In our last post we talked about the importance of proper cleaning in Environmental Services and how many hospitals are unwittingly doing a poor job of it. In a presentation for the CDC on “The Role of Environmental Cleaning in Preventing HAIs”, Dr. Keith Woeltje of the Washington University School of Medicine cited studies that showed that though most hospital surfaces looked clean, their current cleaning program was not effectively removing pathogens. This negligence has serious implications on patient health, namely that it dramatically increases a patient’s likelihood of acquiring a Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI). The primary purpose of his talk, however, was not to point fingers but to provide solutions.
Dr. Woeltje outlined a programmatic approach that was tested in thirty-six hospitals. It started with collecting baseline data on current cleaning effectiveness and ultimately empowered ES staff to engage in an on-going self-auditing process.
Here’s what happened:
In Phase I, rooms that had been terminally cleaned were identified, marked and then evaluated after one or two patient cycles using a fluorescent gel system.
In Phase II, the data from the first phase was used to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the current cleaning program. This information was then used to educate Environmental Services staff about surfaces that were being neglected. It was important that these issues were presented to the ES staff in a supportive, “non-punitive” manner.
During Phase III, the same surfaces were tested again and compared with the baseline data from the first phase.
On average hospitals went from cleaning 45 to 80% of high-touch objects effectively. These are pretty remarkable results considering that they didn’t incur any additional costs in the process.
The only weakness of this type of educational approach was that results tended to be short-term. Though rooms were initially cleaned more rigorously, eventually there was an inevitable drop in results. Dr. Woeltje said that this downward slope could be reversed by continuing to track cleaning efficacy on an ongoing basis and getting Environmental Services staff to feel invested in the results.
One idea he tried was giving each area of the hospital a board dedicated to the specific issues important to that department (e.g. slip/fall prevention, infection rates, etc.). In the Environmental Services department, one issue on their board was cleaning efficacy. Efficacy measurements were regularly updated and posted and every day someone from senior leadership would come by to go over the board with ES staff. A frontline staff member, not the ES manager, would review their current cleaning efficacy rates with that person and describe what practical steps their department was taking to improve these results.
Dr. Woeltje identified the following factors as key ingredients to success in this type of approach:
- Support from upper management
- Buy-in from the ES staff
- On-going attention from managers
- Investment by ES staff in results
- Blameless benchmarking
- Cooperation about problems
- Recognition of success at all levels (i.e. within the ES department and by senior leadership)
One critical point Dr. Woeltje made in his presentation but didn’t elaborate much on was the centrality of process in the success of a cleaning program. He cited a study by Mark Rupp that showed that there is “. . . very little correlation between how much time the environmental services person spends in the room and how clean the room is. . . A lot of it has to do with workflow and efficiency, not that [ES staff] are busy cleaning stuff.” Developing an efficient process is key in sustainable cleaning efficacy. . . but it doesn’t stop there.
Process and People
Training ES staff to deal with other people in the hospital is an essential part of implementing the right process. As Matthew Stowe, OctoClean’s COO, says, “We don’t hire robots to clean buildings. We hire people to clean buildings. And these people have to deal with other people in the midst of trying to get their jobs done. Having a step-by-step, efficient checklist is important but what’s even more important is that you complete it regardless of the outside influencers. You can have the perfect process and all the right equipment and chemical but if you don’t apply them correctly, none of it matters. What makes ES staff deviate from their practices is other people. For example, distractions or resistance from patients, pressure from nursing to turn over rooms faster, and ES supervisors that are themselves responding to these outside pressures and in turn rushing their technicians. Staff need to feel supported by their managers and be trained on how to deal with the various types of feedback, personality types and cultures they may encounter as they go about their work.”
For example, ES need to be trained on how to deal with nursing or other medical staff who:
- think it is more important to get a patient in a room then take the time to clean that room properly
- think ES staff take 30 to 40 minutes to clean a room because they are lazy, not because they are following certain protocol
ES staff also need to be trained on how to deal with patients who may:
- be irritated that they are in their space
- think that they are not doing anything valuable
- want to chat for a long time
- dislike the smell of disinfectants
- have feedback for the ES staff about their work
Raising cleaning efficacy, then, requires a two-fold approach. First, ES managers and supervisors need to train staff on cleaning processes, help these staff become more comfortable and efficient in these processes, and, as Dr. Woeltje suggests, develop a programmatic approach that keeps them invested in their results. In addition, these same managers and supervisors need to protect their staff by training them on how to deal with input from people (patients and medical staff) that would tempt them to alter their processes.
In properly equipping ES staff to maintain cleaning efficacy standards, we are helping them to better fight for the preeminent goal of protecting patient safety.
I cannot tell you how many times a day people walk into our office, sniff the air and say, “Wow, it smells really nice and clean in here”. I am always flattered and glad to hear this. We are a janitorial services company after all, so keeping things clean is our bread and butter. However, as nice as it is to hear these compliments, the fact that our office smells pleasantly of “Trade Winds” has almost nothing to do with how clean it actually is. (Another example of this can be seen in Fabreze’s most recent series of commercials.)
Well then, how can you know a place is clean when it really counts? In a hospital or your doctor’s office, for example? Most people look at the condition of the floors and the overall level of tidiness. If the floors are shiny and waxed, people tend to assume that the rest of the place is clean. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Fundamentally, there is a difference between something looking clean and being clean. Looking clean is just that - all in appearance. Things are orderly. There is no noticeable dirt or dust. Whether or not a surface is actually clean, depends on what organic material is present on the surface (the bioload). Generally, a bioload lower than 250 relative light units is considered clean since it is virtually impossible to remove all organic matter from a surface. In healthcare facilities, it is essential to have a systematic cleaning program with the measurable goal of lowering the bioload and eliminating pathogens. Check out our before-and-after video to see a practical demonstration of this.
Why is proper cleaning so essential? Dr. Keith Woeltje from the Washington University School of Medicine discussed this issue in a presentation for the CDC on “The Role of the Environment”. He shared that in one study, only 24% of hospitals tested using ATP bioluminescence were actually clean even though 82% looked like they were. Another study found that only 50% of hospitals were cleaning high-touch surfaces in a way that effectively removed pathogens. He concluded that “just because things aren’t grossly soiled, doesn’t mean they are not harboring pathogens.”
Dr. Woeltje went on to emphasize the seriousness of this issue by citing a series of studies that demonstrate the practical implications of this kind of negligence. These studies showed that if the previous occupant of a room had a healthcare associated infection (HAI), the next occupant of that room was on average 120% more likely to contract that same illness. Specifically, if the previous patient had MRSA, the next patient is 50% more likely to get it. With VRE, C. diff, and Acinetobacter these rates were 170%, 100%, and 300% respectively. Grim statistics indeed.
In our next post, we will discuss practical steps your hospital or healthcare facility can take to ensure that it not only looks but is
What are CRE?
CRE stands for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae. Quite a mouthful right? Carbapenem are last resort antibiotics and Enterobacteriaceae are bacteria normally found in the human gut. If we put those together, we’ve got bacteria that are nearly impossible to treat with anything in our current arsenal of antibiotics. They are also lethal. Some strains have been known to kill up to 50% of those people infected. What is most worrisome to many health professionals, including the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Friedan, is that this bacteria are becoming increasingly widespread. The first reported case was in 2001 and since then CRE have been found in 42 states, generally in in-patient healthcare facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes. Eighteen percent of long-term acute care hospitals reported a case of CRE during the first-half of 2012.
People most vulnerable to CRE are those whose immune systems that have already been compromised by illness. If they become infected with CRE, doctors can mistakenly prescribe antibiotics which can kill good bacteria and allow the number of CRE to grow in the body and to spread their antibiotic-resistance to other bacteria. This latter ability is especially frightening. Health officials are afraid that antibiotic-resistant bacteria will become increasingly prevalent and that it will become harder and harder to fight infections because our medical system has become so heavily dependent on antibiotics. In other words, that the dangerous superbugs, that we have feared for so many years, may actually be in the makings.
As Dr. Friedan says, “Everyone involved in medical care from CEOs to patient care staff to health departments needs to act rapidly in a coordinated fashion to stop CRE before our window to control these bacteria closes.”
What can you do to prevent the spread of CRE?
If you are a HEALTHCARE PROVIDER, 6 prevention steps as outlined by the CDC:
1. Know if your patients have CRE, and request immediate alerts from your laboratory every time they identify a patient with CRE.
2. Second, when either receiving or transferring patients, make sure to ask and find out if the patient you're receiving has CRE.
3. Protect your patients from CRE by following contact and other precautions whenever you're getting patients with CRE. Proper hand-washing is key. Medical staff need to wash their hands and change their gloves in between every patient. Also, bathing patients with Chlorhexidine, an antimicrobial soap, can reduce infection from multidrug-resistant organisms
4. Whenever possible, have specific rooms, equipment, and staff equipped for CRE patients. That reduces the chance CRE will spread from one patient to others.
5. Take out temporary medical devices like catheters as soon as possible.
6. Lastly, and very importantly, prescribe antibiotics carefully. Overuse and misuse increases drug resistant infections and that results in longer inpatient treatment, higher costs, and poorer patient outcomes. Improving antibiotic use is a win-win for hospitals and patients. Hospitals can save and patients benefit from more targeted treatment.
Find the entire CDC toolkit here.
If you or your loved one is a PATIENT in a long-term or acute care facility, the CDC recommends the following:
1. Insist that everyone who touches you during your medical care, doctors, nurses, technicians, visitors, wash their hands before touching you.
2. If you have a catheter, an intravenous line, or a urinary catheter in, ask how long you'll have it and request it be removed as soon as possible.
If you are ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES (ES) or Housekeeping staff, we encourage you to:
1. Practice good hand hygiene. Use hand sanitizer between every room and wash your hands every third room. This means rubbing all parts of your hands vigorously long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice (about 20 seconds).
2. Use cleaning chemicals properly. When using any disinfectant make sure it’s diluted correctly and that it sits wet on the surface for the full dwell-time. Check with your infection control practitioner or your ES manager to see which chemicals or disinfectants you should be using.
3. Use personal protective equipment as necessary. Follow standard precautions for personal protective equipment listed on the door of each isolation room. The required equipment will vary depending on the type of isolation such as respiratory, contact or droplet. All equipment should be located immediately outside the room or in the Ante room if so equipped. Dispose of gear and scrubs as you are exiting the room.
4. Follow standard protocol for multi-drug resistant organism (MDRO) room cleaning. One staff member should be dedicated exclusively to clean isolation rooms. This will help prevent MDRO's from spreading throughout the hospital.
Recently I was at a Chamber of Commerce function and someone asked me about the difference between cleaning an office and a medical facility.
To best answer this question the first thing we need to establish is what is clean? And the truth is that it depends. “Clean” in an office is different than “clean” in a hospital. “But why?” you say. “Isn’t there a universally applicable standard of clean?” Well... yes and no.
Fundamentally cleaning has two purposes: to make a space look nice (to turn disorder into order - akin to pushing a reset button) and to reduce the “bio load” on a surface. Bio load is a fancy way to describe the dust, dirt and grime (i.e. the organic material) that accumulates. Normally, some of this you can see (obvious dust and dirt) and some of this is only perceptible through a microscope. If you do a swab test in an office or home you are likely to find soils from the outdoor environment, as well as human skin and bacteria from human nasal cavities and other orifices.
Since an office tends to have a lower level of traffic, and this of primarily healthy individuals, it isn’t necessary to clean using the same methods and procedures one would in a medical facility. Cleaning commercially centers on making a space look presentable, removing dirt, and maintaining surfaces (e.g. such as carpet, tile, and vinyl flooring) so that they stay in good repair. Pathogens tend to collect on high-touch surfaces such as doors and telephone receivers so it is important to regularly disinfect these, especially during flu season.
A hospital or medical facility, on the other hand, is bombarded by an enormous quantity and variety of pathogens on a daily basis because, after all, the primary function of these facilities is to serve sick people. Thus, reducing the bioload on a surface and eliminating pathogens in a medical facility, is a preeminent and on-going focus. Patient care rooms are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis and/or every time a patient is discharged. Patient care equipment that is reusable is generally sterilized. In addition, housekeeping staff are constantly making rounds throughout the day removing trash and soiled linen and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, including:
- faucet handles
- light switches
- bed rails
- nurse call buttons
- over-bed and bedside tables
- foot boards on beds
- remote controls
- drinking faucets
- call buttons in elevators
The need for proper and frequent disinfection is most vital in areas like the Intensive Care and Isolation units because these patients tend to have immune systems that have already been severely compromised by infections or accidents. The Emergency Room is another high-risk area for infection because it is a major admitting center for a hospital and patients have not been separated yet based on their condition or type of illness.
Regardless of the unit they are serving in, it is important for the head of Hospital Housekeeping (also known as Environmental Services) to stay in close contact with the hospital’s infection control officer to make sure that the products they are using have a kill claim that encompasses the full range of pathogens that may be present in the facility. We also use Westlaw to stay abreast of the latest changes in State regulations.
Most facilities will fall somewhere on this office to hospital continuum in terms of stringency and purpose of cleaning.
No matter what kind of facility
you own, at OctoClean we can help you develop a cleaning program that is uniquely tailored to your needs and sensitive to your budget. Call us today for a free consultation.
Let me tell you a story of the hardest, slowest and costliest floor job in my cleaning history. . .
My girlfriend and future wife was away at school in London and I needed to make some quick money doing extra work. I had stripped floors from time to time with my Dad in our family janitorial business so I figured I would take a floor job on my own.
When I got to the job site, I remember that the floor looked pretty good. It had a shine to it but also had a shadow of dirt under the “wax”. No biggie right? Wrong! The first night I stripped the same 8x8 area for six hours using over a gallon of stripper and three black pads. After much trial and error, I figured out that following the instructions on the back of the stripper container helped greatly (what a thought). Warm water, properly diluted stripper, proper dwell time and multiple pads eventually did the trick. Still, I couldn't figure out why this floor had taken me 10 hours to do instead of 3.
Tired and beaten I packed my supplies and equipment up to discover the villian in the story . . . cheap finish!!! The janitorial closet was stuffed with cheap Costco finish. Later I found out that the previous contractor was laying finish on the floors weekly to keep up the shine. If you have ever followed a contractor using this product, you know the finish comes off like glue (sometimes in sheets). It does not emulsify, it is just good old paste. From that day forward, I vowed never to lay cheap finish and to learn the best ways to apply it.
Here are five things I have learned that have saved me beaucoup bucks:
- Strip the edges and corners. Common sense to strip the corners right? You'd think but a lot of people don't do this because doing it properly requires a lot of extra work. Since a machine can't fully reach the corners, good old-fashioned elbow grease is the only thing that is really effective. If you stick with a machine, eventually you will end up with a lot of built up finish that looks terrible. To fix this, use a 3M Doodlebug unit with a brown pad after soaking the edges for ten plus minutes with stripper solution. If you wish, you can use an aerosol baseboard stripper but be careful not to leave it on too long as it can ruin rubber base cover and VCT if let to dry. I recommend staying away from it in general, but it is a great product for metal thresholds.
- Flip your pad. The four elements needed for efficient cleaning are temperature, agitation, concentration and time. Most people focus on the concentration and temperature and forget that dwell time and agitation are essential too. In a perfect world you would have all four elements but often you will be missing one, usually temperature. This doesn't always matter, however, since most floor strippers don't require hot water because it can cause the cleaning agents to evaporate. Lukewarm water will do just fine. Checking your pad often to see if it is “loaded” will ensure that you have agitation needed. The first 8x8 section you strip will tell you a lot about how much you will need to flip and replace pads. Check it often.
- Lay finish to edge every other coat. After years of applying finish to the edge each coat, I was taught by an old floor zen master to take it every other coat. Of course you have to edge off doorways but this practice makes the stripping process so much easier later on. Still, box out your areas and stay six inches away from the coving. Never apply more than three coats of finish to the edges at any time. So, if you choose to apply five coats or more, never add more than three to the edges.
- Take it slow. Stripping a floor is dirty, labor intensive work. Take a break between the stripping and finishing of floors, otherwise you may go too fast and achieve less than satisfactory results. Taking a break also allows you to phase off workers (you won’t need the same amount of staff for finishing) and get some perspective on the floors appearance prior to finishing. When you are finishing the floors your head should be in a totally different almost calm place. Take your time...every flaw will show up in your finish. The first coat must be perfect!
- Burnish after beauty. After spending so much time, money, and resources on producing this masterpiece, top it off with a good burnish (aka polish). Most manufacturers recommend you wait 24 hours before burnishing. This is a very good recommendation but one that is hard to execute because the reality of floor care is we just do not have 48 hours of time to keep areas traffic-free. It is very important that you burnish the floors BEFORE people start to trample all over them. Therefore, if you do not have 24 hours, give the floor as much time as possible to cure, then burnish. If you carefully select a floor finish, you can find formulations that allow for immediate burnishing. Adding this step will heat up the floor finish and bond the coats together creating a more durable surface.
Ultimately, mastery of floor care takes years of trial and error. If you strive to be the best at it, you will fall in love with the result of your work (if you fall in love with the work call a therapist immediately). If you have been doing floors for a while, these tips can really help put you over the edge to mastery.
I would love to hear what tricks you use to save money and produce better results. Use the comment area below and we can chat about it.
Many of us have been trained to use systems. We use them to be more efficient and productive. There is one system, however, that runs through all areas of our lives that is not helpful but destructive. This system contains very important ingredients (control, dependence, distrust and scarcity) and we find it at work all around us. This system is called FEAR.
Inside of this unconscious system we have made choices that make us who we are: where we work, who we marry, what religion we choose, which political party we side with...The list goes on. In this system we strive to be liked and will do anything to gain the admiration of as many people as we can. Let's face it, this system is about not having enough and never being able to get it. This is a system of survival.
Below are two real-life examples of the system of fear at work:
An account manager that depends on a handful of customers has just received a call from his largest customer that they are going to be getting other bids this year. Without asking any qualifying questions, the account manager goes into a panic and begins dialing the phone to find out why this is happening. The technicians on the site are interrogated, the manager of the project berated and the customer left behind. Finding that everything is OK with the service delivery, the account manager figures that the customer must be bidding because they are lowering costs. He goes to work on the new proposal and decides he is going to cut costs no matter what. Remember at this point the customer still has not been called to ask them why are they going out for bids because he is afraid to find out Fast-forward to the delivery of the new contract with a 25% reduction in costs. The customer takes one look at it and says "If you could do the job for this price, why have you been charging me so much for the past 8 years?" Little does the account manager know that the other 3 bids came in 35% higher than the original price. Oh, and the customer went with the company that listened to them and asked them questions.
A franchise owner has a couple of accounts and is pleased with the take-home money. He has purchased a new truck and is proud of what his hard work has produced. He starts his night at about 5:30pm and often runs into his first customer as he begins his cleaning route. This customer is a very busy and demanding person: a stereotypical, hard-driving manager. The franchise owner is quickly learning that this customer has "high expectations". It starts pretty harmlessly, a simple request to clean the refrigerator out because there was a spill. A week goes by and the manager confronts the franchise owner about cleaning of the refrigerator. The franchise owner insists that he cleaned the refrigerator but the manager persists that it wasn't done. Franchise owner does it again. Now it is every week and a pattern has started. Next thing are the floors getting scrubbed, the carpets cleaned and the windows done. Fast forward 6 months and the franchise owner is spending 2 hours in a facility that should take 30 minutes. Why? FEAR is hard at work. The manager knows how to use it and can find the players.
Unfortunately, many of us have been coerced into being a part of this system but it does not need to control our reactions. What are your stories?
In the business world, we are not trained to be thankful but rather to give the majority of our attention to what is not going well. We obsess over our goals; what has failed in the past and what we need to change in the present.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think goal-orientation is good. As it is said, “Without vision, a people perish.” The human spirit flounders without a sense of future-oriented hope. However, as it is also said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. It is essential that we find a sense of satisfaction located in “today”. If what we are hoping for is always located in “tomorrow”, after a while, it will be hard to find the energy to keep going.
So here’s an idea...
What would it be like to just be openly thankful and to call out the things that we are grateful for in our workplace? In our co-workers? In the events of the past year? I believe we can never truly move forward unless we are able to drop the anxieties, pressures and hopes of the future long enough to recognize what we already have. Because the truth is, we don’t have tomorrow yet - only today. If we can’t begin to digest the reality of our present accomplishments, what makes us think that whatever happens tomorrow will somehow be satisfying? A lack of thankfulness for today almost precludes the possibility of satisfaction with tomorrow.
Why have I been thinking about this lately? Well for one, it's Thanksgiving but also because last weekend OctoClean’s corporate staff went on a working retreat to vision and plan for the next three years. Before we got started, we took time to remember our accomplishments and list things we appreciate about our company. This laid an important foundation for the rest of our work. Over the next day and a half, we developed an extensive vision of where we want our company to go and how we plan to get there.
Do I think we can achieve these dreams? Yes, with a lot of hard work and gratitude - to the members of our corporate team, to our hard-working franchise owners, to our loyal customers, to the vendors who provide us what we need to get our jobs done, for our wonderful coffee machine, for the non-fluorescent lights in our office, for the funny magnets on our fridge that never fail to crack me up, for all the countless things that “go right” on a daily basis. For all this and more, we are, and will strive to continue to be, thankful.
Hospitals, like everyone else, have taken a hit during the economic downturn. The good news? Here are a few easy ways to save on housekeeping operational costs without sacrificing patient care:
1. Use fewer trash liners. A small but important practice to change is placing extra trash can liners at the bottom of bins. Though in other types of facilities this can serve as a time-saving practice for the janitorial crew, in a hospital, trash liners will be considered contaminated and have to be thrown away if any liquid leaks onto them. Since trash liners are a petroleum-based product, they become more expensive when the cost of oil rises so the fewer you use the better.
2. Pick the right paper products. The key to lowering the cost of your paper products is to choose the right dispensing system and the right quality paper. Unbleached, post-consumer recycled rolls are generally the most cost-effective for hands. Toilet tissue on the other hand is a totally different story. The question to ask is “How comfortable do you want your customers to be?”. Softer paper requires more virgin pulp and less recycled product in it’s production resulting in higher costs.
3. Use the right amount of cleaning chemicals. Dilution control machines allow you to accurately measure cleaning chemicals. Some cleaning chemicals can be very expensive so controlling your chemical usage can have a major impact on your bottom line. Using the right amount of chemical can also help to ensure that you are effectively killing pathogens, which of course is essential in a hospital setting. If your disinfectant is overly diluted, pathogens will remain active and have the chance to build up an immunity. Contrary to what you might expect, if the chemical is too strong, it may end up simply “washing” over the pathogens without actually killing them. Chemical products are engineered to work at certain parts per million. Dilution control equipment can help cleaning agents clean more effectively and control your bottom line.
4. Avoid unnecessary linen laundering. The key here is to establish accurate par levels on each floor. A good way to estimate this is to set aside the same number of linen items as beds in the unit along with an additional 10 to 15 percent of that number as extra. Deliver these in the morning and then check in every few hours to restock par levels as needed. The danger with having too much linen on a floor is that it can easily become contaminated, thus needing to be re-laundered before it is even used. Don’t have more linen than is necessary out on the floor and educate nursing staff on the importance of only taking what is actually needed or requested by the patient. (For more, see our related post on how to choose a linen service.)
5. Reduce your solid waste. Waste removal fees are assessed based on volume (usually around $60 per ton) so it is important to reduce your solid waste as much as possible. A few easy steps to take...
- Establish a recycling program for cardboard, paper, metals, blue wrap, etc.
- Reduce your document destruction costs by only shredding paper with confidential information. The rest can go to recycling.
- Use a baler to pull out as much cardboard as possible. Selling these bales back to your waste hauler can earn you credits which can offset other waste removal costs.
6. Maximize each “pull”. Every time waste is removed you pay a “pull charge” (generally about $150) so be sure you are getting the most bang for your buck. Monitor your waste stream for a few weeks and pay attention to how full containers are when they are pulled. Ideally, you want to fill your containers as full as possible without letting your trash sit for too long. For example, if you generate about 8 tons per week, you might want to consider having your waste pulled once a week.
7. Reduce your biohazardous waste. A final way to reduce your waste removal expenses is to choose the most effective way of dealing with biohazards. Using an on-site treatment system such as an autoclave steam sterilization process can help you avoid hefty removal fees. After sending biohazardous waste through this type of unit, it can be thrown out along with the rest of your solid waste. This may not be a good option, however, where space is very limited as units tend to require a 10 by 12 foot space minimum. Two sites to waste management systems to check out: San-I-Pak and Sanitec.
8. Educate nursing and other hospital staff on your efforts. Your EVS department may be doing a great job at reducing waste and inefficiency, but if other hospital staff aren’t made aware, they may be unintentionally thwarting your efforts. Communicate with directors and nursing staff to raise awareness about your cost-saving objectives and what they can do to help.
Hopefully these tips have been helpful. Have more ideas? We’d love to hear them below.
I often tell my franchisees and staff that this industry, much like other very labor driven industries, is a “want to” business. In the early days of OctoClean (then known as Service Pros) my Dad and I knew very little about efficiencies and cleaning technique. What we learned was learned through trial and error. What we did have was a drive to learn and to be better every day. We learned a lot in those first few years. I recall a time we were cleaning a building and there were customers of the building owners at the parts counter waiting for service. I noticed one man looking at me and the crew for a while and I started feeling like I had toilet paper stuck to my shoe or something. As we progressively got closer to the group the man spoke up “You have to be the owner of this cleaning company?” Before I could open my mouth he said “No one works this hard at a crappy job unless they have something at stake.” I was pissed and stunned. How dare someone say my “job” was crappy. I admit throughout my career I have had many opportunities to add to that chip on my shoulder. Even though I work in an industry that is unskilled our work deserves respect. I now am blessed to have "made it" to a desk job and operate a mid-sized and successful janitorial firm. "Want to" is now more important than ever as the arm chair warrior can get lazy and disillusioned. Instilling "want to" in others is my burden and opportunity everyday.
Our mission statement at OctoClean in part states “we will transform the janitorial industry”. This is a big statement and as much as I believe we can train every franchisee to be the best at efficiencies and technique nothing will be changed or transformed without the love of the work. Innovation and breakthroughs come from being stubborn and believing that YOU will be the difference maker. To every business owner, franchisee and employee this is your responsibility and opportunity to love your job without excuse or shame. Whether you are a janitor or a surgeon, be the best and want to do it. Anyone can be trained, not everyone can be great. Be great!
Check out my blog "8 Tips to Stay at the Top of your Game"
I have learned from my many years of experience in the janitorial industry that all too often customers don’t ask enough questions of prospective janitorial vendors. People tend to hire a firm based on price, get burned because of poor service, and repeat the process again and again.
If companies changed the way they hire firms, this wouldn’t keep happening. Most customers have become resigned to the fact that they won’t get good service and have very low expectations. I believe this resignation stems from the fact that people don’t understand the importance of hiring wisely. It is not their fault because most firms look, smell and sound professional.
Selecting a janitorial firm is the same as hiring a C-level manager. Hiring the wrong person can have a major impact on your company. Why? Because janitorial firms are responsible for the presentation, safety and security of your building and its occupants.
A facility that isn’t properly cleaned can lead to a whole host of problems. If you are a property manager, your tenants may cite it as a breach of contract and break their lease. If you run a hospital or medical facility, a representative from the State can drop by at any time to do a compliance audit. If you oversee a school, you know that it must be clean to please parents and keep student sick days to a minimum. If you work in a commercial building, a dirty office can leave a negative impression on customers.
In addition to cleanliness, it is essential that you trust the company that you’ve selected. Your cleaning crew has access to desks and other valuables, not to mention the fact that if they clean at night, they are responsible for locking doors and setting alarms. Doors left unlocked can cause major liability issues.
So, what can you do?
Ask the right questions up front to avoid problems down the road. If you open the phone book and see listings for 700 firms, you should only be getting two to three bids if you take the time to ask the right questions. If you are receiving five to seven bids, you’re not asking the right questions. Think about it. Just because a company can provide you with a bid does not mean they will do a good job. That’s like saying that anyone that walks into your office with a resume is a great fit for your company. Asking the right questions will help ensure that you’re working with who you want to work with and putting an end to the “revolving door” syndrome. Start with the ones I’ve listed here and add additional questions as you see fit:
1. How are they hiring people?
2. What are the training requirements for their workers?
3. Do they offer their employees opportunities to receive specialized training or certification?
4. If so, what are the requirements for recertification?
5. What customer service systems do they have in place?
6. How and when would they be communicating with you (e.g. phone, email, in-person)?
7. Are you able to contact them when you need to? (A lot of janitorial work is done at night so it can be difficult to contact self-employed vendors in the morning.)
Think about whether you are strictly interested in purchasing a commodity (i.e. having your building cleaned) or if you also want some level of customer service to accompany that. The old saying "Quality, price or service...choose one" rings loud and clear here. You will get what you pay for. Billing
8. How frequently do they bill? Are they able to do a 30 or 45 day net?
9. Do they accept credit card? Electronic transfer funds (ETF)?
A lot of small firms don’t have the necessary systems in place to be able to take ETF or don’t have the cash flow to be able to float payroll for 45 days. Your billing preferences may affect what size company is the best fit for you.Liability
10. Do they carry liability insurance and what are their coverage limits?
11. Do they have workers comp insurance coverage for their employees?
Even though the employees of your janitorial company are technically not your responsibility, you could be held liable if the company is treating its workers unethically and a court deems that you were aware of the situation.Suggestions for Interviewing Potential Vendors
1. Hold a group briefing for potential bidders about what is required for the job.
2. Tell potential vendors they need to come in with questions. If a vendor can’t ask you detailed questions about what you expect in terms of service deliverables, communication requirements, billing, etc., they shouldn’t be considered.
3. If you will be hiring a day porter or if your janitorial crew will be interacting with your customers (e.g. tenants, patients, etc.), you might want to consider doing a DISC profile assessment on the staff that will be in your building.
4. Ask for at least 3 references. Better yet, ask to visit some of their locations.
Bottom line: Make sure a potential janitorial provider has to jump through a certain number of hoops before they are even allowed do a walk-through of your facility.
Customers change the marketplace based on what they want. Maybe I’m naive in believing that customers want great service. Maybe people only want the lowest price for a passable service. In that case, having detailed selection criteria would be pointless. However, from my sales days I remember that customers were looking for consistency, value, communication and honesty. I’m assuming that you too are looking for these things. If so, by asking the right questions you will get what you want. Good luck out there...