What facility managers should ask of their cleaning professionals during this pandemic

by Stephen Ashkin — Facility managers are certainly going through a challenging time right now. Hygiene and disinfection are top of mind and even a matter of life and death in some cases. The following six questions and answers will help ensure the cleaners are selecting the right products and using them correctly.

Are we using the right disinfectant?

US EPA has established specific guidelines for disinfectants that are effective against the coronavirus (the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease). Thus, ask the disinfectant supplier if theirs meet EPA’s requirements and request a copy of EPA’s letter that it has been approved for their “emerging pathogens” program (I wouldn’t just take a salespersons word on it). As a side note—many disinfectants meet these requirements, but this is the time to check and here is a list from EPA of approved products and I anticipate that EPA will be adding more to this list soon).

Are we diluting the disinfectant correctly?

Most large facilities use concentrated disinfectants along with dilution devices. Dilution devices can be affected by changes in water pressure, contaminants clogging the metering tips, and other issues. Thus, ask cleaners or their cleaning product distributor(s) if they have checked the dilution devices to determine if they are properly diluting the concentrate. As a side note—inexpensive test strips (just a penny or two each) are readily available for the various types of disinfectants and the devices should be re-calibrated if necessary.

Are we applying the disinfectant properly?

The label on the disinfectant will explain the amount of dwell/contact time the disinfectant must remain on the surface to inactivate the virus—often it is 10 minutes. Unfortunately, some housekeepers get in a hurry and use the disinfectant as a “spray and wipe” cleaner—drying the surface before the disinfectant can do its job. Thus, ask the cleaners if their cleaning process is achieving the required dwell/contact time. If necessary, observe their cleaning process to see how long the disinfectant is left on surfaces before drying and address the process as necessary.

Are all ‘high-touch’ surfaces being disinfected?

The priority for cleaning and disinfecting should be those surfaces that are “high-touch” meaning that lots of people touch them. In general, cleaners do a good job cleaning and disinfecting restrooms, but what about things like the hand rail on the escalator, elevator buttons, door handles, light switches, copiers, breakroom equipment and surfaces, and other high-touch devices and surfaces? Thus, this is a time to revisit which surfaces and areas are being disinfected as additional cleaning and disinfecting may be necessary.

Is the frequency of disinfecting consistent with CDC recommendations?

Most large facilities have established processes which include the frequency that specific areas are cleaned and disinfected. Thus, ask cleaners to review CDC’s recommendations on cleaning/disinfection frequency and compare CDC’s recommendations to your contract or established requirements. Make adjustments as necessary.

Are all cleaning personnel properly trained?

The annual turnover among cleaners can be as high as 200 percent to 300 percent resulting in some large facilities hiring new cleaners almost every day. Thus, make sure new cleaners are appropriately trained (and reinforce the training with all cleaners) to make sure everyone is following the proper protocols for cleaning and disinfection.

In closing…

Since the situation is changing quickly, if any of the above questions differ from CDC’s, EPA’s, OSHA’s or the department of health’s recommendations for your type of facility, follow their recommendations.  This is especially important when a facility has a confirmed case of the virus or other situation in the community.

Stephen P. Ashkin is Executive Director of the Green Cleaning Network a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating building owners and suppliers about Green Cleaning, and president of The Ashkin Group a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry. He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning” and is coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.

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