So much about cleanliness is based on appearance and has been for generations. As Facility and Custodial Managers, we know that you spend a tremendous amount of time justifying FTE counts, trying to keep staff and battling the ever-increasing amount of square footage you are responsible for and not being able to add additional staff (do more with less). We don’t see that battle being won very often so perhaps there is a different approach we can take by tying our cleaning practices to the health of people in our buildings.
Why is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Important?
Let’s use school buildings as an example: It is estimated that 90% of our time is spent indoors and indoor levels of pollutants are usually 2 to 5 times or higher than outdoor concerns. Nearly 1 in 13 children of school-age has asthma, the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness. There is substantial evidence that indoor environmental exposure to allergens, such as dust mites, pests and molds, plays a role in triggering asthma symptoms and several of these can be addressed through good cleaning practices and the products we use. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) also contribute and these are found in many cleansers and disinfectants. In addition, the developing bodies of children might be more susceptible to environmental exposures than those of adults. Children breathe more air, eat more food and drink more liquid in proportion to their body weight than adults. Therefore, air quality in schools is of particular concern. Impacts by not addressing the quality of IAQ can contribute to these potential problems:
- Impact student attendance, comfort and performance.
- Reduce teacher and staff performance.
- Accelerate the deterioration and reduce the efficiency of the school’s physical plant and equipment.
- Increase potential for school closings or relocation of occupants.
- Strain relationships among school administration, parents and staff.
- Create negative publicity.
- Impact community trust.
- Create liability problems.
How Can We Change This?
Evaluate your cleaning processes: What tools are being used? Are you utilizing the best tools for the job? Are the products you are using doing an effective job? How are you measuring your team’s performance? How many complaints are being received and how are you responding to them? Do you have a good training program in place? We hope that if you have read this blog post to this point and you have figured out it may not be an easy task.
Reflect on the attitude towards cleaning in your organization or business. Is it valued? Identify whether you need to just drop subtle hints to get people thinking about the value that cleanliness brings or whether you have a major ship to turn. If it is a major mind shift you may have to work on a communication strategy and execution plan.
Proper maintenance of indoor air is more than a “quality” issue; it encompasses safety and stewardship of your investment in students, patients, staff, (your building occupants) and your facilities. We can all work together to change the message and we are. By working together with the manufacturers in the commercial cleaning industry and our professional organizations we can change the attitude towards cleaning so that we all can enjoy healthier places to work and learn.
You don’t have to do this alone. Challenge your custodial support team, your suppliers, to help. Nichols has been through this process with numerous customers and we would welcome your challenge also. Let’s start talking about the effect of cleaning on indoor air quality to accomplish a higher level of importance of the tasks we should be doing daily in our buildings. You can start the ball rolling by requesting a Custodial Assessment Evaluation through your Nichols sales representative or drop us a line: [email protected]