Air-duct cleaning and related services have boomed in the last few years, thanks to a better understanding of indoor air quality and its effects on customer health. Building service contractors who want to learn more about adding these services can attend the National Air Duct Cleaners Association’s (NADCA) 14th Annual Meeting & Exposition, Indoor Environments 2003.

The program, which will be held March 4 through 8 at the Wyndham Bonaventure Resort & Spa in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., will feature three new training sessions — ventilation-system mold remediation; containment; and HVAC system inspection.

That last program, says executive director Aaron Mindel, is especially useful for BSCs. The two-day program is March 7 and 8, and participants also can register to take a certification exam.

“If you’re already in the building, becoming a certified inspector will help you identify problems with the system, or a need for cleaning,” Mindel says. “Duct cleaning is a good add-on for cleaning companies; it’s a relatively inexpensive business. There is some training and education required, but we have a number of members who are cleaning companies first.”

The keynote speaker will be Frank Sanders, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s antimicrobial division. Sanders will address the use of antimicrobial chemicals in HVAC systems at 10:15 a.m. Thursday, March 6.

To register for the conference, call 202/737-2926.

SEIU to Focus on Health
Last year was a busy one for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a unit of the AFL-CIO covering service workers, including cleaners. And 2003 looks to be even busier for the union’s Justice for Janitors campaign, says SEIU building service division director Stephen Lerner, as contracts for approximately 100,000 janitors approach renewal.

A top priority for these contracts is health insurance.

“Where we have affordable health insurance, we’ll work on preserving it,” Lerner explains. “If it’s unaffordable, we’ll try to help, and where we don’t have insurance, we’ll work to get coverage.”

Contracts in several major cities expire in 2003, including San Diego, Chicago, Denver and Seattle, but Washington, which expires April 30, will be one to watch.

“Washington D.C. has one of the healthiest [commercial] real-estate markets in the country, but there’s no health insurance there,” Lerner says. “It’s a big priority.”

Also on tap for the union in 2003 is continued expansion into suburban areas, and pursuit of higher wages for all of its members.

“We plan to continue to work with contractors, [building] owners and managers who believe in paying good wages to get the best quality cleaning,” Lerner says. “But if they adopt a policy that says they don’t want this, we’ll educate the public about that.”

State Farm to Institute COF Benchmarking?
Slip-and-fall accidents are common in buildings, and often, the cleaning contractor is held responsible. But that shouldn’t always be the case, says Steve Spencer, cleaning and interior maintenance senior specialist for State Farm Insurance. In fact, the floor is only responsible for 50 percent of slips; shoes are responsible for 24 percent. Unfortunately, until recently, cleaning managers had no idea how to prove they weren’t responsible.

“I once asked an audience of more 200 people if they’d had a slip-fall in the last year, and everyone raised their hands,” Spencer explains. “But when I asked them what their reaction was, they said they just cleaned it up. And they always lost liability and worker’s comp claims.”

That’s why Spencer is championing the use of coefficients of friction to benchmark clean. The coefficient of friction (COF) measures the amount of force one body over another at a constant speed; the higher the COF, the more force that’s required and the more slip-resistant the surface. Standards call for a COF of at least 0.6 on a wet, level surface.

Based on research by Rick Foate of Dominion Restoration Products, and a pilot program done by the fast-food chain McDonald’s, Spencer wants to institute the use of COF-reading equipment to prove the safety of floors and chemicals used on them. Ideally, State Farm will purchase five of the meters, and ship them to test each of their locations quarterly. Periodic testing will allow the contractor and State Farm to verify their floors are being cleaned properly, and to take corrective action.

Also, State Farm’s contractors will use the meters to test new or unapproved chemicals, and if the chemical lowers the COF beyond an acceptable level, the BSC won’t be able to use the product. Spencer hopes these actions will help State Farm, its contractors and eventually other cleaning operations, minimize slip-fall liability by proving, scientifically, that the floor wasn’t slippery and something else, not within the cleaner’s control, caused the accident. The program right now is in development stages, and Spencer hopes to have it rolled out by mid-2003.

Mergers&Other Moves

  • In the wake of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and restructuring, Houston-based Encompass Services Co. has sold its subsidiaries, management unit Building One Service Solutions and janitorial provider Building One Commercial, Inc., to Horizon National Services, LLC. Mike Sullivan, head of Horizon, was a previous Building One principal. The Building One Commercial unit is likely to be re-sold.
  • Vacuum maker Royal Appliance Mfg. Co., Glenwillow, Ohio, recently was acquired by Techtronic Industries, Hong Kong.
  • The Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) has moved its corporate headquarters to Rockville, Md. The new phone number is (301) 231-8388.