Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Invest Wisely In Restroom Technology

September 19, 2010

For too many years, cleaners simply answered the call by satisfying customer demands for "shiny" surface appearances.

Custodians would take to the job with mop and bucket in hand and be armed with the latest chemical innovations of the day.

In the restroom, for example, workers would go back and forth, side to side and wipe and clean, which were the common cleaning procedures of the day.

At the end of the work, restrooms were clear of debris, dirt, wasted paper goods, trash, gunk, wads, overflows and so on.

And, often for minimum wage, the worker continued on to complete the rest of the day''s work — many times using the same contaminated equipment.

Go Figure

Today, we have the ability, through scientific research, industry papers, case studies and expert analysis, to conclude that old cleaning practices were ineffective, unsanitary and did not adequately protect user and occupant health.

Cleaning practices, such as back and forth and side to side, repeated over an extended period of time, such as five days a week for eight or more hours a day, can result in a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).

MSDs can affect the body''s muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves.

Most work-related MSDs develop over time and are caused either by the work itself or by the employees'' working environment.

It should come as no surprise then that recent workers'' compensation data from the state of Washington shows that six out of every 100 janitors report lost-time injuries every year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continues to rank the cleaning worker among the top careers where most workplace injuries occur.

Not only can these injuries present legal, financial and reputation troubles, fatigue and other setbacks to productivity arise as well.

As mentioned, traditional, mundane cleaning practices were ineffective and often spread germs and bacteria throughout the facility rather than remove the risk.

In addition, restroom designs of the past welcomed excessive waste, vandalism and other unsustainable acts.

Over the past decade, cleaning departments and building service contractors (BSCs) have been asked to do more with less.

However, with recent news of pandemics, and as the public is becoming more aware of cross contamination issues, restroom cleaners are asked to do much more — under budget constraints — with much less.

Where''s The Focus?

"Several years ago, our industry realized we do much more than put a shine on floors — we [have the ability to] keep people healthy," asserts Mike Nelson, vice president of marketing for Pro-Link Inc. "This realization has been intensified in recent years because of concerns about H1N1 and other threats to public health, especially in the cleaning and maintenance of restrooms."

While properly disinfecting high-touch surfaces is required to protect human health and minimize cross contamination, function and aesthetics are still critical.

"Basically, 50 percent of all complaints associated with a building are centered [on] the restroom," notes Paul Offutt, vice president and general manager of the professional products division for SonicScrubbers LLC. "Half of those complaints typically have to deal with supply issues," including paper products, soap, seat liners, etc.

Odor control is also a top issue.

Malodor can negate a customer''s positive perception of clean, especially in restrooms.

Furthermore, bad odors could be a sign of bacterial growth or foul, faulty drain lines.

It Still Comes Down To Labor

The cost of labor in most restroom care situations accounts for the majority of expenses.

And, as cleaners depart as a result of cutbacks, fewer employees must get the job done.

An investment in your current employees'' health will reap productivity, morale and infection control benefits.

"If you''ve got fewer people to do the same amount of area, the only way you can effectively clean and maintain a sanitary building is by investing in tools that will allow you to increase productivity, while still decreasing costs," says Offutt.

One modern innovation, cites Offutt, that can help achieve high productivity and lower costs in several areas is the hand-held mechanized cleaning tool.

"Logic dictates that if you use mechanization versus a manual process, you''ll have increased productivity," says Offutt.

According to industry studies, a 42 percent increase in productivity was realized when using a mechanical hand-held process.

The industry also features several other product innovations that are helping to keep workers safe from developing MSDs.

"When it comes to labor savings, [end users] should look into ways to automate restroom cleaning using touchless transport systems," adds Nelson. "There are many benefits to these types of systems — speed, health, cost savings [and] performance — that many managers and facility service providers see not as an expense, but as an investment in facility care."

Restroom care product technology has been rapidly evolving in recent years.

Users who are still using antiquated ways to clean are not only ineffective, but behind the times as well.