There is no question that the use of chemicals (especially disinfectants) in custodial operations has increased. This reality makes the proper use of PPE even more important. Sawchuk says the increase in disinfectant use has him concerned that workers will develop chronic chemical sensitivities if the proper respiratory protection is not administered. In some cases, he’s already hearing grumblings of throat soreness and other respiratory issues, a reality that has facility cleaning managers implementing change.

Since classes resumed at UGA, Thomas and her team have retrained all of their frontline staff on PPE and its relationship to their safety. Videos have been shared on donning and doffing the equipment, and workers have been trained on the importance of PPE at the time of a suspected outbreak, just like they were trained on how to clean.

Facility cleaning managers who wish to know more about PPE should consider visiting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) website, which offers information on standards, the construction of PPE and who is responsible for purchasing the equipment. According to the website, employees should know:

  • When PPE is needed
  • What types of PPE are necessary for their work
  • How to put on, adjust and take off PPE
  • The limitation of equipment
  • How to care for and dispose of PPE

The increased demand for personal protective equipment resulted in a lack of supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many facilities scrambling. To better prevent an issue with PPE availability in the future, Solomon recommends that facility managers always have a supplier in place, as well as a backup.

When it comes to supplies necessary to welcoming occupants back into the facility, cleaning managers need to focus on more than just PPE. All sorts of tools, equipment and chemicals should be restocked upon reoccupancy.

According to Solomon, supplies that are in stock must be reevaluated to ensure that they meet present standards put in place by expert agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration. All disinfectants should be in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s List N, which was created to demonstrate what disinfectants are impactful against COVID-19.

After policies and procedures have been solidified, equipment resupplied and training provided, facility cleaning managers would be wise to communicate these updates with building occupants.

“There has to be some sort of communication to occupants on their responsibility for enhanced cleaning, and also let them know how the facility is being cleaned,” says Solomon.

The University of Georgia’s Facilities Management Division has worked with its Division of Marketing and Communications to create signage and social media posts that articulate the changes that have been made to cleaning. These efforts have helped develop positive, open communication between facilities management and the rest of the university.

Not all facilities are going to have an internal communications department, but that doesn’t mean managers don’t have the resources in place to help get the point across. Thomas says it’s possible that facility managers could convey to the human resources department what cleaning staff is doing to make for a safer and cleaner environment. Human resources could then share that information with building occupants, so that they know what is being done by cleaning staff and how they can help to take cleaning efforts even further.

Communicating outbreaks goes both ways. Thomas suggests offices and schools institute policies requiring that positive COVID-19 cases be reported to cleaning departments. When made aware of the fact that a positive case took place at the facility, cleaning staff should know where and when extra cleaning and disinfecting should be done.

Maintaining Momentum

The completion of new or retooled cleaning protocols, up-to-date employee training, and improved communication between facility managers and clients should help to keep cleaning professionals, students, faculty and office workers in the safest of situations for the period following reoccupancy. However, complacency happens, and it’s reasonable to wonder if old habits will return after the spotlight surrounding cleaning for health dims.

Facility cleaning managers can ensure that top-tier cleaning protocols are continuously followed by doing what they’ve always done: manage. A system of checks and balances should be instituted to ensure that those restrooms, breakrooms, hallways, classrooms and meeting spaces are dutifully cleaned and sanitized or disinfected. Make it easier to keep track of this monitoring by consistently using inspection sheets. A quarterly or yearly auditing program is also a good idea.

Solomon, Thomas and Sawchuk each support the use of an Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) meter to validate the cleanliness of surfaces. Other tools such as a black light and fluorescent markers can help to determine whether surfaces have received attention.

“If staff knows that the work is being validated and they’ll be graded or called out for training, they’re more likely to perform well,” says Sawchuk.

When the quality of work falls short of expectations, it’s important that janitors are not only retrained on how to correctly perform tasks, but are also reminded of the importance cleanliness plays in the health of those using the facilities.

As the level of threat changes, so should cleaning practices. Don’t hesitate to increase frequencies or use additional tools, just like what’s commonly done during a cold and flu season. Make sure that the disinfectants being used have a kill claim against whatever the threat is, too.

Thomas recommends monitoring the CDC’s website to keep track of the latest threats. She also recommends listening to janitors who are doing the work. Her department will hold town hall-style meetings where staff is encouraged to voice their thoughts and concerns, as well as share suggestions.

“A lot of times they have the best ideas of what can improve and what will work,” says Thomas.

Whether they’re returning to the office this winter, spring or summer, students, school faculty and office workers are going to need some protection. By analyzing and improving cleaning protocol, facility managers can help to fulfill that need.

previous page of this article:
Improving Cleaning Policies And Procedures