On the website of a 40-year-old contract cleaning company in Rhode Island, the owner states that his company is “committed to preventing the spread of germs in workplaces and takes special care when disinfecting restrooms.” It would not surprise me today, with concerns about COVID so paramount, that a comment such as this would be found on just about any cleaning contractor’s website.
However, this contractor took things to the next level. He went on to say:
To help accomplish this, we employ the no-touch cleaning system. These systems are smart cleaning machines . . . [that] effectively clean, disinfect, and dry surfaces. Research has shown that no-touch cleaning machines are 60 times more effective at decontaminating surfaces since they impede cross-contamination.
As a former cleaning contractor, I know it was not that long ago, probably just a year ago in fact, that a building owner or manager would have little interest in what type of cleaning products and equipment their cleaning contractors used. Their focus was on keeping the facility looking its best. How this was accomplished was not their key concern.
However, COVID, as we have heard repeatedly, has changed everything. This is especially true when it comes to professional cleaning, and specifically when hiring a new cleaning contractor.
Building owners are now extremely focused on what types of products and equipment are used in their facilities. They must be.
Even with the rollout of the vaccine, the wearing of masks, social distancing, and the current decline in the number of COVID cases, at least here in the U.S., we know that effective and thorough cleaning is one of the best defenses we have in keeping facilities not only clean and healthy – but open.
So, my advice to any building owner/manager now taking bids, or looking for a new cleaning contractor, is to do the following two things:
First, update your request for proposals (RFPs) or Scope of Work (SOW) forms, making sure they put much greater emphasis on infection control measures.
Second, ask the contractor to list what types of cleaning products, tools, and equipment will be used in your facility if hired. Complete transparency is now required.
But coming clean, please excuse the expression, about what types of cleaning tools will be used in your facility is just the start. Here are some of the additional items owners/managers should look for when selecting a new cleaning contractor. Further, the items below should also be on your updated RFPs or SOWs.
Insurance. Currently, we are in unchartered territory when it comes to lawsuits related to COVID-19. In Illinois alone, as of February 2021, nearly 400 lawsuits have been filed related to COVID-19. Many of these are from people who believe a facility did not take the necessary steps to protect a staffer or building user from contracting the disease. Some states are passing laws to help shield businesses, but others are waiting for the courts to decide how to handle this.
Whatever the outcome, when hiring a new cleaning contractor, it is essential to check their liability insurance and read the fine print. The amount carried by the contractor should be ample. This will help protect owners/managers from cleaning-related liability issues.
Ask for proof. A cleaning contractor in the Southeastern part of the country has the logos of CIMS and GBAC on their website. These are very distinguished organizations. The logos are there to imply the company’s staff have been certified by the Cleaning Industry Management Standard, which teaches “best practices” to cleaning professionals. The other logo, from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, teaches cleaning professionals infection control and prevention measures.
However, it is not hard to find which contractors have been certified by these two organizations. This company is not. When it comes to COVID, infection control, cleaning best practices, and keeping building users healthy, “name-dropping” logos on websites means nothing. Ask for proof.
COVID-related cleaning procedures. There was considerable uncertainty in the professional cleaning industry when the pandemic first hit our shores regarding how to address this cleaning challenge and implement infection control measures.
Add a section to your RFP/SOW that asks the contractor to explain what they have learned and what steps they have taken to prevent the spread of infection.
Our Rhode Island cleaning contractor has already accomplished this by indicating the company now uses no-touch cleaning systems. While this is regarded as one of the most effective infection control technologies now available, others can be listed. Further, the contractor should note what procedures they have taken to protect the health of their own staff.
Are gloves always worn and changed frequently?
How about goggles?
Is their vehicle cleaned and disinfected?
COVID travels, and vehicles are one way the disease gets from here to there.
Scientific quality control. The professional cleaning industry has been going more high-tech for more than a decade. COVID has moved this along faster.
Software programs and “apps” are now available to help catalog, scientifically, cleaning effectiveness. Typically, they base their data on ATP rapid monitoring systems that detect whether living organisms are present on a surface. While this does not necessarily mean health-risking pathogens are present, we need to keep these readings as low as possible.
The software and apps collect this data, record trouble spots, and indicate trends. For instance, if the system reports surfaces tested are “safe” for several months, but notes problems are developing, the contractor and the building owner/manager have access to the same information. Steps can be taken quickly to address and rectify the situation.
Finally, it is important for building owners/managers to stay informed with access to credible information, especially when it comes to cleaning, maintenance, and facility health. This publication is a particularly good resource. Organizations such as BOMA and some of the leading commercial real estate management firms are also good resources.
One key objective they all share is keeping the workspace safe, clean, healthy…and open.
Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor and now a frequent author for the professional cleaning industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.