Bird Flu. H1N1. MRSA. SARS. C. diff. CRE. The public’s awareness of disease outbreaks and pandemics has increased over the years, thanks to the success of public health media campaigns and the hunger for headlines in the news cycle. While the names of these contagions are merely considered by many building service contractors to be another target for disinfection, the infections pose a real threat to facility managers and building occupants, both physically and financially.
But the infectious disease that most customers will be concerned about (because they’re actually seeing occupants fall ill), is the common, but potentially dangerous, influenza virus. Flu season presents an opportunity for janitorial contractors to flex their infection-control expertise and make a real difference in their customers’ indoor environments.
BSCs that offer infection control services, or hospital-grade cleaning and disinfection, to their customers may have to invest more on the front end for chemicals and employee training, but it more than pays off. Such a specialized service not only establishes the contractor as an expert in cross-contamination and illness prevention, but it also bolsters customer loyalty and contributes to public health, elevating the pride janitorial workers have in the job they do.
Infection control was traditionally relegated to healthcare environments, but it can be applied to any facility in which specific, strict cleaning standards of cleaning and disinfecting directly affects the health of occupants.
Three BSCs share their experiences with infection control in customer facilities, describing what it takes to provide a strong program and why this particular service offering tends to strengthen customer relationships.
Focus on Touch Points — and the Customer
Omaha, Neb.-based Midwest Maintenance features a roster that includes Class A office space, healthcare accounts and large arenas — all of which face infectious disease outbreaks of concern.
At arenas, the staff is very proactive about disinfecting touch points, says Chris Miller, director of operations in commercial services.
“You never know what kind of sickness or disease might be coming through the arena, with so much traffic coming through,” he says.
Cold and flu season is, predictably, a busier time of year for infection control services, as customers ramp up disinfection efforts in their facilities. Midwest not only offers infection control to current janitorial clients, but it also offers the program as a special, separate service at other accounts.
“There are some customers we service just during cold and flu season. We do have some customers who ask us to come in and just do infection control on touch points between the months of September and March,” Miller says. “‘Tis the season — to be sick.”
In one customer facility, an occupant’s bacterial illness threatened to sicken others, so as a precaution, Midwest swept through the facility and disinfected every single touch point.
“We have responded to actual outbreaks, and that’s where your flexibility for your customer has to be number one — you have to be flexible and you have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” Miller says.
Each customer determines the frequency of disinfection of touch points and other surfaces. Whereas some might request disinfection multiple times a week, others may want it just once a month. And some customers, despite repeated reminders that it might be a good idea to take advantage of the service, don’t consider it until they really need it.
“We have to be extremely flexible and have trained personnel able to go out on a day’s notice, within hours, sometimes,” Miller says. “That happened when swine flu became a concern — customers just wanted to play it safe and make sure that their facilities were properly disinfected.”
And once a scare like that happens, Miller adds, most of those customers don’t hesitate to sign up for disinfection on a regular basis going forward. Not only does this type of cleaning provide peace of mind for customers, but it also shows occupants that the building owners and managers care about their health. Though the icing on the cake is knowing that cleaning is actually making a difference in the health and well-being of the tenants.
“Our customers have actually noticed that the number of call-ins due to sickness have drastically reduced since we started with infection control,” Miller says.
next page of this article:Tailoring Infection Control Programs to the Market
POSTED ON: 5/28/2013