In this article, Tatjana Ahmed, Housekeeping Manager, Grand Hyatt Dubai, talks about the importance of ensuring hygiene in housekeeping practices.
The concept of cleaning for health — rather than for appearance only — has gained momentum over the years. Facility executives and Housekeeping Managers now have a better understanding of how cleaning can affect the building’s occupants, and consumers are becoming more savvy on the subject thanks to the media. Although cleaning for health is important in any type of facility, it is key in places such as hospitals where patients may have compromised immune systems, and hotels where everyone meets and greets, having just arrived from across the world. To address the issue, one must outline details on how to implement an effective cleaning programme that promotes the health of building occupants and cleaning workers.
Cross-contamination is a significant issue for cleaning departments; after all, thoroughly cleaning one area and then dragging dirt and germs into another area of the building defeats the purpose of cleaning for health. Cross-contamination certainly is an issue, horror stories tell of cleaning staff using one rag to clean a toilet and then using that same rag to wipe out a sink. One way cleaning departments can reduce the risk of cross-contamination is by developing best practices. The method for cleaning floors has certainly changed over the years. Before cross-contamination was an issue, cleaners would use string mops and a bucket of water and cleaning chemicals — dipping repeatedly until the floor looked clean. Little did they know that every time the mop hit that water, there was potential for the spread of dirt and bacteria.
These days, however, cleaners have choices when it comes to cleaning for health. Electric or battery operated scrubber dryers prevent crosscontamination as they pick up the dirt compared to spreading it.
Another way to help reduce cross-contamination is to colour code cleaning equipment so that certain tools are used only for certain tasks. In other words, that rag that was used on the toilet won’t make its way to the sink taps, desktop or phone. There is also value to colour coding when dealing with English language-challenged employees.
Experts recommend creating a system that suits the facility’s needs and is easily understood by cleaners. Facility and housekeeping managers can also use a standard coding system - red for high-risk cleaning such as toilets; yellow for restroom surfaces plus counters, sinks and mirrors; blue for low-risk areas like windows, dusting and desks; and green for food service areas.
Cleaning for health often means to clean with the goal of reducing the impact that cleaning has on building occupants and helps reduce the spread of bacteria. Green cleaning takes that one step further by reducing the impact that cleaning has on the environment. One important step towards green cleaning is to choose green certified products. It is recommended looking at third party certifications to make sure the products meeting their claims. Green Seal and Environmental Choice are two certifying bodies that look at both environmental and performance standards when certifying products.
Facility and housekeeping managers can spend their entire budget on microfiber, colour code until they see red, and choose the greenest of the green cleaning products — but if employees aren’t trained properly, the building won’t be any more healthful for its occupants. Cleaning employees should have at least two days of intensive training and then two weeks of mentoring before they’re allowed out on the floor on their own. If you switch to greener cleaning tools or products, ask the vendors to assist with training so all employees understand how to use the new cleaning supplies.
With more people realising that their environment has an effect on their wellness, cleaning for health is a key issue for cleaning departments. Avoid cross-contamination, follow best practices to create a healthier clean and avoid toxic cleaning procedures — the building occupants and employees will thank you.
About the author: Tatjana Ahmed is the Housekeeping Manager at Grand Hyatt Dubai and Functional Specialist – Housekeeping for Hyatt International. She has been in the hospitality industry for the past 32 years and is an active member and Chairlady of the UAE Professional Housekeeper’s Group.