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Welcoming a Green Seal audit of your GS-42 certified cleaning service

September 19, 2010
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Unlike an IRS audit, a Green Seal audit of your cleaning service can be a very pleasant experience. Why?

Once your cleaning service is certified under Green Seal’s GS-42, the annual auditing or monitoring process to maintain certification can help keep your green cleaning operation fine-tuned.

Also, since GS-42 is a third-party, science-based, environmental leadership standard, being GS-42 certified — and maintaining that certification — sets a cleaning operation apart from the competition.

Not every cleaning service will be able to maintain its certification.

If you are thinking of seeking Green Seal certification for your cleaning service, and then ensuring that you stay certified under GS-42, consider what a Green Seal GS-42 green cleaning audit entails, how your operation can pass with flying (green) colors and reap the benefits.

The GS-42 auditor cometh
When a Green Seal auditor arrives at your facility, what does he or she look for?

Basically, each auditor will look for compliance in five areas: Planning; products, supplies and equipment; cleaning procedures; communication; and training.

The following are tips for success, based on the main requirement sections of GS-42, to help your service or facility get a green light during a GS-42 audit.

Success tip: Planning
Develop and maintain a set of written standard operating procedures that is available to all cleaning personnel and clients.

Have a building-specific green cleaning plan in place covering communications and feedback, schedules, specifics on floor maintenance, high-traffic areas, vulnerable populations, special areas, Integrated Pest Management, etc.

Have a plan for use and quarterly maintenance of powered equipment and a plan for phasing out equipment that doesn’t meet the standard’s criteria.

Success tip: Products and equipment
Use only environmentally preferable products certified by a recognized eco-label or designated by a national program.

New powered cleaning equipment must meet the criteria of the standard and equipment that doesn’t must be phased out.

Success tip: Procedures
Chemicals should be used efficiently to limit waste and exposure.

Reduce solid waste by minimizing packaging, reusing supplies, and recycling.

Entryways must be frequently cleaned and feature plenty of walk-off matting.

Use EPA-registered disinfectants only where needed and as directed.

Clean and disinfect restrooms, but do not mingle equipment used with other areas.

Surfaces in dining areas and break rooms should be cleaned and sanitized daily.

Trash and recycling: Inspect and pull as needed, work with management to support their program.

Collect debris from indoor plants and keep away from carpet and vents, control watering as well.

Vulnerable populations should reduce their exposure to and use of chemicals.

Success tip: Communication
Develop a plan with owners, managers and occupants to ensure good communication with cleaning staff and managers.

Through this plan, your cleaning service will need to:
  1. Provide training for staff and two-way communication.
  2. Facilitate a reduction in cleaning and treatments (e.g., reduce clutter, spill prevention, and reporting procedures).
  3. Notify managers of cleaning products used; make a list of all chemicals and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) available and provide a contact person for the building.
  4. Connect regularly with manager(s) about the special needs of occupants and have a mitigation plan.
Success tip: Training
Make sure that all cleaning personnel have 12 hours of initial training upon hiring, before cleaning independently, on proper use of cleaning equipment and supplies, materials use and handling, and procedures.

Also, make sure each worker has site-specific training covering the facility’s unique green cleaning plan, tailored procedures and hazards.

It is important for all cleaning staff to receive 24 hours of continuing training annually.

And, records of training must be maintained.

When you pass the GS-42 audit
First, celebrate; then, use the certification and logo correctly.

While all uses of the logo must be approved by Green Seal, the GS Logo may be applied to various company advertisements, identity, or branding materials.

Just make sure you follow Green Seal’s labeling requirements:
  • Certification applies to a specific cleaning service, and the Green Seal certification mark may be used in advertising only that service.
  • Facilities cleaned by a certified service may be so designated: “This facility is cleaned by a service that meets the criteria of Green Seal’s Environmental Standard for Cleaning Services for reduced toxicity, waste and exposure.”

Allen P. Rathey is president of InstructionLink/JanTrain Inc., Boise, ID. He may be reached at (208) 938-3137.

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