Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
April 2014 Feature 3

Floorcare, Finances, Audits And Health

Contracting, chemicals and other considerations for cleaning operations.

April 3, 2014

Some healthcare and long-term care facilities are re-evaluating their hiring procedures, and for building service contractors (BSCs) this could be a great opportunity.

Specifically, more of these facilities are considering whether it is in their best interest to outsource certain services instead of hiring staff to perform them.

While many healthcare/long-term care facilities will likely continue to have some in-house people handling daily cleaning tasks, the larger and more involved work, such as floorcare and similar tasks, are the ones they are considering farming out to contract cleaners.

For these facilities, there are many advantages to hiring BSCs to perform cleaning work.

Among the advantages are:

  • Financial: When contracting out cleaning services, administrators have little or no internal employment costs. For example taxes; health insurance; workers’ compensation insurance; added payroll and accounting tasks; and so on.
  • Supervision: When in-house cleaning workers handle cleaning tasks, they must be supervised. When a BSC is hired to provide these services, supervision is the responsibility of the contractor.
  • Training: Training is no longer an in-house concern. With a contract service, proper training is again the responsibility of the company providing the cleaning services.
  • Equipment: Typically, the BSC will provide all of the needed cleaning tools, chemicals and equipment. If cleaning work is performed by an in-house staff, the healthcare/long-term care facility will need to purchase these tools.
  • Green: Related to training, the professional cleaning industry has, in many sectors, evolved into the professional “green cleaning” industry. Many contract services are aware of green cleaning and understand what it is all about. Administrators at a healthcare/long-term care facility may not be as attuned to this evolution.

While these are just some of the potential benefits of using a contract cleaning service, healthcare/long-term care facilities must realize there may be some drawbacks to using a BSC.

For instance, the potential contractor must understand that cleaning a healthcare/long-term care facility is not the same as cleaning an office ... or even a school, for that matter.

Both types of care facilities typically serve elderly people with more compromised immune systems.

Further, pathogens that can cause illness may be present in a long-term care facility that are not found in many other types of facilities.

What’s more, people in these facilities are more likely to have a serious accident should they fall.

And floors may be more likely to have spills on them along with other debris.

This is why proper floorcare is such a key consideration in healthcare/long-term care facilities.

What Proper Floorcare Looks Like

Just as these locations differ from other types of facilities, so do their floorcare needs.

Most healthcare/long-term care facilities will have a mixture of carpets and hard-surface flooring.

While there are no exact figures, the trend in recent years has been to install hard-surface floors such as vinyl composite tiles (VCT) and similar floors.

The main reason, among others, is that if spills occur on these floors, they can easily be cleaned up.

This is not necessarily the case with carpet, so more facilities have been steering away from carpeted flooring.

Working with administrators, the first step healthcare facilities should take in creating a proper floorcare program is to do a floorcare audit.

This should be performed whether hiring an outside vendor, BSC or turning floorcare tasks over to in-house crews.

View the floorcare program as the “playbook” on how you want floors to be cared for and the floorcare audit as the foundation for the playbook.

The audit should look into the following.

The use of each floor.

A floor in a main entry is likely more important than a back hallway used just by staff.

Because of this, the entry is apt to need more cleaning, care and attention.

Special needs floors.

Some hard-surface floors, no matter where they are located, may need more care and attention than others.

While a VCT floor is relatively easy to care for, a wood or stone floor may require much more time and attention.

Which floors need to be “finished.”

The audit will determine which floors are to be finished and which are not.

For instance, for the main entry floor mentioned earlier, administrators may want a high-gloss shine.*

For that back hallway, adding a finish may not be as necessary.

Time and cost allotment.

Time and cost tie in with all the other items discussed here.

Floorcare can be costly.

A determination should be made as to how much time and money to spend on each floor area.

Very often, it is best to determine these metrics working with an astute floorcare professional or a janitorial distributor familiar with floorcare issues.

Putting The Audit Into Action

With the audit completed, the next steps include determining the frequency of floorcare tasks, by whom, when, and if implementing a green floorcare strategy, what tools, chemicals and equipment are required.

Frequency of services would include such things as how often floors are dust mopped, or a healthier and faster alternative, using a vacuum with HEPA cartridge for improved filtration.

This would also include floor mopping, floor scrubbing using an automatic scrubber, and stripping and refinishing the floors.

The frequency of each task performed can vary depending on the findings of the audit.

The next issue to consider is when the work is to be performed.

The majority of lighter floor care duties, such as vacuuming, can often be performed while staff and patients/residents are present.

Some recently introduced vacuums are exceptionally quiet and should not cause a disturbance.

For the heavier tasks, however, it is best to perform these when they will cause the least amount of disruption.

Further, when performing more detailed floorcare work, it is imperative that floor areas be closed off to both patients/residents, visitors and staff.

An Environmentally Responsible Strategy

Because greening floorcare is so important, especially in these locations, it is being discussed separately here.

A green floorcare program encompasses the use of what can be termed environmentally responsible equipment, chemicals and cleaning frequencies.

Depending on the floor type, carpeting or hard floor, it’s important to make sure there is proper filtration or dust containment where applicable.

With vacuums, for example, you’ll want to ensure there is a HEPA filter cartridge.

These measures help improve the indoor air quality of the healthcare facility that’s being cleaned.

Some facilities also want machines that use less water and chemical.

In this case, they can turn to cylindrical brush floor machines, which can do more of the “elbow work” using less water and chemical.

These machines use counter-rotating brushes that can reach and remove embedded soils in tile and grout.

The proper selection of floorcare chemicals is vital to an environmentally responsible floorcare program.

There are more floorcare chemicals now available, from strippers to finishes, that are green-certified.

In most cases, administrators or contractors will find that these alternatives for conventional floorcare chemicals perform well and are cost effective.

If not, an astute distributor should be called in to offer suggestions of chemicals that will have a reduced impact on health and the environment.

Part of such a floorcare strategy is also to reduce floor refinishing cycles.

It is when floors are being refinished that cleaning workers, in-house or contracted, are most exposed to the potential harmful effects of these products.

And, if workers are impacted, facility staff, visitors and patients/residents will be as well.

One of the best ways to reduce refinishing cycles is to increase daily floorcare tasks.

This also helps keep floors cleaner, safer and healthier for all who use and live in a long-term care facility.

*BSCs and administrators should keep in mind that the primary reason for applying a finish to a floor is to protect the floor from scratches, debris, moisture and so on. The shine is a side benefit.

 

Sean Martschinke has been involved with the professional cleaning industry for nearly a decade. Today he serves as the product manager for Tornado Industries, a leading manufacturer of professional floorcare and other cleaning tools and equipment. He may be reached through his company website at www.TornadoVac.com.