The coronavirus pandemic has made effective cleaning and disinfecting more important than ever. In recognition of that, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently developed a new LEED pilot credit titled “Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space.” In a recent BSCAI webinar, Steve Ashkin, president of the Ashkin Group, explained the different components of the pilot credit and discussed why the course is important for more than just the immediate future.
The LEED pilot credit is comprised of five separate sections. Each section takes into consideration all policies, recommendations and guidelines from various entities and agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
1. Product Selection
Before any cleaning can actually be done, the correct products must be chosen. All cleaning products should meet the EPA’s requirements for environmental protection. The EPA’s List N tool may be a useful resource when choosing cleaning products. The necessity to choose green products is not necessarily a cost burden; green cleaning products are effective and can be cost-competitive.
2. Procedures on Cleaning and Disinfecting
All cleaning and disinfecting practices and procedures in the age of COVID-19 should comply with reopening guidelines from the CDC and EPA. It is imperative to identify high-touch surfaces and determine the frequency at which those high-touch surfaces should be cleaned. But while light switches and doorknobs may often be cited as high-touch surfaces, it is important to step back and consider just how often they are being touched. A light switch inside someone’s private office may not be touched as frequently as a light switch inside an office kitchen or another common area, and so it may not need to be cleaned as often. It may be helpful to perform testing or otherwise gather concrete data that can inform strategies on how many times per day surfaces and areas should be cleaned, and when the schedule should account for cleaning.
All of those actions are vital when cleaning and disinfecting in the age of COVID-19, but they should be done proactively. It should not be the responsibility of the frontline cleaners to identify the high-touch surfaces and come up with a schedule for how often they should be cleaned. Instead, that information should be decided before cleaners arrive at a building, and communicated to them proactively so they are able to hit the ground running.
3. Protection for Cleaning Personnel
Cleaners are essential, frontline workers, and should be protected against the coronavirus both in the workplace and during their commute. While they are working, they should be equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks whenever possible. In addition, they should be advised of CDC recommendations and guidelines so they can keep themselves distanced from others and minimize the risk they will contract COVID-19 during their commute to and from work.
While protection from COVID-19 is a major consideration right now, it is also important to protect cleaners from other aches and pains that might arise in the workplace. This means advising them on the best way to avoid ergonomic injuries, including how to protect your back and knees over the course of the day as well as the correct way to wear gear to reduce strain.
4. Training of Cleaning Personnel
After the correct cleaning products have been chosen, cleaning personnel should be trained in how to properly use them. This is also true of the equipment used to clean. If disinfectants will linger in the air for a little while, cleaners should know to keep their faces covered to minimize the chance they will inhale anything that will harm their health. It may be helpful to borrow resources from agencies like OSHA to ensure cleaners are being trained according to industry best practices.
This element of the pilot credit also includes training cleaning personnel on infection control. The USGBC specifically highlighted BSCAI’s COVID-19 Disinfection & Safety Course as a training program that can be used to meet the requirements of the credit.
5. Occupant Education
The final element of the pilot credit is occupant education. It is important to communicate to occupants both that cleaning has occurred and the specific steps taken to ensure spaces are clean and disinfected. This can take the form of a visual reminder, such as a note or door hangers verifying a space has been cleaned and disinfected. The visual reminder can also be a sheet of paper with spaces for cleaners to provide the date and time of the most recent cleaning, along with a signature or initials to verify that the space is clean.
Put together, the five components of the pilot credit will ensure that spaces are properly and thoroughly cleaned with the correct cleaning materials, and that cleaning personnel are protected against COVID-19 and ergonomic injuries that may develop over time. While the pilot credit is important in the age of COVID-19, its relevance will not diminish when vaccines have been widely distributed.
Indeed, cleaning to a coronavirus-era standard may become the norm in the future. Over the course of the pandemic, the industry has made great leaps and learned a lot about infection spread, control and prevention. It is not enough to just return to a pre-coronavirus routine when the world gets back to normal. Instead, BSCs should carry what they have learned into the future, planning ahead to make sure spaces are cleaned thoroughly and the culture of hygiene remains here to stay.
To learn more, watch the BSCAI webinar, “LEED Pilot Credit Webinar on Cleaning & Disinfecting for COVID-19.”