Nominations Open for Education Hygiene Specialist Excellence Award
UMF Corporation today opened nominations for its first annual Education Hygiene Specialist Excellence Award, which acknowledges the contributions of janitorial staff at K-12 schools, colleges and universities across the country. Modeled on UMF's Hygiene Specialist and Guest Room Attendant Excellence Awards for healthcare and hospitality, respectively, the Education Hygiene Specialist Excellence Award recognizes the crucial role school custodians play in providing a safe hygienic environment for students, teachers, and staff. Nominations are open through Dec. 31, 2022 and can be made here.
"UMF is committed to supporting, recognizing, and celebrating the essential workers who are responsible for the cleaning and disinfection process in healthcare facilities, hotels, and educational institutions," says UMF Corporation CEO George Clarke. "We are privileged to introduce the first annual Education Hygiene Specialist Excellence Award to acknowledge the custodial staff whose jobs are critical in mitigating the risk of infections among students, teachers, and staff. COVID-19 resulted in a crash course in infection prevention across all industries. School custodians were required to learn and embrace new cleaning and disinfection protocols, putting their lives on the line as they showed up day in and day out to help keep schools open."
From initial school closings and remote learning to masking, hybrid learning, eating in classrooms, and frequent handwashing, the impacts of the pandemic were felt deeply and broadly across every level of education. Once they reopened, schools' cleaning and disinfection processes had changed dramatically, often including best practices such as color coding to prevent cross-contamination and enhanced disinfection. Custodial staff were responsible for processing student and staff environments in new ways to ensure optimal infection prevention.
CDC guidance includes daily – or more frequent, depending on level of use – cleaning and disinfection of all frequently touched surfaces. With hundreds to thousands of students passing through daily, custodians have their work cut out for them. They are responsible for first cleaning and then disinfecting all surfaces using a product from the EPA's List N, which includes disinfectants that are effective against the virus that causes COVID-19.
Recognition Improves Outcomes
According to research published in the American Journal of Infection Control, healthcare facilities that focus on education, accountability, and recognition of environmental services staff dramatically reduced healthcare-associated infections.
"It is time to break stereotypes and recognize that janitors, custodians, and housekeepers are now equal in many ways to the hospital environmental service department," adds Clarke. "The education hygiene specialist is the first line of defense in providing safe student environments. They're an integral part of health and safety at our educational facilities, so we must recognize and celebrate them regularly. The Education Hygiene Specialist Excellence Award is one way to do just that."
The award recipient will receive an all-expenses paid trip for two, including airfare and hotel to a location of their choice within the 48 contiguous states.