How No-Touch Restroom Cleaning Protects EVERYONE’s Health
Restroom cleaning is hazardous in the best of times. Not only do maintenance crews suffer musculoskeletal disorders from the heavy lifting, prolonged standing and regular bending the job demands, they also risk coming into contact with 77,000 distinct types of bacteria and viruses, according to a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. On a regular day, these nasties include fecal bacteria, streptococcus, E. coli, influenza, hepatitis, MRSA and salmonella.
Now we can add the novel coronavirus COVID-19 to the list.
As the nation slowly goes back to "normal," these workers will continue to be front line fighters against COVID for the coming weeks and months. Protecting them as they protect everyone else is now more important than ever.
The Threat Has Always Been Real
Don't kid yourself. The nation's estimated 2.4 million custodial workers never had it easy. The work is physically demanding, low paying and dangerous. Yes, dangerous. For proof, check out this story written by a custodian who caught hepatitis A while cleaning a daycare restroom.
Maintenance crews also face threats like:
- Slip, trip and fall injuries
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Chemical hazards from cleaning products
COVID-19 Makes a Stressful Job Even Harder
While the bulk of the nation is sheltering in place, essential custodial workers are still out there deep cleaning grocery stores, warehouses, hospitals and more. They are sometimes working longer hours and using stronger cleaning chemicals without training or appropriate personal protection equipment, often with horrible results.
'They just said, 'Hey guys, corona's scary, use this,'' according to Ismaham Ali, an office cleaner in Seattle. "This" turned out to be Virex II 256, a powerful disinfectant Ali never used before or trained on. "They didn't say be careful or anything,' she reports in an article published on Arkansasonline. Within an hour, her eyes and skin began to burn and she developed a rash. Thankfully, training was given and appropriate protective gear was distributed to Ali and her co-workers shortly after.
An upsetting story for sure, but oversights happen in a fast-changing situation. While everyone rushes to adapt however, learning that COVID-19 possibly transmits through fecal matter, makes restroom cleaning even more essential and more dangerous.
The Wrong Tools Makes the Problem Worse
We already know that what happens in the restroom definitely doesn't stay in the restroom. Studies show that these pollutants eventually make their way throughout the entire facility if not removed at the source. Old fashioned tools like mops, buckets and rags are not designed to fully remove dirt, soils and pathogens so using them amplifies this risk of cross contamination.
Using them also requires the cleaning staff to touch a variety of dirty surfaces, including the tools themselves, further increasing risk.
Mops, buckets and rags also contribute to the other health hazards cleaning staff face every day. Wet mops are heavy and unwieldy, so using them puts stress on workers joints. Wiping surfaces by hand requires bending, reaching and crawling, another known stressor. Plus, they leave surfaces wet, increasing slip, trip and fall hazards.
No-Touch Reduces Risk
There are tools that minimize these risks and leave surfaces cleaner and more hygienic. Spray-and-Vac technologies allow workers to finish cleaning jobs faster, more completely and much more safely.
Plus, there's an important added bonus; workers never have to touch surfaces.
Custodians simply spray cleaning solution on to fixtures and floors with the machine's a low-pressure fan spray. An automatic metering system ensures the cleaning product is correctly diluted, insulating workers from unnecessary chemical exposure. Then surfaces are rinsed with fresh water using an indoor pressure washer. This pressure washer is powerful enough to flush soils out of grout lines and tight places, eliminating the need to bend, reach and crawl around touching dirty surfaces.
Finally, the rinse water and all of the dirt, soils and bio-pollutants are vacuumed up. This step leaves surfaces dry, eliminating slip and fall hazards. They are also virtually soil and germ free.
Restrooms maintained with this superior process protects everyone. Custodians can work quickly with less strain, effort or risk and the public benefits from hygienically clean spaces. Click here to learn more about No-Touch Cleaning.
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Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.