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Considerations When Developing a Floor Maintenance Program

February 17, 2003
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Flooring is the largest high-visibility area in a building and the one most people use to judge the facility. In fact, the cleanliness and appearance of a building can affect a customer’s decision to do business with that company. It also affects the occupants, impacting both effectiveness and efficiency. Studies have shown that a clean, healthy facility increases company morale, productivity and can even reduce absenteeism and turnover.

To maintain a high level of appearance, contribute to a healthy indoor environment, reduce liability from slip-and-fall accidents and extend the life of the floor, a comprehensive floor care program is needed.

Type of Floor
It is important to know the type of floor being cleaning. There are many floor coverings made to look like other materials. For example, ceramic and porcelain tiles are made to look like any number of natural stone floors, e.g. marble, slate or granite. Designer concrete can resemble natural stone floors, wood and more. VCT flooring comes in endless colors and styles. Rubber and linoleum floors are sometimes mistaken for vinyl, and laminate floors are mistaken for wood. If you are not sure of the type of floor you are cleaning, do some investigating: check the company’s records for information, ask the owner, check with your supplier, visit a floor covering store or query an industry expert.

Environment
The environment, both indoors and out, can also play a role in developing a maintenance program. In northern areas of the country, winter weather can greatly affect the frequency of floor care, while in coastal regions tracked-in sand is a problem.

The outdoor environment must be taken into consideration when planning maintenance. The best defense to limiting the effects of the outdoors on your maintenance program is to keep it out. This means cleaning on both sides of the door.

Keeping the parking lot and sidewalks clean will go a long way in preventing soil from being tracked into the building. A good matting program, when properly instituted, will also help to keep the soil out. 80 percent to 90 percent of soil found indoors is tracked in from outside. Keeping the soil out will make daily cleaning easier, reduce cleaning times and extend the frequencies between more expensive periodic and/or restorative procedures.

The indoor environment must also be considered. How is the air handling system? Is it negatively affecting the maintenance program? Does it need cleaning? Is it working properly? The type of work being done in the facility is another consideration. Paper is very dusty and large offices sometime have dust problems because of it. Manufacturing facilities battle airborne greases and oils. Engineers and others working in the office are often on and off the factory floor, tracking greasy, oily soil onto the hard surface floor. Like the outdoor environment, the factory floor should be cleaned routinely to prevent tracking.

Use
Use refers to traffic. Manufacturing facilities receive greasy, oily soiling, while a retail store might receive dry, loose soil that abrades away the floor finish. A retail store may receive 10 times the foot traffic seen by a manufacturing facility. These are factors to be taken into consideration when developing a maintenance program. Understanding foot traffic can also help justify the cleaning frequency. You can try justifying the frequencies by saying the floor receives a lot of traffic, or you can count it out and provide evidence to prove your point.

To calculate foot traffic, count the number of people using the area, e.g. an office lunchroom for a company that employs 50 people. If each person takes a lunch break and two authorized breaks, this means 150 people or 300 feet walked on that floor (50 people x 3 =150 foot traffic). Now take into consideration the unauthorized breaks, and the total foot traffic could be in excess of 200 a day.

Procedures, Equipment and Products
Use industry standard procedures and perform them in a safe manner. If you are unaware of the procedures make sure to receive all the necessary training needed to properly and safely perform them. Make sure to read the equipment-operating manual and/or check with your supplier, the manufacturer, the IICRC or some other training source for additional training.

Staffing
A major consideration is manpower. Most building service contractors and in-house cleaning departments are short handed and may only have time to handle the day-to-day custodial cleaning. Unfortunately, the floors get put off for another day and soon day’s turn into weeks and weeks into months and before you know it the floor needs a restorative cleaning.

There are two types of cleaning: keep-up and catch-up. It is a lot easier, faster and less expensive to perform keep-up cleaning (i.e. daily, routine and periodic cleanings) than to perform catch-up cleaning (restorative/salvage cleaning). Another benefit of prioritizing floor care is that clean floors reduce complaints, not only about floors themselves but also about the overall cleanliness of the building.

Training

The great debate rages on, to train or not to train. I hear from cleaners all the time, “I can’t afford to train my people, I am too busy and besides, train them for what, they are just going to leave in six months anyway”.

Companies invest hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a year on resources to make their cleaning operation more efficient, effective and profitable. However, studies show that companies seldom invest in one additional resource: cleaning technicians. If the technician is not properly trained to use the equipment and instructed how to perform the proper cleaning procedures correctly, a lot of time, money and energy is wasted.

The benefits of trained technicians are increased cleaning productivity, cleaner, healthier in-door environment, increased self-esteem and company morale, less absenteeism, turnover, and reduced company liability.

Budget
The amount of money allotted for floor care can dictate the maintenance program. Maintenance budgets are getting cut all the time. Usually it isn’t because they don’t have the money, it’s because the money went for some other budget item. The secret to getting the funds needed to properly maintain floors is to sell the benefits. Floor maintenance promotes a high level of appearance, contributes to a healthy indoor environment, reduces liability from slip-and-fall accidents and extends the life of the floor.

Cleaning doesn’t cost–it pays. The average slip-and-fall accident costs more than $25,000. If a business loses customers due to the level of cleanliness, what does that cost them in sales, not to mention future sales due to a poor reputation? If a corporate office loses productivity due to the level of cleanliness, what does that cost them? Millions of dollars are lost in sick days annually due to the level of cleanliness in a building. Companies that take the time and money to keep their building clean understand the importance of protecting their building/floor covering investment and know that cleaning increases profits.

Still, the greatest sales job in the world may not secure the money needed to properly maintain the floors. It is important to take a look at the overall operation and examine how things are being done. Streamlining procedures and cleaning more square feet per hour are two ways to free up money. Take a look at the equipment, supplies and materials that are being used. Is it what you need, or is there something out there that can save labor, labor that could be put to better use cleaning floors? The money is there; it’s just a matter of finding it.

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