This is part one of a three-part article about the cost of not understanding infection control.

Everyone has experienced it: A co-worker comes to work with a cold and before someone can say “gesundheit,” the illness is dropping employees like flies. The phenomenon makes sense, considering how easily viruses can spread via common touch points.

University of Arizona microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba has conducted many cross-contamination studies that back up this scenario. For example, his team placed a virus on the push plate of a lobby door and, four hours later, found the virus on half the building’s surfaces and half the workers’ hands. Other studies delivered similar results in healthcare, hospitality and educational settings.

“People underestimate how rapidly they can pick up a virus,” says Gerba. “Things spread in buildings very quickly.”

Sure, workers buildings matter to facility owners and managers, but why should building service contractors care? There are two bottom-line-boosting reasons for BSCs to learn about workplace illnesses:

1. By understanding the issue, contractors can serve as educators to develop goodwill with current clients (contract renewals) and create trust with prospects (new sales).

2. BSCs can use their knowledge to beat out competitors by marketing the illness-reducing (and cost-saving) results of proper cleaning.

“It can add value to what you offer,” says J. Darrel Hicks, industry consultant and author of “Infection Control for Dummies.” “It sets you apart as a professional, so you’re not just seen as a mom-and-pop, mop-and-bucket outfit.”