and, in some cases, mucosal infections and skin irritations.

Benefits of a quick response
When water leaks or drips, instant action to fix and effectively clean the problem, usually within 48 hours, must be taken.

Executing routine janitorial and maintenance duties, such as cleaning, drying, and removal of water-damaged materials, drastically reduces the risk of indoor mold accumulation and prevents future growth.

Through documentation, such as checklists, logbooks, and digital photos, facility maintenance providers are able to accurately and consistently measure, record and communicate results to both the maintenance staff and building management.

Detailed reports highlighting the status of a building include both positive and negative observations as well as instructions and suggestions for improvement.

A typical report might suggest anything from reminding the porter to use a clean rag to noting that two light bulbs are out in the conference room.

In relation to the growth of mold, pinpointing areas where leaks have occurred and identifying the causes enable preventive action to be taken so that the problem does not spiral out of control.

Implementing this form of quality control also allows for the establishment of a healthy and effective working relationship between the service provider and the client.

By expanding the line of communication, the customization of the building owner’s needs is made clear and attainable.

As cleaning and maintenance continues to play an important role in our daily lives, the utilization of quality control methods to maintain high-level maintenance standards is essential to the health and safety of our society.

More specifically, exceptional health and safety standards must be an integral part of our workplace environment.

There will always be janitorial work to do and, if standards are not properly maintained via quality control, this work could become harmful to our quality of life.


Michael Rodriguez is the president of Alliance Building Services. In addition to First Quality Maintenance, one of the New York metropolitan area’s leading facility service contractors, the Alliance family includes: Classic Security, Bright Star Couriers, and Onyx Restoration Services. ABS clients include: Commerce Bank, The Moinian Group, Swig Equities, Murray Hill Properties, Newmark & Co., and Cushman & Wakefield.
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