Government purchasers establish national green standards for products
Accounting for more than $15 million in cleaning product purchases annually, state and local governments are using their purchasing power to protect the environment and their employees in schools, government buildings and municipalities.

A group of government purchasers, organized by the Center for a New American Dream and funded partly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has created the Green Seal Industrial and Institutional Cleaners Standard (GS-37) for general-purpose, restroom and glass cleaners. Products do not have to be certified by the organization, but they must meet its standard and a few additional criteria to qualify for use in their facilities.

The group includes purchasers from Massachusetts; Santa Monica, Calif.; King County, Wash.; Minnesota; Seattle, Wash.; and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The initial focus of the purchasing group was to compare competing definitions and specifications for safer cleaning products. Some standards, for example, rely on extensive lists of prohibited chemicals while others prohibit the same chemicals based on their results using a specific toxicity test. The new standard criteria for cleaning products, takes into consideration specific toxicity, skin sensitization, biodegradability tests and existing lists of prohibited substances.

Massachusetts currently is accepting bids for cleaning products from manufacturers. So far, 16 companies have submitted bids to sell products to the state, all of whom believe their products meet the new criteria. Other states and cities are near implementation of the program, as well.

Handwipe detects lead contamination
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced ownership of its patent for a handwipe that detects the presence of lead on skin and surfaces such as tables, floors, walls and window sills.

The handwipe indicates the presence of lead with a color change.

Lead residue on hands and surfaces can lead to health risks if the lead is ingested. Handwashing can remove lead residues, but it is difficult for individuals to be sure handwashing is thorough enough to remove all of the lead.

Facilities workers often are exposed to lead when buildings are being renovated or constructed. The removal of lead-based paint in buildings also could cause lead exposure for workers in a facility.

U.S. Patent No. 6,248,593 is owned by CDC and is called "Handwipe Disclosing Method for the Presence of Lead." The handwipe was developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

BOMA report: Cleaning expenses dropped in 2001
Total cleaning expenses for government buildings decreased by less than 1 percent in 2001, according to the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) 2002 Experience Exchange Report . The reduction places average cleaning costs at $1.33 per square foot.

Overall, total building-related expenses decreased by 12.5 percent.

Cleaning still accounts for 23.8 percent of government buildings’ operating budget, coming in third behind utilities expenses (28.7 percent) and repairs and maintenance (27.6 percent).

Similarly, cleaning expenses dipped slightly in corporate facilities by approximately $0.08 per rentable square foot. Operating costs for corporate facilities actually increased by 4.44 percent, even though cleaning expenses decreased.

Boston janitors gain better health care, wages
After a month-long strike that ended in October, more than 10,000 Boston-area janitors will get employer-paid heath coverage, higher wages and paid sick leave.

The janitors clean more than 1,000 office buildings in the area and, at the time of the strike, were earning as little as $39 a day. The agreement between the SEIU and contractors, increases janitors’ wages by 30 percent or more — to $12.95-$13.10 per hour.

Mergers&Other Moves

  • UNICCO® Service Company launched a new route maintenance division to support multi-site facilities. The new unit is starting on the East Coast and eventually will expand nationwide.
  • SCA Tissue North America recently announced that a new converting, paper-making and distribution facility in Barton, Ala., will be completed in mid-2004. The first stage of SCA-Barton Operations, converting, will be operational in mid-2003.
  • Coverall Cleaning Concepts® is opening a new franchise in the Dominican Republic. The Carribbean center will offer commercial cleaning services to a variety of facilities.

In the September issue of Contracting Profits, a quote by Jim Willingham, CEO of New Day Cleaning, Lubbock, Texas, should have read: A formed squeegee handle grip meant to lessen pressure during use actually will require the opposite, requiring more pressure throughout an entire stroke across a window. This is unlike the older brass-handle squeegees that are meant to float in your hand to apply differing pressure at different points during window-washing.