The stubborn staph infection with a mouthful of a name — Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, dubbed MRSA for short, has recently been considered “endemic, and in some cases epidemic,” in many hospitals, long-term care facilities and communities across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

In addition, the “superbug” is being spread in school gyms and locker rooms, where athletes — perhaps suffering from cuts and abrasions — share athletic equipment and lack proper hygiene. Increased pressure has been put on cleaning staffs to clean and disinfect all surfaces where the bacterium is likely to reside.

MRSA invades the body via cuts or abrasions in the skin, causing an infection that can be debilitating if not treated early and with the appropriate antibiotics. The bacterium is spread mostly through personal skin-to-skin contact and through the sharing of personal items such as towels, razors or athletic equipment. The best defensive measure against coming down with and spreading MRSA is through good hygiene — frequent and thorough handwashing and caring for and covering open wounds, says Nicole Coffin, spokeswoman for the CDC.

“Skin-to-skin contact is the most important contributor to transmission,” Coffin says. “People need to know that hygiene is really important. It’s not really sexy but it can stop an outbreak.”

Building service contractors should encourage building occupants to frequently wash their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

According to the CDC, along with skin-to-skin contact, the lack of cleanliness and contaminated items and surfaces in facilities are the main factors in MRSA transmission in schools.

Cleaning staffs should pay particular attention to high-touch areas in schools as the MRSA strain can live for up to 24 hours on just about any surface, says Tad Vonachen, vice president of sales at AmSan in Peoria, Ill. This includes disinfecting in areas or on surfaces where pathogens can collect and breed, such as in restrooms or on door handles, bathroom faucets and other fomites.

Distributors recommend when using chemical disinfectants or cleaner/disinfectants, to follow the product label directions for preparation of disinfecting solutions and the appropriate disinfecting and cleaning method for the area to be cleaned. BSCs also need to give the disinfectant the proper dwell time.

Contractors should note, however, that these methods should be part of their everyday cleaning and if BSCs are cleaning like this, they can control and prevent a MRSA outbreak from occurring, says Larry Johnson, product manager at S. Freedman & Sons Inc., Landover, Md.

“This should be all of your normal cleaning everyday,” Johnson says. “It shouldn’t be an additional task.”

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,
This is in response to Steve Ashkin’s Nov./Dec. column, “Step-By-Step Approach To Going Green.” I would like to point out that “going green” is an amazing journey for a company, and one that should be considered by everyone. I would advise caution that your move to green should be made with a tremendous amount of forethought and planning, and is not a venture that can be entered into by four or six easy steps. There is so much that needs to be taken into account, green is not just changing your chemicals, it is an entire process. Let me just share a few bullet points to think about before your business goes green in ’08:

  • Because of air quality concerns, what vacuums are you going to change to, and how much will the expense be to convert, and/or make a total switch out?
  • What will your costs be to make a complete change over to microfiber and move away from cottons or paper towels?
  • What does your green cleaning process look like, and how will you train all of your associates, and how will your checks and balances work?
  • What chemicals work within your process, will you have one manufacturer or multiple?
  • How do you get your message out to your clients and form strategic partnerships with those clients to create culture shifts within their corporations (top down change)?

These are just a few concerns that should be taken into account, but if you don’t change your customers to green, someone else will! It is simple; we need to be leaders in our industry, always looking to do it better.

    Gary Walker, CEO
Magic Touch Cleaning Inc.
Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Kletjian Passes Away

Steven C. Kletjian, former chairman and CEO of Unicco Service Co., Newton, Mass., passed away November 8.

Kletjian took over Unicco in 1969. At the time it was a small, family-owned cleaning firm based in Boston with a little over 50 part-time employees. The company served everything from salons and bus stations to restaurants and hotels during Kletjian’s first few years of running the company.

Kletjian then ushered the company through its first wave of change, focusing on multi-tenant office buildings to expand his business. The office buildings offered consistent evening hours for finding quality labor five days a week rather than around-the-clock work.

This focus lasted until 1989 when the real estate market slumped. Kletjian shifted Unicco’s business emphasis for a second time, expanding from multi-tenant holdings to corporate headquarter buildings and also targeting troubled schools and universities that needed to cut costs through outsourcing.

From the time Kletjian took over Unicco, the company expanded through the United States and Canada and grew to over 18,000 employees. He sold Unicco this past July to United Group Limited for $408 million.

Larry Shideler
will retire from active management of ProTeam Inc., Boise, Idaho.

Shideler founded ProTeam in 1987. Prior to that he used his years of experience in the commercial cleaning industry to create the first lightweight backpack vacuum made of PVC pipe in 1983.

Shideler was also responsible for guiding the refinement and development of Team Cleaning and Cleaning for Health, programs designed to educate the marketplace on better and more efficient cleaning while enhancing the health of all building occupants and the safety of its workers.

Shideler will remain as chairman of ProTeam and serve on the board of directors.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a ruling requiring employers to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees.

The rule is a basic requirement that codifies OSHA’s long-standing policy that it is an employer’s responsibility to pay the cost of protecting workers from safety and health hazards. The rule states employers must pay for items such as hard hats, goggles, face shields, chemical resistant suits and safety glasses. The ruling must be implemented by May 15, 2008.

The Kings at the Boeing Co., St. Louis site, has qualified for the OS1 Green Certified program designation. The Kings qualified by reaching the standard on its annual third party audit. Buildings #220 and #221 in the Boeing industrial park qualified.

The certification criteria demonstrate that a cleaning organization is using practices that cause a facility to be clean with minimal environmental impact.