Infection control is a complex and fascinating subject, one that has life and death consequences every day for personal and public health around the world.
This is one area where cleaning professionals and our related industries have an opportunity to make a difference that matters — and they have a responsibility to do so.
The reality is that millions of preventable deaths occur each year around the world because of infection control failures.
Why Infection Control Is Important
Simply put, people get sick and die because of the actions or lack of action of others.
We face many challenges in this process, with the risk and seriousness of preventing cross infection growing every day.
As we pick up the kids, go to work and run from here to there, microbes, bacteria and viruses are fast at work fighting for survival by evolving into more contagious and lethal forms.
On one hand, we must be careful to not overdo our reaction to these challenges, as doing so leads to resistance, adaptation and mutation, which means the "bugs" learn to eat the poisons we use to control and kill them.
To overcome this adaptability, we must prioritize what we use and where we use it based on the seriousness of the risks present.
We are also faced with new microorganisms from other parts of the world, some of which have jumped species from animals to humans and mutated to combine with other organisms to make their transmission easier, faster and more deadly.
Our best defenses to these real and growing life and death challenges are awareness, education and prevention.
Everyone needs to be aware of the threat to health that disease-causing microorganisms present on a daily basis, as well as how to prevent them from spreading.
This includes not only those working in the cleaning industry who may be at greater risk of infection, but also our family members and friends.
We need to know the risks and talk up prevention on a regular basis.
Those of us who supervise, manage and perform cleaning tasks need to take a special interest in the subject and make sure we are up to date on the latest health threats and prevention measures.
Evolving Science, Technology And Trends
Infection control is one area where an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure.
It starts with the simple task of washing one''s hands frequently and after every encounter with a serious contact point exposure.
If this can''t be done, regular use of hand sanitizer is the next best thing.
Two other basic concepts that will help keep others safe are an awareness and use of the "barrier concept."
Separate yourself from potentially infectious materials with gloves, a respirator, glasses and whatever other mechanisms you need to prevent exposure and transmission.
Just as we consider all blood and bodily fluids to be potentially contaminated, I think the only safe approach is to consider all visible soil and contact points as being contaminated with potentially infectious materials.
The most common way infections get transmitted from one person to another is by coming in contact with an infectious source.
It could be from touching a contact point or person who is contaminated who then transfers the infectious material to your body.
The next most common transmission route is inhalation, such as when someone sneezes nearby and you inhale droplets.
Cleaning and disinfection play key roles in preventing cross infection in all types of facilities.
Over the last couple of years, there has been a leap forward in knowledge and public awareness regarding infection control and how to limit one''s exposure.
There has also been progress in research regarding what is truly effective in cleaning and disinfection processes and products.
Cleaning professionals either play a key role in infection control or can be a contamination source depending on how they go about their work.
The more you know, the better protected you will be.
Wm R. Griffin is president of the International Custodial Advisors Network Inc. (ICAN) is a non-profit association comprised of industry consultants with a wide range of expertise in building management, indoor environmental and service disciplines. This network provides free janitorial and building maintenance consultation service to the industry through the Cleaning Management Institute.