H1N1 Outbreak Spotlights Importance Of Cleaning
Building service contractors clean all types of facilities from airports to hospitals to schools, so when the threat of a pandemic occurs — such as what happened in late April when a strain of flu that emerged in Mexico had a rapid geographic spread throughout the United States and the world — they’re working overtime to make sure customers and employees are getting the information they need.
Thousands of human cases of H1N1 flu have now been identified worldwide, including more than 600 in the U.S., and the virus has caused two deaths in Texas in addition to a number in Mexico. Swine influenza A (H1N1) is a new strain of flu virus that originated in pigs and had previously been passed to farm workers from the animals rather than from human to human.
The virus evolved, as many flu strains do, in human hosts and is spread human-to-human. This particular strain worries health officials because no one is immune — it is sickening healthy young and middle-aged adults and it is contagious before hosts are showing symptoms. While BSCs’ plans of attack are essentially the same as they would be for any flu outbreak or pandemic, their role as educators has taken center stage.
“At this point, we want to provide information without being alarmist. I think that’s the most important thing,” says Paul Condie, director of operations at KBM Facility Services in San Diego.
Partnerships with others in the supply chain are crucial for BSCs during health threats. Todd Haddock, vice president of sales and marketing at AHI Facility Services in Houston, says the company’s distributor and disinfectant manufacturer representatives met with him to coordinate information to disseminate to customers.
“Basically what we’re trying to do is get out as much information to the customers about things they need to do, such as put out literature about having people wash their hands and use hand sanitizers, and already in two days we have sold a little over 200 automatic hand sanitizers to our existing customers,” Haddock says.
BSCs are consulting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site, which updates daily with any new cases or information about the swine flu outbreak, and recommending that customers do the same. The basics of good human hygiene need to be stressed with customers, and though some will want a deep clean and disinfection, if BSCs are cleaning correctly, procedures and frequencies should not have to change much.
“It’s no different — it’s influenza A and our products kill the influenza A virus,” says John Ferguson, general manager at JanPak in Houston. “Not trying to make light of it, but it’s no different than what we do every day, we just need to refocus on different areas of the building.”
With the help of their vendors, BSCs across the country have been proactively communicating with customers about the swine flu outbreak, sending out letters and e-mail bulletins full of general flu prevention information as well as specified pandemic contingency plans.
This is a good time for BSCs to remind customers about the processes that they already have in place, such as regular disinfection of surfaces and common touch points. Also, encourage building occupants to do their part in preventing the spread of illness by properly washing and sanitizing hands.
“What we’re really trying to educate our customers on, is, we’re not changing our processes of cleaning because we always clean the handrails, the doorknobs — the typical cleaning is not going to change for us,” Haddock says. “But what we are doing is we are putting in more hand sanitizers, we’re putting awareness signs up in all the restrooms to be sure to wash their hands during this time. So hopefully in the long term what that will do is everybody will start washing their hands more.”
Maryland Passes Green Cleaning Legislation
Maryland passed legislation that requires all public K-12 schools in the state to use only green cleaning products if economically feasible.
According to Delegate Nic Kipke — who along with Delegate Peter Murphy spearheaded the legislation — Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to sign the bill in May.
Maryland would be the third state in the nation after New York and Illinois to mandate the use of green products in their schools.
According to the bill, green products would be biodegradable, have low toxicity, low volatile organic compound content and low life-cycle energy use.
The bill will acknowledge product certifications such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) Program, Green Seal, Green Label, Environmental Choice, U.S. Green Building Council and any other accreditation the county board determines to be appropriate. When signed, the legislation will take effect on Oct. 1, 2009.
MERGERS AND OTHER MOVES
Kimberly-Clark Corp., Neenah, Wis., acquired Jackson Products Inc., Fenton, Mass. More commonly known as Jackson Safety, the company is a provider of welding safety products, personal protective equipment and work zone safety products.