The third and final part of this three-part article looks at how BSCs can stand out from the competition with an understanding of infection control.

Using best cleaning practices helps control the spread of infections among building occupants. That means BSCs are in a unique position to help minimize the problem.

“Cleaning is the only intervention,” says Gerba.

Proper cleaning can reduce the spread of contagious viruses by 80 to 90 percent, Gerba’s studies find. Another study finds appropriate cleaning can result in a 5 percent productivity gain, which amounts to $11 billion nationwide.

Although disinfecting is standard operating procedure in healthcare, Hicks recommends using a hospital-grade disinfectant in most settings, particularly on high-traffic, high-touch surfaces. The dirtiest spots in offices, according to one study, are breakroom sink faucet handles, microwave door handles, keyboards, refrigerator door handles, water fountain buttons, vending machine buttons, computer mice and desk phones.

“MRSA isn’t just in hospitals,” says Hicks. “Diseases you see in hospitals are also out there in the public, because when a person leaves the hospital they go back to work.”

The best practice, says Hicks, is a two-step cleaning process. First, clean surfaces with a general-purpose cleaner to remove visible soil, then go back with a disinfectant to kill any microbes that remain. Without first removing dirt and debris, a disinfectant is less likely to meet its kill claims.

Disinfectants typically require a dwell time. If the manufacturer’s directions aren’t followed, the product won’t work as promised.

Using clean cloths (preferably microfiber) is key in preventing the spread of viruses from one area to another. Color-coded tools for specific areas or tasks can also reduce cross-contamination, particularly when a janitor’s first language isn’t English.

“If you don’t use the disinfectant properly or use a dirty towel, then you’re wasting your time,” says Naser Gjeloshi, senior vice president for the East Region of Pristine Environments, based in San Diego.

When it comes to frequencies, ISSA recommends at least once-daily cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces. And, although cleaning for health should be a year-round strategy, there’s a good chance frequencies will need to be bumped up significantly during cold and flu season.

“During that time, we get a lot of requests from customers to clean high-touch surfaces on a more frequent basis,” says Gjeloshi. “Instead of daily, it may be four to 10 times a day.”

Even the most active BSC can’t be in a building 24 hours a day. To reduce contamination problems between visits, BSCs should involve occupants in keeping buildings healthy.

BSCs can work with building management to provide employees easy access to hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. They can also put up signs or circulate flyers to occupants with instructions for using those products and with information about the importance of hand hygiene in preventing the spread of illness.

“At the end of the day, it turns into having employees educated about how diseases get spread from one person to another and what it takes to break that chain of infection,” says Hicks. “It’s not training, it’s educating.”

BSCs may also want to educate building management on the benefits of automatic fixtures and doors. Fewer touch points means fewer opportunities for spreading disease.

 

Set Your Company Apart

As companies look for any way to boost their bottom lines, more facility executives are becoming concerned about the costs of absenteeism and presenteeism. This bodes well for BSCs who can intelligently discuss the issue, offer solutions and show an ROI.

“I’ve noticed lately that facility managers are looking at cleaning effectively to reduce sickness,” says Gjeloshi. “It’s a differentiator for us and allows us to charge a higher rate. It’s also a great way for us to create a better relationship with the client. The more value we bring to the table, the better it is for us.”

Unfortunately, many customers are more reactive in nature. They aren’t willing to pay for better-than-basic cleaning unless there is an active illness outbreak or if they have a history of high absenteeism.

In some cases, education can help. Reviewing the hidden costs of illness and the savings from cleaning for health may open some facility managers’ eyes — and wallets.

“All too often, the customer looks at cleaning as a cost. All that shows up on the balance sheet is the price they paid for the cleaning services,” says Balek. “We need to educate facility managers that the costs of workplace illnesses are real. They may not be captured on a balance sheet, but they’ll ultimately affect the ability of the facility to execute its mission.”  

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.