Cleaning garbage areas is a maintenance concern for all condo corporations, but the current pandemic has made this to-do item even more relevant given the fact there is now more waste to contend with and health and safety issues to worry about.
As residents stay home or self-isolate in their units, the more odour-causing waste they produce. Meanwhile, the closure of restaurants and cafes to in-house dining is creating less urban trash—driving dumpster-loving rodents to find new food sources in nearby multi-residential buildings where garbage levels are escalating. Combine this with the need to follow stricter cleaning protocols and waste management is now more challenging.
With summer fast-approaching these issues are only going to accelerate as rodents become more active during warmer seasons and garbage odours intensify with the heat. In addition, the coronavirus is taking condo sanitization to a whole new level. Here are some health and safety items to consider when maintaining waste areas and equipment.
Keeping garbage rooms clean and uncluttered
Now that rodents are cut off from the ongoing supply of food from restaurant waste, condos and apartments are the place to be. They provide shelter, food, warmth and water—four key factors that help pests thrive. They can find their way into buildings through very small entrances and once they do, health and safety issues become a big problem. Not only do rats and mice harbour pathogens known to spread more than 35 diseases, including lymphocytic chorio-meningitis (LCM), Hantavirus and salmonellosis (food poisoning), they also chew electrical wires and cause other structural damage to a building.
Rodents, including other pests like cockroaches, love clutter—it provides hiding places and tucked-away areas for breeding. Waste areas are often used to store broken stoves, refrigerators, tools and other items that can create passageways for rodents to travel through and nest.
Cleaning and organizing garbage rooms should remain a priority as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, and correct health and safety measures should be followed to also protect residents and staff from what we know is a highly transmissible disease. Use the proper disinfectants to clean thoroughly and frequently, including all the high-touch points like door knobs and railings. Anticipate that these areas could possibly contain COVID-19 due to residents’ garbage spilling out or used items entering the area through the waste chute.
As building staff use the room regularly, this may increase the potential to transmit the virus to other parts of the building. For this reason, floors—a primary area for pathogenic microorganisms in a building—should be kept cleaner than they already are. The garbage room floor serves as a highway for bacteria that gets transported on the soles of shoes or building equipment.
Clean floors daily and splatter areas with a pressure washer (or water hose), using a degreaser disinfectant. Prior to the wash, scrubbing the floors and walls with a deck scrub brush will help agitate and provide a more thorough cleaning.
Restoring a dark and cluttered garbage room into a well-lit, organized space will also help to create a safe and inviting environment that residents will want to use, deterring careless behaviour from dropping garbage off in random places to stuffing larger items down a chute.
Thoroughly clean and sanitize waste equipment
Going forward, it should be common practice to wipe the handles on all high-touch points like waste chute doors using the proper disinfectant.
Odours in waste chutes arise from the spatter of garbage. A proper method for maintaining this area is washing down the chute with disinfectant cleaner degreasers.
Thoroughly cleaning the inside of garbage compactors, waste chutes and bins can be tricky for building staff. A professional service provider would be advised about one to three times per year. In between these cleanings, regular use of disinfectants in the chute wash down is recommended.
Hiring the right service provider in the era of COVID-19
Building service providers, including those that manage waste equipment cleaning, should have incorporated mandatory health and safety measures into their day-to-day operations. These should be based on the advice and directives from Canadan health authorities, and include any evolving guidelines over the course of the pandemic.
All workers arriving to a building should not only be wearing the proper personal equipment, but reputable companies will deploy contractors in separate trucks—two at a time to adhere to social distancing rules. Make sure to ask questions regarding what training staff have and updated health and safety standards being followed before anyone enters the building to work. A reputable business will go beyond the standards and require that training is a yearly priority.
Working in a garbage room can be a very dangerous task—pandemic or no pandemic. Contractors often work in this area where residents may ignore the chute closure. The use of safety devices such as chute plugs, lockout tags and techniques should be practiced to eliminate serious injury or loss of life. Companies should have proper protocol procedures, health and safety manuals and all contractors should have certified safety training, including WHMIS, Fall Arrest, Confined Spaces and Lockout/Tag out, a program that not only helps prevent the unintended start-up or motion of machinery and equipment, but helps avoid contact with a hazard while performing tasks that require removal, by-passing or deactivation of safe-guarding devices.
Cleaning has certainly moved to the forefront in condo corporations where people live in close quarters. Best practices for waste management not only deter rodents and odours, but also uphold cleaning protocols that keep the whole condo community safe.
Brian De Carli is vice-president of Metro Jet Wash Corporation and Leslie De Carli is the CEO of Metro Jet Wash Corporation. The Canadian-based property maintenance company specializes in property maintenance solutions, including compactor cleaning and chute cleaning, underground and parking lot pressure washing and cleaning, drain cleaning and catch basin cleaning, parking lot striping and painting, as well as odour control systems, product sales and services. https://metrojetwash.ca/