Keeping Germs At Bay

Recent outbreaks of diseases and bacterial infections at several U.S. schools has prompted representatives of Spray Nine, a brand of specialty cleaning products, to offer tips to ensure proper disinfection in schools.

“Although more schools are greening their cleaning programs, there’s still the need for traditional disinfectants to further ensure dangerous germs are destroyed—especially in gymnasiums, lunchrooms, and classrooms,” said Cary Zelich, marketing manager for Spray Nine, an ITW Permatex brand, which is based in Hartford, CT. “Even in cases where legislatures are promoting green cleaning at state run schools, such as the recent case in Vermont, most legislation doesn’t limit the use or distribution of antimicrobial disinfectants or sanitizers.”

As president of Knight Marketing Corp. in New York City, a large, independent distributor of Spray Nine, Stan Peters says educational customers make up one of its primary markets, and there are several tips that those involved in cleaning schools need to keep top of mind in combating the spread of bacteria:

  • Know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning removes visible soil, dirt, stains and other debris from surfaces. It is generally performed by wiping surfaces down using a multi-purpose cleaner or soap and water. Disinfection destroys viruses, bacteria, germs and other harmful microorganisms. It is accomplished by using a chemical designed specifically to kill bacteria. One of the simplest ways to make sure ensure proper disinfection is to use a reliable name brand disinfectant with all of the proper paperwork to back up its kill-claims.
  • Provide on-site training on a continual basis. Disinfectants require accurate dilution, correct application and the proper dwell time. Simply spraying and wiping a disinfectant may not kill harmful bacteria. Some disinfectants require 30 second contact times, while others may require up to 10 minutes. It is important to provide ongoing training to ensure the cleaning staff is trained with the latest cleaning procedures to ensure disinfection.
  • Concentrate on disinfecting areas that may normally get overlooked. For instance, cleaning personnel often focus on gym mats because they’re breeding grounds for Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is an infection caused by a strain of staph bacteria that has become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections. Because more cross contamination occurs on a computer keyboard or a telephone than on gym mats, schools should use disinfectants on all high-touch surfaces throughout a school.

Over the last three months, there have been reports of an outbreak of whooping cough in Suffolk County, NY, the spread of potentially dangerous, antibiotic resistant staph bacterium in an Albuquerque, NM area high school, and most recently, the spread of norovirus within schools in St. Agatha, ME that prompted a statewide alert about the painful stomach virus.

Office Concerns
Meanwhile, the flu doesn’t pose a threat to only school facilities. Offices are another setting where people working in close contact face a heightened risk of catching the flu from fellow occupants. There is something every company and employee can do to reduce exposure to viruses—keep it clean. Employers can combat the spread germs by maintaining useful policies and processes in the workplace.

David Heitner, CEO of HEITS Building Services, says, “Healthy employees equal happy employees and a productive workplace. If employers want to maintain a healthy staff, they need to promote ways to maintain a cleanly work environment. Practicing good hygiene, developing policies for illnesses in the workplace, and regularly cleaning and maintaining the office space are important for keeping germs from spreading.”

New Jersey-based HEITS offers these tips to facility managers:

  • Practice proper office hygiene.
  • Sick workers stay home! Develop policies that encourage employees to stay home when they are experiencing flu-like symptoms (fever, body aches, diarrhea, vomiting, etc…).
  • Use your own stapler. Although we teach our kids that sharing is good, when it comes to stopping the spread of germs at work, sharing office supplies is frowned upon.
  • Wash your hands. Use soap, warm water and rinse long enough to say the alphabet or sing “Happy Birthday.” Recent studies show plain soap and water works just as well, if not better than antibacterial soaps.
  • Go Hands-free. Wherever possible, make “no touch” options available—including wastebaskets, soap dispensers, faucets, and paper towel dispensers. Also, position a wastebasket near the bathroom door, so people exiting can easily discard paper towels used to open the door.
  • Cough etiquette. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve. Dispose of used tissues in “no touch” wastebaskets.
  • Thoroughly clean with disinfectants. Viruses and bacteria can live up to two hours or longer on staplers, doorknobs, keyboards, mouse pads, refrigerator handles, countertops, railings, faucets, and more. More than 500 antimicrobial products are registered by Environmental Protection Agency specifically for use against influenza A virus. Approved products specifically have label information which states they provide effectiveness against Influenza A viruses.