The fundamental reason building service contractors clean is to protect the health and safety of their clients’ clients — aka building occupants.

Protecting health and safety ought to involve careful chemical selection and usage, non-skid floor finish, restroom disinfection, touchpoint sanitation, and prompt removal of trash to avoid attracting pests.

But perhaps the most significant benefit a janitor can provide his client is to improve indoor air quality. Consider the health impact of what is carried by the air one breathes. Dust generated inside the building includes soot, bacteria, allergens, paper dust, mold and dust mite droppings. Then there’s dust from outside: pollen, spores, various natural environmental toxins (arsenic, lead, lithium, antimony), pesticides and fertilizers. Finally, there are fine particles, such as asbestos and coal dust, that can cause more than 50 occupational disease syndromes.

And it’s likely to get worse. Desertification and poor practices in rangeland and farmland management disturb the soil, allowing it to blow away. It then finds its way into the buildings BSCs clean.

Janitors can do quite a bit to remove dust particles from the workplace: HEPA filtered vacuums, hard surface floor vacuums, microfiber dust wipes and damp mops. Fewer noxious particles inhaled by the client’s employees means lower health care costs, fewer sick days, and a more productive, healthier staff at work.

Unless BSCs are really behind on their high dusting, most of the dust in a client’s building resides in the carpet — that’s why carpet is called a “dust sink.” A thorough vacuuming program will pull a high proportion of that dust from the carpet, and remove it from the building.

A vacuuming strategy designed to catch the dust before it migrates throughout the building, involving aggressive vacuuming of entry mats and the carpet near entrances (“cross-hatch” those areas), moderate vacuuming of traffic paths (probably nightly), and as/needed detail vacuuming (perhaps once or twice per week). Using a backpack vacuum allows janitors to easily reach corners, edges and under furniture.

Consideration should also be given to the proper vacuum filter. Everyone has seen the cloud of dust spewing from a cloth-bag vacuum. That’s not a good thing for the client’s indoor air quality.

Allergens (spores, pollen, bacteria, dust mite droppings, etc.) range in size from about 10 microns in diameter down to a micron. Standard paper vacuum cleaner bags generally filter out particles down to about 10 microns; dumpable cloth bags are worse.

Vacuuming with a standard paper bag (or, worse, a cloth bag) pulls lots of fine dust (and allergens) out of the carpet, and pumps it into the air. Fine particles can remain airborne for eight hours. So, if the janitor vacuums at 2 a.m., the client’s staff is still breathing in airborne allergens come the 10 a.m. coffee break.

A HEPA filter will capture particles down to 0.3 microns in diameter, thus grabbing virtually all allergens.

Providing a healthier workplace through proper vacuuming will set BSCs apart from the competition.

Bob Croft is president of CBN Building Maintenance, a 34-year-old commercial janitorial service in Phoenix. Bob began development of CBN’s system of “Cleaning for Health, Safety and Security” in 1995. He holds the CBSE designation from Building Service Contractors Association International. He’s a member of the American Indoor Air Quality Council, a volunteer arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau, and serves on the City of Phoenix Environmental Quality Commission.


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Vacuuming Programs Should Include Hard Floors, Vertical Surfaces