janitors cleaning with chemical sprayers and wearing personal protective equipment


By Steve Weiand, vice president of client relations at Diversified Maintenance

An increasing number of people are becoming aware of the value of social distancing to protect themselves against coronavirus, but the services of professional cleaning and maintenance personnel are much required and deemed essential during this pandemic.  Fundamentally, amid the current coronavirus outbreak, facilities maintenance functions present greater risks to frontline workers than ever before.

While the most frequent source of COVID-19 spread is close contact with people who have been infected with the coronavirus, there is also a high risk of exposure by touching a surface that has the virus on it. Coronavirus has a different lifespan on various surfaces – making it much more dangerous and riskier for the cleaning staff at different facilities. Needless to say, the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by these workers is a key prevention and mitigating step against the risk of coronavirus exposure.

The goal of the cleaning crew is not only to clean but also disinfect and sanitize all areas, with a core focus on frequently touched surfaces so proper selection of PPE is critical. For the employers, it is mandatory to provide PPE to the cleaning crew and also ensure prior training on its right usage and proper disposal. For the crew, the following advice and guidelines by experts must be followed:
• Ensure that disposable protective gloves are used throughout the various steps of the cleaning and disinfecting process.
• Disposable protective gloves must also be used for handling and removal of waste or trash.
• Gloves must be removed carefully so that the hands are safe and the surfaces around the used gloves are not contaminated. It is important to immediately wash hands after removing gloves.
• Other essential PPE for cleaning and janitorial service providers include:
     • Face Masks
     • Goggles/Safety Glasses to keep the eyes protected
     • Protective clothing such as disposable gowns, aprons, overalls to ensure their own clothing is protected from possible contamination
     • Boots or closed work shoes
     • In case of unavailability of disposable gloves, use long heavy-duty gloves and keep them disinfected using recommended products

The use and disposal of PPE is an important step toward the health and safety of the cleaning staff. However, the effectiveness of PPE depends on implementing other key cleaning, disinfection and hygiene measures, such as:
• Use of recommended disinfectants with EPA approved emerging viral pathogens claim
• Maintaining clean and disinfected hampers, carts, tools and equipment used in the facilities maintenance tasks
• Frequently washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer. Also using alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60 to 95 percent alcohol content
• Following other preventive actions such as avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands

The facilities maintenance and cleaning personnel must also ensure their PPE is in good condition and replace any item that may be torn or damaged. The research and expert recommendations are continually being updated; service providers and employees should vigilantly track the latest guidelines and work toward mitigating the risk of COVID-19 exposure while maintaining a safe workplace.