Personal protective equipment (PPE) helps protect janitorial workers as well as building occupants from exposure and contact with infectious diseases. The proper attire plays a vital role in breaking the infection transmission cycle when they are used by cleaning personnel.  

To limit the spread of infectious disease, it is recommended that janitors wear uniforms or other designated clothing for work. Ideally employees will change out of work clothes and into personal clothing before leaving the job site. Harmful organisms can live long enough on fabrics to be transmitted to others. 

It is also a good practice to have janitors separate work clothes from the rest of the family’s clothing until they can be washed. Adding a quat disinfectant to the wash cycle is good practice.

Aprons can prevent pathogens from coming into direct contact with the worker’s clothing, thereby reducing the risk of transmission. Disposable aprons are convenient and inexpensive, but reusable aprons can be worn if they are wiped down regularly with a disinfectant cleaner. Aprons are also a safety requirement when using certain chemicals such as wax strippers. Janitors can check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to see what PPE is required with each specific chemical.

Shoe covers are most often thought of as safety items but they play an important role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases as well. Shoe covers are very effective in a healthcare environment, and they also perform the same task in schools, vet clinics, day cares and many other markets. 

There are two basic types of shoe covers available: rubber shoe covers and flexible synthetic material shoe covers.

The slip-on rubber shoe cover is appropriate when there are small amounts of liquid on the floor. It is designed for slip-and-fall protection during floor stripping, but it also provides a barrier that prevents cross-contamination, especially when scrubbing floors in an operating room. Shoe covers can be cleaned and disinfected with a quat disinfectant cleaner.

The flexible synthetic cover is most often made from a flash-spun high density polyethylene fiber. The material is quite strong and is difficult to tear. It is also chemical resistant. The flexible synthetic covers are needed when cleaning operating rooms, emergency rooms and intensive care areas. These covers are made to be disposed after a single wear. 

Janitors can stop the potential for cross-contamination and truly clean for health by donning the right PPE.

Louie E. Davis Jr. is a jan/san industry veteran and freelance writer based in Birmingham, Ala.

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Janitors Should Wear Gloves and Face Masks To Stop The Spread of Disease