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Studies show that surface hygiene is a critical component to an effective health risk reduction strategy.
The ability of surfaces in our indoor environment to transmit pathogens is well documented by the scientific community.
Given the emergence of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) and the growth of both healthcare-acquired and community-acquired infections, the impact of proper surface hygiene continues to push to the forefront of our industry and society at large.
With legislative and regulatory pressure, our healthcare industry continues to emphasize surface hygiene as a major contributor to effective infection prevention.
As community-acquired infections continue to grow, today’s facilities managers are now more aware of and better educated on the need for surface hygiene in our schools, child care centers, fitness facilities and all commercial and public indoor environments.
This movement has caused a shakeup in housekeeping departments and for professional cleaning contractors around the world.
While environmental services workers in the healthcare realm are leading the charge for effective surface hygiene, there are some commercial contractors who have also taken steps to add innovation and advanced processes to the cleaning industry.
Still, many providers of cleaning services struggle to understand and fully comprehend what effective hygienic surface cleaning is and, even more so, how they can go about receiving proper education on providing it.
Commercial facilities are now asking questions about disinfection and cross-contamination that many in the industry are unable to answer.
Most cleaning workers have used disinfectants in restrooms without any real comprehensive understanding of how or why they work.
Even worse, trips to many healthcare facilities reveal cleaning workers actually contributing to cross-contamination — albeit unknowingly.
Establishing New Practices
The concept of effective surface hygiene is a shift in methodology and focus; it requires the targeting of surfaces that are often overlooked in traditional cleaning processes.
An effective surface hygiene program combines the prudent use of proper disinfectants to kill germs; but, just as importantly, it focuses on soil and matter containment and removal through advanced cleaning technologies.
Cross-contamination elimination also plays a key role in an effective surface hygiene program, utilizing dedicated cleaning tools in specific areas to avoid transporting germs and soils from one area to another.
You might be pondering, perhaps about your person or possibly pertaining to your people, “Just how does today’s custodial worker gain the knowledge to make the transition from janitor to environmental health professional?”
While some companies and facilities have taken active steps to develop internal training and certification programs, there are several organizations that can provide effective curriculum resources and help educate workers.
Many of these organizations are within the healthcare community and have specific eligibility requirements for participation.
But, if you or your company are working in and providing services to healthcare facilities, these resources may be available to you.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides standards and required training on the prevention of exposure to bloodborne and airborne pathogens.
OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) requires employers to provide information and training to workers.
Employers must offer this training on initial assignment, at least annually thereafter and when new or modified tasks or procedures affect a worker’s occupational exposure.
This training not only keeps workers safe, but also provides an excellent foundation for understanding the associated risks of and the proper procedures for effective hygienic cleaning.
More information and additional resources are available at www.OSHA.gov.
The Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN) is a nonprofit membership association that represents the interests of more than 160,000 perioperative nurses by providing nursing education, standards and clinical practice resources.
While the organization primarily serves the nursing community, they can provide a tremendous amount of educational resources and standards for effective hygienic cleaning processes.
Videos, written standards and other educational materials can be found at www.AORN.org.
The Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization, accredits and certifies more than 19,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the U.S.
The Joint Commission offers a wealth of tools for organizations to assess and improve their infection control activities and provides support materials that can help educate cleaning workers on proper hygienic cleaning.
More information about The Joint Commission and all of the resources they have to offer can be found at www.JointCommission.org.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) established a Certification Center with a mission to create, facilitate and administer the healthcare industry’s premier certification programs.
The Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE), an affiliate of AHA, is the professional organization of choice for directors and managers responsible for patient and resident environments across all settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, continuing care retirement communities and ambulatory care providers.
More information, including the plethora of educational materials and certification programs that are available, can be found at www.AHA.org.
The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) is the leading professional association for infection preventionists with more than 14,000 members.
Their mission is to create a safer world through the prevention of infection.
APIC offers a comprehensive collection of clinical education and professional development programs in both live and archived formats for those of all career levels and in all healthcare settings.
More information on the infection prevention resources offered can be found at www.APIC.org.
A Neverending Battle
The cleaning industry continues its evolution in pursuit of providing safer and healthier indoor environments through effective, hygienic surface cleaning.
As we continue to learn and develop educational programs for all aspects of our industry, the healthcare community can be a tremendous resource and partner to assist in developing training, procedures and protocols that govern the manner in which we clean.
And, in the training and education process, we can transform the JanSan industry from a bunch of custodians, janitors and cleaners into true environmental health professionals — stewards to our collective wellbeing.