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Cleaning and Disinfecting Will Still Be Crucial Post-Pandemic

Many facilities increased their disinfecting frequencies because of COVID-19. Learn why infection control still matters after the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic put cleaning and disinfecting in the spotlight. In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, many facility managers increased the frequency of cleaning the building and disinfecting common touchpoints.

Although the Delta variant has caused a current increase in cases, there will eventually come a time where the pandemic is behind us. When we do return to normal, infection control should still be a top priority. The coronavirus is not the only disease to plague a facility. Without proper and frequent cleaning and disinfecting, occupants will get sick.

In this video, we talk with Nathalie Doobin, CEO of Harvard Services Group and president elect of the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), about how facility managers should approach their cleaning services post-pandemic.

fnPrime: The pandemic really put the importance of cleaning in the spotlight. Why should facility managers keep up their focus on infection control after the pandemic?

Nathalie Doobin: Hopefully, we will never experience a similar viral outbreak in our lifetimes. Embracing enhanced cleaning regimens is both a health and business imperative that can help reduce the potential for outbreaks and support the nation’s economic recovery. We want to be part of the solution to help get the country ready for business in a safe manner. If we can reduce the number of colds and flu and other communicable diseases through these processes, it can save U.S employers more than $225 billion dollars a year in lost productivity.

The cleaning and safety protocols put in place for COVID-19 are also effective against the flu. In fact, this past flu season saw cases drop by over 50 percent according to OH&S online. Continued infection prevention cleaning not only helps keep people safe from potential future threats but can also help alleviate fears of returning to the office. Therefore, as employers look to facilitate a safe return to in-person operations, the Cleaning Coalition of America, in association with the Building Service Contractor Association International, also known as BSCAI, recommends that businesses consider the following 5 strategies:

  • Strategy 1- Incorporate Routine Disinfecting in their Cleaning Process, Particularly High touch Surfaces. Wiping surfaces with a microfiber cloth and cleaning solution is essential for removing microscopic pathogens. Best-in-class cleaning programs use peroxide-based cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants.
  • Strategy 2- Create Screening Processes and Install Sanitizing Stations. Building Service Contractors can work with building and facility managers to implement screening processes in lobbies and install sanitizing stations in high-traffic areas.
  • Strategy 3- Is to Develop a Contamination Response Plan. Again, Building and Facility managers can develop a decontamination plan in partnership with trained building service contractors using advanced cleaning techniques and tools, such as electrostatic spraying, to protect against future outbreaks and ensure a streamlined response should a positive COVID-19 case be reported in their building.
  • Strategy 4- is to Increase Visibility of the Cleaning Team. A recent survey by Prudential revealed that 73 percent of Americans are worried that returning to the workplace could pose a threat to their personal health and safety. It’s important that building occupants see onsite cleaning crews and are aware of the updated cleaning protocols.
  • Strategy 5- is to Ensure Proper Communication to Building Occupants. Simply said, in the words of Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” Clear, consistent communication through signage and transparent updates to building occupants helps everyone understand the importance of following building rules for everyone’s safety. It can also help building occupants feel more comfortable in their workplace.
fnPrime: What are the touchpoints facility managers should specify in their contracts?

Nathalie Doobin: Because continued high touchpoint disinfection throughout the facility is recommended, working with your building service contractor to ensure the scope of work is updated to meet the facility managers’ expectations, and that the building’s cleaning budget is aligned with the updated expectations.

Obvious high touch points include elevators especially the call buttons as well as lobby door handles and push bars, however people are now using different parts of the door to avoid the door hardware. Therefore, there is a need to also address the door itself.

More people are using staircases to avoid elevators; therefore, handrails should be disinfected more frequently. Let’s not forget bathroom doors, and if they are not touchless, all soap and paper dispensers, hand dryers as well as plumbing fixtures.

We see an increase in building occupants using paper products to open the bathroom door. Ensuring they can dispose of the paper at the door, will also help keep bathrooms cleaner. In the Kitchen, all appliances including microwaves, refrigerators and dishwashers, water dispensers, coffee machines, the back and arms of kitchen chairs which people touch when they pull them away from a table.

All frequently touched areas in shared spaces such as conference room remotes, dry erase board accessories, keypads and light switches if they aren’t motion activated, copier room cabinet handles, copier buttons and shared accessories such as staplers. and Fitness Center equipment especially if no wipes are available.

As previously mentioned, these procedures will not only help keep people safer and help alleviate fears but can also provide a significant financial benefit for organizations.

fnPrime: With facility managers focusing more on the health and wellness of their occupants, what kind of cleaning procedures should they be focusing on? Are there any procedures that might be overlooked with such a focus on infection control?

Nathalie Doobin: Risk-based cleaning standards and infection prevention protocols are best practices for facilities ensuring no task is overlooked.

Risk-based cleaning examines the various factors of facility usage to answer questions like “how many people move through the space?” and “how many times are the doors touched?”, to help establish the proper cleaning procedures, frequencies and refine the team’s focus.

Whereas infection prevention protocols provide an approach that includes disinfection procedures to ensure health and safety.

Both of these dynamic approaches foster a continuous evaluation, and re-evaluation of the work, to ensure no areas get overlooked.

fnPrime: How can facility managers work better with their cleaning service provider?

Nathalie Doobin: Most building service contractors want to share the protocols they developed with their clients. They want to share the training they provide their employees as well as the cleaning and disinfection products used in their facility. Please give us a chance to show you how we can partner with you!

Communication is key with both building occupants and the janitorial service provider. Many facility managers already survey building occupants on the perception of the services provided and their satisfaction of commercial cleaning services. The results can help us make simple tweaks that go a long way with building occupants.

The janitorial team, especially when there is a day cleaning team, is the heartbeat of the building. The more building service contractors can tailor services offered to meet or exceed client expectations, the more successful the partnership. It may seem simple, but providing contractors with an easily accessible, locked space, large enough for their supplies ensures that the supplies intended for the facility, are available to clean and disinfect the building when needed.

There is an opportunity for facility managers to provide additional services during peak cold and flu season, which in return can provide building occupants the re-assurance that building management is doing everything possible to ensure their clients’ workforce remains healthy.

Please remember that cutting costs often means cutting the number of workers assigned to a facility. When asking contractors to bring back workers, they are likely to have been assigned to a different facility and they may not want to come back out of fear they could be cut in the future. This implies there may be a learning curve for new team members in the return to work plan if the team was impacted during the pandemic.

Lastly, facility managers could benefit from building some flexibility in their new SOW and budget, if they can afford to do so, as cleaning isn’t as predictable as it once was.

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