During these unprecedented times, we must be more intentional about how we disinfect and sanitize surfaces in everyday places, such as office spaces, supermarkets, and other public environments. We’ve witnessed how easily a virus, like COVID-19, can spread and completely take over an entire country. Knowing how to safely and effectively disinfect is an essential step in taking precaution from another viral outbreak.
Studies show that surface hygiene is a critical component of an effective health risk reduction strategy. The scientific community well documents the ability of surfaces in our indoor environment to transmit pathogens. With the emergence of MDRO’s (Multi-Drug resistant organisms) and the growth of both healthcare 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 infections continue to grow and change, today’s facility managers are now more educated on the need for surface hygiene in our schools, childcare centers, fitness facilities, and all commercial and public indoor environments. This movement has caused a shakeup in housekeeping departments and professional cleaning contractors around the world. While healthcare environmental service workers are leading the charge for effective surface hygiene, some commercial contractors have also taken steps to add innovation and advanced processes to the cleaning industry. Still, many providers of cleaning services struggle to understand and 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.
How can we prevent the spread of viruses and germs?
The concept of effective surface hygiene is a shift in methodology and focus. It requires the targeting of surfaces that often, we overlook, in traditional cleaning processes. An effective Illness Prevention program combines the prudent use of proper disinfectants to kill germs, but as importantly, a focus on soil, matter containment, and removal through advanced cleaning technology. Cross-contamination elimination also plays a vital role in an effective Illness Prevention program, utilizing dedicated cleaning tools and solutions in specific areas to avoid transporting germs and viruses from one area to another.
How can today’s cleaners transition to environmental health professionals?
While some companies and facilities have taken active steps to develop internal training and certification programs, several organizations can provide adequate curriculum resources and help educate workers. Many of these organizations are within the healthcare community and have specific eligibility requirements for participation. Still, if you or your company are working in and providing services in our health care facilities, these resources may be available to you.
OSHA- The Occupational and Health Administration 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 after that, and when new or modified tasks or procedures affect a worker’s occupational exposure. This training not only keeps workers safe but provides an excellent foundation for understanding the associated risks and proper procedures for effective hygienic cleaning. More information and resources are available at the www.OSHA.gov web site.
AORN- The Association for Peri-Operative Registered Nurses is a non-profit 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, it can provide a tremendous amount of educational resources and standards for effective hygienic cleaning processes. Videos, written procedures, and other educational materials are on their website at www.AORN.org.
The Joint Commission- The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization, The Commission accredits and certifies more than 19,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. The 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. Information on the JC resources is on their website at www.jointcommission.org.
Global Biorisk Advisory Council- Composed of international leaders in the field of microbial – pathogenic threat analysis, mitigation, response & recovery, The Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) provides training, guidance, certification, crisis management, assistance and leadership to government, commercial and private entities looking to mitigate, quickly address biological threats and real-time crises, and/or recover from such events. Click on the following link for more information and resources: https://gbac.org/
THE AHA-CC and AHE-The American Hospital Association Certification Center (AHA-CC) is a division of the American Hospital Association (AHA). Its mission is to create, facilitate, and administer the healthcare industry’s premier certification programs. The Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) of the American Hospital Association is the professional organization of choice for directors and managers caring for the patient and resident care environment across all care settings, including hospitals, long term care, continuing care retirement communities and ambulatory care. These organizations provide a plethora of educational material and certification programs that may be available to some cleaning workers.
One certification course offered through AHA may be applicable for cleaning workers who work in or provide services to the health care industry is the Certified Health Care Environmental Services Professional program.
Eligibility for the CHESP Examination requires fulfilling one (1) of the following requirements:
- Baccalaureate degree or higher from an accredited college or university plus three (3) years of environmental services experience in a healthcare setting, of which two (2) of those years must have been in a management/supervisory/administrative role.
- Associate degree or equivalent from an accredited college plus four (4) years of environmental services experience in a healthcare setting, of which three (3) of those years must have been in a management/supervisory/administrative role.
- High school diploma or equivalent plus five (5) years of environmental services experience in a management/supervisory/managerial role in a healthcare setting.
More information on meeting eligibility requirements and participation in the certification program are at the AHA website www.aha.org/certifcenter/CHESP/index.shtml
APIC- The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) is the leading professional association for infection preventionists (IPs) 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. Infection prevention content is available in live and online formats for all career levels and healthcare settings. Information on the resources offered are on their website at www.APIC.orgThe cleaning industry continues to evolve in pursuit of providing healthier indoor environments through effective hygienic surface cleaning and Illness Prevention program so we can stay protected against new viruses. 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 can begin to transform our cleaning workers into true environmental health professionals.
Peter J. Sheldon Sr., CEO of ATALIAN Global Services, is an industry expert in developing hygienic cleaning processes and programs in commercial facilities. He brings more than 32 years of experience to his position as CEO of ATALIAN Global Services of North America.