Maintaining Hard Floors in a Health Care Environment

June 18, 2001
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Health care has traditionally been an in-house cleaning situation. Now, there is more of an emphasis on contracting out some services to janitorial and floor maintenance contractors. It opens a relatively new environment for the facility manager and the floor maintenance technician, one that requires more perception in the way we look at an area for maintenance, the preparation involved, the equipment necessary for protecting ourselves from harm and better planning to establish effective time constraint efficiencies.

Although most people think of hospitals when they think of health care, there are many more types of facilities that fall into this category.

Health care facilities include out patient clinics, doctor’s offices and primary care centers, convalescent homes, day care and most any facility where communicable infectious material may be found. Because of its nature, health care is perceived as a difficult and special interest field that requires a great deal of training. Generally, this is not true. Health care facilities require our examination of individual areas, understanding of what personal protective equipment is necessary, what type of preparation is involved and the time constraints or restrictions imposed upon us.

There are some areas that require special cleaning chemicals and procedures. In some situations, the handling of certain materials require additional training. These advanced maintenance areas occupy a lower percentage of the health care environment.

ENVIRONMENTS

Within most health care facilities, there are three primary environments: common, clinical and surgical. Each area should be viewed with a perspective of how it will be handled. Safety, personal protection and preparation are the key components to achieving the cleaning objective.

Common
Common areas of health care facilities are accessible to anyone who comes into the facility, such as halls, lobbies, rest rooms and offices. In some medical/dental or professional office buildings, facilities that are not open 24 hours a day, maintenance procedures are handled in the same manner as other floor maintenance services.

Preparation and service for a 24-hour facility require more forethought. For example, if a hallway is exposed to traffic around the clock, then you must cordon off a section and perform services in that area. Making an unmistakable safety perimeter is critical to protecting yourself from potential slip and fall accidents. The time that you set the service is also important. It’s imperative to perform services when the fewest number of people are in the facility. Use several signs, placards and caution tape when performing services in these areas. Also, it’s important to keep solution water under control and within the work perimeter.

Maintaining a safe working perimeter in some areas can be difficult. Environments such as convalescent homes and hospital hallways are often exercises in frustration. Work closely with the nurses of these areas. If you can get them to cooperate, then many problems will be alleviated before they get out of control.

Clinical
Clinical areas are where routine examinations take place, without exposure to open wounds. Additional areas include patient discharge or patient occupied rooms. Like common areas, these zones also need evaluation prior to starting services.

Sections not open to the public 24 hours a day are relatively easy to maintain. A certain amount of planning is necessary when it comes to preparation. Exam rooms are generally pretty small, which leaves very little room to prepare the area for service. Use caution when clearing floor space. You may also encounter contaminated sharp objects that need to be handled with the utmost care.

Patient areas, such as discharge or occupied rooms, require timing. Dust mopping and wet mopping can be performed when patients are in the room. Extensive periodic maintenance procedures, such as scrubbing, applying floor finish, stripping and refinishing, can only be achieved when patients are out of the area for an extended period of time. Again, working with the nurses and facility schedule can help executing these services.

Personal protective equipment may come into play if the area being serviced contains a patient with an airborne infectious disease. It’s prudent to wear a surgical mask, even though the room is properly ventilated.

Surgery
Surgical areas are where open wounds and blood have been prevalent. It’s also an area where discarded or contaminated sharp objects may exist. Use extreme caution when performing services in these environments.

Moreover, bloodborne pathogen training is necessary when cleaning these areas. When performing maintenance, take precautions and properly protect yourself with knowledge and understanding of the task at hand.

Another consideration for surgical areas is the matter of time — there are only small windows of time that allow you to get in and get the job done. In emergency rooms, the time frame is even smaller. General cleaning is relatively easy to schedule in the timetable, but periodic services can be difficult. Working with the hospital staff and nurses is the only way you can effectively get these areas done.

Again, caution and perception are very important in the health care environment. Take the time to review safety precautions, enforce the personal protective equipment requirements, and make sure your technician’s have the correct equipment for the work ahead.

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