ICS Magazine

Moving Toward Occupied Cleaning

October 10, 2007

Cleaning when a facility is open, occupied and operating used to be unheard of – after all, those noisy vacuums, dangerously wet floors, and soggy carpets were both a nuisance and a danger. But times have changed. Thanks to advancing technologies, occupied cleaning is cost-effective and safe. Which is not to say that all cleaning should take place during the day; but targeted cleaning that enhances the overall cleanliness and appearance of a facility can, and often should.

If you are not currently implementing a daytime – or occupied – cleaning program, you are likely concerned about some very real safety issues.

The concern here is that the cord itself on corded machines creates an obstruction and presents a very real risk of tripping and falling when used in an occupied facility. However, battery-powered sweepers, scrubbers, extractors, and low-moisture technologies are readily available today. A dual-purpose, battery-powered sweeper that allows cleaning professionals to easily move from hard floor surfaces to carpeted spaces with a single cord-free maneuverable machine is ideal for occupied cleaning. Such a machine increases productivity while eliminating the safety risk associated with corded machines.

A common concern among cleaning professionals is that cleaning equipment is noisy and therefore presents an undesired disturbance to those working in or visiting an occupied facility. The reality is that many manufacturers are developing cleaning machines and technologies that support the environment by reducing noise pollution. In fact, many of today’s upright dual-motor vacuums operate at less than 70 dBA – quiet enough to use anytime of day or night, even in such noise-sensitive environments as hospitals. And many automatic scrubbers include both exhaust fan mufflers and economy modes that greatly reduce noise down to that of a busy office environment-about 67 dBA.

The size and obtrusiveness of cleaning equipment is often an issue, as cleaning professionals don’t want their equipment to intimidate people or get in the way. But many of today’s cleaning machines, from upright vacuums to scrubbers, extractors and low moisture technologies, are compact in size and highly maneuverable, ensuring that they can get the job done without getting in the way.

Cleaning professionals are rightly concerned about the dangers of slip and fall accidents when water is used to clean hard floor surfaces and/or carpeted spaces. Fortunately, manufacturers have introduced automatic scrubbers and low moisture carpet care technologies that use less water to clean and leave less water behind after cleaning. In fact, one auto-scrubber available today uses 70 percent less water than conventional scrubbers and delivers 100 percent water pick-up. And with soil transfer technology, carpets are dry within 30 minutes because water is never placed directly on the carpet. Both of these low-water technologies reduce the risk of slip and fall accidents. Many products have even been tested and certified by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) as being high-traction-meaning they actually improve a floor’s slip resistance.

Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is a major concern among cleaning professionals as they strive to implement cleaning programs that support the environment. Today’s cleaning equipment is designed to support the environment, too. In fact, many vacuums offer superior dust and debris filtration, and machines with HEPA filters are commonplace. In addition, many of today’s sweepers are Green Label-certified, which means they offer appropriate soil removal, appearance retention, and filtration.

Benefits of Occupied Cleaning

While it’s helpful to be aware of the concerns associated with occupied cleaning and new technologies that address those concerns, it is also helpful to have a clear understanding of the actual benefits associated with occupied cleaning-and there are several.

First and foremost, facilities get dirty anytime they are in use or occupied-whether during the day or at night. By cleaning only at night or when a facility is not occupied, cleaning professionals may actually be creating additional work for themselves because they are not conducting frequent daily cleanings. Rather, dirt builds up throughout the day-or the time period when the building is occupied-and it takes a greater effort to remove that dirt. The benefit of conducting occupied cleaning, then, is that a facility remains cleaner at all times. This helps to enhance a facility’s image, and it helps improve overall cleaning staff productivity.

Second, cleaning-staff costs are often higher at night, as security is often necessary to protect the open and accessible facility, and lights must be left on. By cleaning when a facility is open and/or occupied, many of these costs are eliminated, which has a dramatic impact on overall operating costs.

Finally, cleaning at night, which is when most facilities are not occupied, prevents you and your cleaning staff from having immediate access to the support you and they may need to do the best cleaning job possible. Cleaning during traditional working hours, however, arms you and your staff with the resources you may need to be the most effective and efficient.

Other Considerations

Although there are very real benefits to implementing a cleaning program when a facility is open, occupied and operating, realize that some building occupants-whether they be employees, visitors, patients, customers-may revert back to an “old-school” mentality-the perception that cleaning simply shouldn’t take place during normal working hours. Realize, too, that other building occupants will be grateful that the facility is being cleaned frequently and is, therefore, maintaining a higher level of clean. A progressive attitude toward cleaning is one that embraces occupied cleaning for the health, safety and image benefits it offers.