Many years ago I had the opportunity of coordinating my work with Pete. Pete was a chemist and I sold industrial chemicals. I am also a non-science person. Pete, however, had this innate ability to explain chemical concepts to the lay person that I was.
One of the first things he taught me was “the best cleaner in the world is water.” He further explained that adding a chemical enhances water’s ability to clean. As it turns out, this amazing property of water also carries with it an ability to transmit all sorts of matter.
The Common Factor
I recently made an unanticipated trip to my dentist’s office. Upon arrival, one of the forms I was asked to review and sign was entitled:
COVID-19 Pandemic Treatment Consent Form
Two of the sentences on this form are:
Dental procedures create water spray which is how the disease is spread. The ultra-fine nature of the spray can linger in the air for minutes to sometime hours which can transmit the COVID-19 virus.
These two sentences brought up a consideration that every business should be asking…What is the biggest source of water spray in my place of business?
The biggest source of water spray in your business is none of the above. It is:
Research into the health impacts of aerosolization is ongoing. Some of the conclusions garnered from this work are:
There is a possibility that a person may acquire an infection from an aerosol produced by a toilet
Microbiological Hazards of Household Toilets: Droplet Production and the Fate of Residual Organisms 1975
Some enteric viruses could persist in the air after toilet flushing and infection may be acquired (by) inhalation and swallowing.
The potential spread of infection caused by aerosol contamination of surfaces after flushing a domestic toilet 2005
Research suggests that toilet plume could play a contributory role in the transmission of infectious diseases. …the significance of the risk…remains largely uncharacterized
Lifting the lid on toilet plume aerosol: A literature review with suggestions for future research 2012
We believe that the potential spread of enteric disease by contact with surfaces in bathrooms harbouring pathogens cannot be ignored and must be regarded as a serious infection risk.
The potential spread of infection caused by aerosol contamination of surfaces after flushing a domestic toilet 2005
Methods for Containment
We know that the aerosolization caused by flushing a toilet carries with it all the properties (including bacteria and viruses) of the elements in the water that is flushed. These elements not only remain in the toilet but are also, through aerosolization, distributed onto all of the surfaces in the restroom (and beyond). So, as a business how do you contain this situation?
The best and first thing that can be done and that you are are now doing is – have our services. Complete and thorough cleaning and sanitizing of all restroom surfaces is essential. Other actions you can take include:
- Examine the level of service you have right now and consider whether it is sufficient for the present environment; should you have more?
- Ensure that ventilation is appropriate; keep exhaust fans operational and locate them in an area close to the source of aerosolization. Air flow should be directed away from the areas where people work/eat.
- Do not use a restroom for storage. Everything that you put in the restroom becomes contaminated. If you want or need to store items in the restroom ensure that they are in a closed cabinet.
- Maintain adequate resources for high personal hygiene, especially hand washing.
- Anything that you have in a restroom should have a surface that can be wiped clean, or, sanitized. Do not have anything in the restroom that is porous.
Remember…you are now entering…
At the conclusion of our service delivery we leave this card with each of our clients. This card looks like it is designed for customer relations; and, it is. However, that is only part of the story.
Some of our customers use it as part of their accounting process. It gets forwarded to a bookkeeper who can compare the invoice to the cards received.
It is a good piece for marketing because it succinctly communicates what our clients can expect as a result of our service call. The words are good, the picture says it all.
The card provides a quick method for communicating any questions, comments, complaints, or commendations regarding the service call just completed.
So, now we are getting close for the real reason for this card: ACCOUNTABILITY.
This card is designed for the worker. When the worker dates and signs this card, it is a testament that they have completed the work according to the high standards established by Washroom Wizard! It is a statement to the customer that the work is completed as promised.
The card is a big part of our service delivery. It’s primary function is accountability; accountability of the worker. It is an action similar to that of signing a piece of art. Our service call may not be a very creative process but this little card creates for the worker, a sense of ownership and a sense of responsibility to the customers they serve.
Just like you would not want the worker to forget to sanitize the door handle or clean the sink, delivery of this card is the last step of our cleaning routine. It is the final part of our quality control process.
Not everyone can clean
Some businesses rotate the task of cleaning the restroom among employees. This makes sense if you want morale to quickly deteriorate. Using a protocol such as this makes every one feel like they are cleaning up after everyone else; great for your reputation as an employer.
Other businesses use a competition as a way for employees to avoid being assigned restroom cleaning tasks. The employee who ranks at the bottom on a particular measure has the privilege of cleaning up everyone else’s shit (literally). This has the effect of being a method for punishing and/or embarrassing employees.
Another way of assigning restroom cleaning duties is to assign the task to the newest hire. When the new hire applied for work, this information was left out of the job description. When the applicant was interviewed, this aspect of their position was never mentioned. The new hire hears about it on their first day of work. That would certainly make anyone feel like a valued addition to the staff.
The undercurrent of attitude in all of these ways of operating is the fallacious assumption that everyone can clean. It is this erroneous assumption that results in so many dirty and filthy restrooms which leads us to the next “thing”.
Just because a place “looks” clean does not mean that it “is” clean
Some of the filthiest business restrooms I have ever seen were actually pretty. Unless you knew what you were looking for, you would never suspect that there were multiple layers of filth everywhere. Yes, there was a flower arrangement, and nice pictures on the wall, and pretty containers for soap and paper products; a mirror that shined, fragrance in the air, and attractive lighting. But, beware, the level of bacteria was so high on most surfaces that you should have been wearing gloves and a respirator to be in the room.
Over the last couple of years we have experienced a cleaning problem which is becoming more prevalent. It is an irrational behavior among people who are mysophobic (germophobic). This particular behavior does nothing to minimize the spread of germs (it actually worsens the situation); yet, it creates a very frustrating experience for the person who has to clean it up.
The hand soap is spread in a thin layer all over the sink and in may cases the counter tops in the restroom hand wash area. This layer dries and becomes invisible; that is, until you try to clean it.
The Resulting Cleaning Problem
When you put soap on your hands and add a little water, it get sudsy. This is exactly what happens when the cleaner begins to wipe down this restroom surface. It creates the following frustrations for cleaning personnel.
- The first frustration is that you cannot see the film of soap; so, when you proceed to clean, with what you think will be a simple one wipe situation, you are presented with the opposite.
- The second frustration is that the more water you add, the soapier and sudsier the situation becomes. As your cleaning cloth becomes saturated with soap and suds the third frustration arises.
- You must repeatedly rinse your cloth as it becomes saturated with suds. Doing this over and over again and again takes an inordinate amount of time; especially, compared to the single wipe that it takes when there is NO soap on the sink or counter top.
- Lastly, as cleaning professionals we cannot ignore spending all of the time that it takes to remove the soap residue because the surface cannot be sanitized unless the surface is clean and all of the soap has been removed.
A Suggested Solution
Firstly, I urge all mental health professionals, who have clients with this type of malady, to get very specific with defining behaviors their clients participate in that are of this nature.
Secondly, I would suggest that you recommend to your clients that they carry sanitizing wipes. Instead of spreading soap all over the restroom surfaces, suggest that your client wipe down the sink and counter top with the sanitizing wipe. This action would in fact have the benefit that the person desires and not create havoc for cleaning service personnel.
Below is a chart from a survey of Facilities Managers (the people responsible for hiring the cleaning services used by their companies) regarding cleaning services. The chart depicts the results of the question “What would validate paying a higher price for cleaning?”
As you can see the highest number of respondents (84%) claimed that the delivery of “good, consistent service with a minimal complaints” would warrant them paying a higher price for cleaning. This means 8 out of 10 decision makers stated that they are willing to pay a premium price for their cleaning services. This is a LIE.
My experience is that less than 1 out of 10 businesses really understand that paying a premium price for quality cleaning services actually saves them money AND are willing to pay that premium. All the others end up using price level as a primary criteria when making decisions about which cleaning service company to select.
Why do people say this when they know that when it comes time to make the decision, other criteria will carry the day? I don’t know.
I recently received a cancellation of service from a client. It was as follows:
As much as we love your consistent service…
we are going to hire our 13 year old to clean the bathrooms!
My first thought was:
I wonder how and who will be training this 13 year old.
My second thought was:
Does this 13 year old have the requisite character traits, innate skills, and personality type that makes it possible for them to do an adequate job of cleaning a restroom?
My third thought was:
Has this parent/business owner considered the above question relative to the results they want for restroom cleanliness in their business?
Why has this person been a client?
But, then again… Several months prior, this same business had struggled to establish daily procedures for restroom cleaning maintenance. These were the tasks that would be done by their employees on the days when Washroom Wizard! did not perform our regularly scheduled detailed cleaning services.
When I discovered that there were potential problems in this area for my client, I approached them about the matter. I explained that their situation was also a dilemma experienced by other similar businesses. As a result, I had conceptualized the use of a kit containing cleaning supplies and equipment coupled with procedures that would address this problem.
Before I could vocalize the offer to test out my prototype and to do so at no cost to this client; she responded with: “Well, if I have any ideas for you I will let you know.”
Why has this person been a client?
Below is a summary of an article I found on the internet recently.
February 18, 2012 12:00 am • By Michael G. Goldsby – Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Center and the Stoops distinguished professor of entrepreneurship at Ball State University.
Advice from Leland Boren, an 87-year-old force of nature who has seen it all in nearly seven decades in business. He is the CEO of Avis International Corp. He also owns 23 businesses and has built, bought and sold many others during a 67 year career. When it comes to examining a potential target for acquisition, he advises to:
- First, examine the company’s history with cash. Accounts receivables and payables are good indicators of cash management.
- Second, he looks at their product line and considers whether improvements can be made to them.
- Third, analyze if there is the potential to expand the product line.
- Fourth, remove any intangibles and goodwill out of the company valuation, allowing for negotiation and management based on the true performance of the company.
- Fifth, examines the company’s sales team performance to determine whether it is performing as well as it can.
But there’s another little secret:
My business, Washroom Wizard, provides restroom services to other businesses. It has two distinct markets. One is the consumer of the service, other businesses. The other is the market of prospective workers who can provide the labor of the service.
The work is very unglamorous and does not offer a career opportunity. It is, however, a good situation for those wanting supplemental income so they can reduce their debt, be full time parents, support a hobby or fulfill some other activity. Clearly the market for prospective workers is a totally different demographic from the market of customers. But, one without the other cannot exist.
In order to reach these two distinct markets I established two Facebook pages; Washroom Wizard and Part Time Work for People with a Full Time Life (my tag line for recruiting).
Since most of my market for prospective workers uses Facebook I set-up some ads to run. These ads were not approved because according to Facebook
“it violates Facebook’s Ad Guidelines by advertising “work from home”, MLM, get rich quick and other inaccurate money-making opportunities.”
Coming up next:
The Flawed Algorithms of Facebook
One of the services we provide is air freshener. For a flat monthly fee we provide:
- all of the research time needed to find and select an environmentally sound product
- provision of all equipment
- installation of equipment
- replacement of equipment as it wears out
- all the supplies needed for servicing (air freshener elements, batteries, etc.)
- labor and expertise to service the air freshener unit
When you compare this service to the prospect of doing it in-house, you have the present workplace reality.
- The cash outlay to buy a case toxic air fresheners from a supplier is minimal.
- You install it, then you have to find a place to store the product.
- When it comes time to service the unit your employee gets distracted with their primary job responsibilities and forgets to do it.
- Or they go to service the units but someone has moved the case of product and they can’t find it.
- Even if you can manage to keep the units serviced; you will run out of the product and no one will know that it needs to be reordered or even remember what they ordered from whom.
This results in you paying for unproductive employee time and periods of time when there is no odor control. Work place reality. So the non-productivity conundrum is “What is the real cost to your business?”