Avoid Cross Contamination!
If an employee comes to work while sick, the illness can quickly spread around the office. Cleaning crews can be either part of the solution or problem, depending on how good their understanding of cross-contamination is and how they address it.
Cross-contamination refers to when germs move between people in shared spaces. It usually happens if a sick individual touches an object and then a different person touches the same contaminated object or surface. It may also happen unintentionally during cleaning, such as when a janitor cleans a toilet and subsequently uses the same cloth to wash a countertop.
If your janitorial crew plays a role in the spread of bacteria and viruses in a building, this may result in losses for your clients, and perhaps cancelled contracts for your business.
Illness in office buildings has costs associated with reduced productivity, healthcare, and paid sick days.
Illness in healthcare settings and schools can affect government funding linked to healthcare-associated infections or absentee rates.
An e-coli or salmonella outbreak in food-service settings has the potential to cause serious damage to a company’s bottom line and reputation.
Ensure that your contract cleaning company is part of the solution by following the best practices below for preventing cross-contamination.
Smart Processes to Prevent Cross-Contamination
Here are some of our best suggestions for preventing cross-contamination.
Outline a clear cleaning process that employees should follow to avoid accidentally spreading germs or missing any areas of a room. Cleaning from top to bottom lets gravity move anything that isn’t captured in the cleaning tool to the floor so that it is eliminated in the final step.
Here’s an example of a simple process:
Start by wiping down all surfaces using a cleaning solution.
Next, use spray disinfectant on high-touch areas such as phones, desks, push plates, doorknobs, railings, counters, elevator buttons, and all bathroom surfaces. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for appropriate dwell time before you wipe off the disinfectant.
Finally, clean the floor, vacuuming or mopping from the farthest inside point of the room back out the door and then throw away the gloves while leaving the room.
Avoid making the common mistake of using the same supplies or tools to clean multiple areas. Viruses and bacteria can easily take up residence on things such as mop heads or cleaning cloths that can then easily spread them around if they are used continuously.
Train your cleaning crews to segregate equipment. You should have color-coded microfiber cloths as well as mops that will be used exclusively in the lunchroom, restroom etc. It can also be a good idea to store cleaning tools using a similar method of separation so that kitchen mops don’t end up coming into contact with bathroom mops.
Color Coding to Prevent Cross-Contamination
It is practically impossible to always be on-site with cleaning crews to ensure that they properly segregate equipment. Implementing a color-coding system is useful for addressing this issue.
Use products that come in a variety of colors (yellow, red, green, and blue). You can then use the guide below for microfiber cloths that’s regularly used in the USA.
Red: High-risk Areas (Urinals, Toilets, etc.)
Blue: Low-Risk Areas (Mirrors, Glass, etc.)
Green: Dusting Food Services Areas and Office Areas
Yellow: Lower Risk Areas Such as Countertops, Sinks, etc.
Color coding can help prevent the spread of contaminants by using the wrong tool in the wrong area. The cleaning crew can easily see at a glance what should be used where, regardless of the language barriers.
Color coding can be applied to cleaning equipment too, such as colored mop buckets and mop handles. Obviously, a system is only as strong as the training behind it. Ensure that all team members know and understand the color system. If there’s a language barrier, consider using pictograms in addition to text to better explain the colors.
Switch to Microfiber to Avoid Cross-Contamination
Regular cleaning cloths are usually made of large cotton fibers. On the other hand, microfiber cloths are usually made from polyester or polyester blends and have fibers smaller than a silk strand.
Once a traditional cloth or mop comes into contact with a surface, it becomes contaminated. Immediately you put it back into the water or move it around the room, it contaminates the water as well as the next surface.
Microfiber’s unique construction allows it to attract up to 99 percent of particles, which is about 3 times more than cotton. It has a positive charge that attracts both dirt and germs and is incredibly porous, so it holds the particles tightly. Simply put, microfiber picks up and removes contaminants as opposed to redistributing them around the room as cotton does.
Making the switch to microfiber dry and wet mops will require a financial investment, but the dust wands and cleaning cloths will significantly improve the quality of your work. It will better eliminate illness-causing pathogens while greatly reducing the risk of cross-contamination.
Check Out Other Tools
You also have other tools at your disposal that can help in reducing cross-contamination:
A flat mop that has a built-in tank that squeezes the water out is more preferable to a traditional mop with a standard bucket. It holds dirty water, and this increases the risk of spreading contaminants.
One alternative to mopping is using spray-and-vac systems. Fresh cleaning solution is dispensed for every application and the solution is then sucked up thus eliminating the spread of contaminants through the mop head.
HEPA-Filtered vacuum cleaners are capable of capturing 99.9 percent of particles, which is far more than regular vacuum cleaners.
To maintain a safer and healthier environment, it is always better to choose certified green cleaning products over hazardous chemicals.
Preaching Hand Hygiene
Practicing proper hand hygiene is the easiest and most important way to prevent cross-contamination. Teach your staff to wash their hands properly and at the right times (after touching a surface with their bare hands, eating, using the washroom, etc.)
Furthermore, you should talk to the manager or owner of the facility about how you can help them encourage building occupants to practice hand washing. Ideas include offering hand hygiene supplies (hand sanitizer, towels, soap) and providing signage encouraging handwashing in every restroom, breakroom, and lunchroom.
Training is the most essential element of a program for preventing cross-contamination. Ensure that everybody knows your expectations, tools, and processes. Ask supervisors to keep a close on workers in the field to ensure that best practices are used on a daily, ongoing basis. Revisit the training regularly to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind.