When it comes to cleaning and maintenance in offices, facility managers have a lot to contend with on a regular basis. Do the carpets need to be deep-cleaned? Are hard-surface floors looking their best? Do they need to be stripped, refinished, deep scrubbed and re-coated?
These are the big cleaning projects that most managers are all too familiar with. However, some other cleaning issues can actually be more serious — specifically for the health of building users — and managers should be aware of them as well. They are the germ hot spots typically found in offices. Knowing where they are and how to address them can result in a much healthier facility.
Here are some of the most common culprits, along with sanitation tips:
1. Coffee pots
Coffee pots tend to get only a quick rinse in the sink. However, they can harbour many germs, and the bulk of them are on the handle. Studies indicate that only about one in five people wash their hands — or wash their hands properly — during the course of the day. This is why it’s common to find both germs and fecal matter on coffeepot handles.
Tip: Each evening, clean the coffeepot with dish-washing liquid and water, or in the dishwasher if one is available. If that’s not an option, office users (or the cleaning crew) can easily tackle this problem by using disposable disinfectant/cleaner wipes made for professional use, as opposed to consumer use. They will eliminate cross-contamination as well as leave the handle free from particulates.
2. The office sponge
Over the years there have been many reports of how sponges, often used to clean kitchen counters and other areas, become a collection of germs and bacteria. And consumers may have heeded these warnings better than office workers. After all, it’s not the office workers’ job to clean the kitchen sponge.
Tip: Replace sponges with paper towels or toss them in the dishwasher. The heat of the water and the cleaning solution will help kill some of the germs on the sponge.
3. Surfaces in open work spaces
Many offices are now designed in such a way that workers can use any available work area — tables, desks, counters. In this environment, germs can spread to areas that have not traditionally been considered hot spots for germs. The University of Arizona found in studies that the typical office desk — usually used by just one person — can have almost 21,000 germs on it. In an open work space, those germs have greater potential to spread, which can be made worse when people come to work coughing and sneezing.
Tip: Administrators should require that all desks, tables, and counters be cleared at the end of the day to make these surfaces easier for the custodial crew to clean. Look for high-quality products that are designed to kill a broad spectrum of bacteria and viruses on hard and non-porous surfaces.
If the custodial crew uses a concentrated cleaner-disinfectant, it’s important to note that this product does not clean and disinfect in one step. It’s one product that can be used for both steps. To properly clean and disinfect a surface with cleaner-disinfectant, clean first and then reapply the product. Allow the proper dwell time indicated on the label for disinfecting or sanitizing, and make sure the product remains wet on the surface being cleaned. If a cleaner-disinfectant is not selected, first clean with an all-purpose cleaner, and then apply a disinfectant, in a two-step process.
Larger offices and office buildings often use carts for such tasks as delivering mail or moving supplies. These carts, and specifically their handles, often get overlooked, and if they are cleaned, it’s only because they have become noticeably soiled.
They should be cleaned well before this happens. Bacteria on the handle can be transferred from the hands of the user touching the handle to the package and onto the hands of the person receiving the package, otherwise known as cross-contamination.
Tip: The disposable disinfectant or cleaner wipes mentioned earlier are suitable for this cleaning task.
5. High-touch areas
Light switches, office equipment controls such as those on copiers, drinking fountains, railings, and other high-touch areas can become magnets for germs and bacteria. Just like the coffeepot, carts, and open work spaces, these areas are commonly overlooked when the facility is cleaned.
Tip: Make sure the scope of work in the custodial request for proposal notes that all high-touch areas are to be cleaned and sanitized daily. Also check that custodial crews use a broad-spectrum sanitizer and/or cleaner-disinfectant designed to kill a number of different types of pathogens.
There are many other germ-infested areas in an office setting; however, one that may someday no longer need mention is the phone. Some companies are beginning to allow cell phones — business and personal — to be used for business purposes. Plus, some companies are switching to VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) services so staffers can make and receive business calls on their computers. Because cell phones and VoIP are typically used exclusively by the same person, the chances of spreading germs to other office workers are eliminated.
Paul Goldin is vice-president of Professional Cleaning Solutions for Avmor, a Canadian provider of professional cleaning solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.