The Modern Rules of Flu Season

flu-preventionKey Prevention Techniques for Cold and Flu Season

With the temperature continuing to drop outside, more people are catching colds and spiking fevers of their own as the cold and flu season rages on.

Generally, cold and flu season begins in late fall or early winter and peaks in either January or February. However, as officials caution that it is still far too early to know whether the worst is over, it’s never too late to employ preventative measures to protect your health before spring arrives.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent transmission of the flu virus is through personal hygiene. Specifically, hand washing with soap and water.

Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t. Effective hand washing can improve your own health and make public spaces safer.

CDC Recommendations

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports there are three main actions to take to fight the flu:

  • Take time to get a flu vaccine: Although there are many different flu viruses, it’s important to keep your flu vaccination up to date because it changes annually to protect you from what research suggests the three most common strains may be that year.

  • Take everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs: stay home when you’re sick, cover your cough, try to avoid touching your mouth, eyes, or nose with your hands, clean and disinfect surfaces, and wash your hands.

  • Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them: if you do get the flu, studies indicate taking antivirals may shorten the duration and intensity of your illness.

Adhering to these guidelines could mean the difference between a healthy start to the New Year or a sniffling one.

While getting a flu vaccine every year and making sure to visit your doctor at the first sign of flu-like symptoms are two vital components to beating the flu, there are also preventative measures to employ on a daily basis that can help you beat germs in general, not just the flu. One of the most common ways germs are transmitted is when you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, ears, or mouth.

To break this chain of transmission, there are two basic lines of defense: washing your hands and decontaminating frequently touched objects.

Hand Washing to Stay Healthy

Many studies show that washing your hands with a sanitizer like moisturizing hand soap or foaming hand soap will help to eliminate the viruses and germs we collect during the day.

But it’s not just about washing your hands: it’s about washing your hands frequently and correctly. Although hand washing seems like it should be a nearly intuitive practice, there are some basic guidelines to follow to ensure you’re practicing good hand hygiene:

  • Wash your hands numerous times throughout the day, especially before meals, after using the restroom, or after you’ve touched anything that may be particularly contaminated with germs, like trash or objects in “high-traffic” areas (like elevators or buses)

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds

  • Make sure to thoroughly scrub the entirety of each hand to effectively remove the germs

If soap and water are not available, it’s best to use a sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol and still follow the guidelines listed above.

Businesses can help keep their workers happy and healthy by making sure workers can easily practice good hand hygiene by installing hand sanitizer dispensers near areas that are used most frequently, like elevators, bathrooms, the cafeteria, break room, etc.

Keep Surfaces Clean and Disinfected

Even the best hand hygiene in the world can only be so effective when the areas we interact with are not properly maintained. Implementing effective cleaning strategies are some of the best prevention measures we can utilize to protect our communities from the brunt of the cold and flu season.

To successfully clean a public area, it must be both cleaned and disinfected. The former removes dirt and grime, the latter kills bacteria, viruses, and other potentially harmful microorganisms. Both are necessary to create a clean environment that promotes a sense of wellbeing.

The most advantageous cleaning protocols follow three basic tenets:

  • Develop a detailed and sustainable cleaning schedule: create a cleaning schedule that outlines each cleaning task, the frequency with which it needs to be completed, and the order it needs to be completed in (use a top-down approach to avoid cross-contamination). Establishing a clear set of expectations for what it means to adequately clean an area ensures consistency and makes it easier to implement and maintain your cleaning protocol.

  • Use the right cleaning solutions: elbow grease can only get you so far, it is also necessary to use solutions that are both powerful and sustainable. An all-purpose cleaner simultaneously removes grime and disinfects.

  • Remember that cleaning is a process, not an event: by spot-cleaning throughout the day (picking up litter, wiping down frequently touched objects, removing trash, etc), you can make your daily cleaning and deep cleaning regimens more efficient and effective.

Using these prevention techniques will help to keep you and your community healthy until the worst of the cold and flu season is behind us!

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What Everybody Ought to Know About Green Cleaning

green-cleaning-broomSustainable practices and products continue to grow in popularity.

Many industries are working to adapt to this new market force and the cleaning industry is no different: green cleaning is an excellent way for companies to foster a sense of environmental wellbeing and stewardship, but not at the expense of their bottom line.

Green cleaning seeks to provide a safer, but equally as effective, alternative to the toxic chemicals often used in traditional cleaning supplies. This allows green cleaning to offer many environmental, financial, and health benefits to producers and consumers alike.

Environmental and Health Benefits of Green Cleaning

Green cleaning is much more environmentally friendly than older and more traditional methods. Creating a sustainable cleaning program is also part of the culture of corporate responsibility. Many of the most talented employees and productive workers want to work for companies that care about the environment in tangible ways, like green cleaning programs.

  • Fresher environment: non-green cleaning products can release corrosive and harmful chemicals that not only contribute to the depletion of the ozone, but can also contaminate our groundwater and food sources. Additionally, many green cleaning products are the result of more sustainable production processes in general, so they are responsible for fewer greenhouse gas emissions and often come packaged in recyclable or biodegradable containers.

  • Healthier environment: by using more natural ingredients, green cleaning products limits our interactions with toxic chemicals that could have disastrous consequences for our health. For example, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that the use of household cleaning sprays can be an important risk factor in adult asthma an

  • Happier environment: as the health and environmental quality of a space increases, so, too, does the happiness of those who use it the most.

Financial Benefits of Green Cleaning

Using a green cleaning protocol is not an impulse that must stem solely from altruistic roots, as it also brings distinct financial advantages. Sustainable cleaning programs can save time and money in a variety of ways: from lower shipping costs to less waste.

  • Green cleaning uses fewer supplies than other cleaning protocols, which means saving money on inventory.

  • Green cleaning relies on more than limiting exposure to chemicals; it utilizes an entirely different cleaning mentality that values efficiency, innovation, and practicality. This, coupled with the lack of harmful chemicals, not only yields better workplaces and environments, but also happier and healthier workers. All of these factors help save money in the long run.

  • Using or offering green cleaning allows a business to distinguish itself from competitors and to widen its potential market appeal.

Green Cleaning Practices

While green cleaning may have initially begun as a movement to reduce exposure to, and emissions of, potentially toxic chemicals, it has come to be much more than that. Green cleaning is now a much more extensive and holistic cleaning methodology. Developing sustainable, green cleaning programs has gone beyond the removal of harsh chemicals to sustainable cleaning practices, equipment, and methods that improve the health of staff, building occupants, and the environment.

A successful green cleaning program will be the result of:

  • Effective training: green cleaning relies as much on efficiency, innovation, and time management, as it does on proper application of the cleaning solutions. Thus, all aspects of this should be covered during a thorough training period.

  • Access to adequate resources and efficient equipment: as with any worthwhile cleaning method, green cleaning physically removes dirt and also disinfects the surface. The first is generally accomplished through sheer brawn and the second is often the result of carefully adjusting the pH of the cleaning solution to more easily clean and disinfect the surface.

  • Consistent application of the industry’s best practices: a comprehensive understanding of green cleaning and access to the necessary resources will allow those who practice green cleaning to evolve with the industry, market, and environment.

With these components in place, the ample financial, environmental, and health benefits green cleaning provides may be fully realized and drastically reduce the negative ecological impacts the cleaning industry has been responsible for in the past.

The Potential of Green Cleaning

Clearly, the benefits of green cleaning are vast and varied and they seem set to continue to expand. Demand for green cleaning will continue to expand, especially considering that for a building to become LEED certified and be officially recognized as “green,” it must use green cleaning practices.

Additionally, studies indicate using green cleaning methods in schools reduces absenteeism and can help improve academic performance, and using it in hospitals can help protect already vulnerable populations from further health complications.

As green cleaning is poised to become a much more widespread and frequently adopted process, the potential for the industry to expand, evolve, and positively impact the world is boundless. Creating a sustainable green cleaning practice is the first step toward taking advantage of this movement.

However, some may try to take advantage of this opportunity by seeking to market traditional services or products as “green.” Luckily, Green Seal, an independent, nonprofit organization, is an excellent resource to use to avoid being duped.

Green Seal not only maintains a list of manufactures and products that use more sustainable methods of development and production, but companies can receive a Green Seal certification, which ensures they are being held to higher standards.

Green Seal offers certification for green cleaning services. As the green cleaning industry continues to expand, those certifications are sure to increase, marking a positive change in our world’s development.

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Why Frequently Touched Objects (FTOs) are Affecting Your Health

community-acquired-infectionsIn the age of MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Community Acquired Infections (CAIs) can be more serious than just the common cold.

CAIs can result in serious illnesses. Visits to the doctor’s office, hospital stays, and even more extreme circumstances like amputation and fatal infection can occur from the aggressive and treatment-resistant staph germs like MRSA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that several bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to current antibiotics. Many of these infectious bacteria can now not only live on hard surfaces, but thrive on them for months, making them easily transferable.

Acquiring CAIs

So how are CAIs most commonly spread and acquired? Frequently touched objects (FTOs) are often to blame. FTOs include hard surfaces such as restroom faucets, counters, soap dispensers, and toilet seats. They also include door knobs, desks, chairs, and computer keyboards.

FTOs are exactly what their name implies: items that are handled frequently throughout the day. The more frequently they are touched, the greater the chance that they will end up harboring infectious bacteria and other germs.

The reality is that bacteria can live on FTOs for long periods of time, sometimes for several months. Cleaning them at least daily can help reduce the spread of infection and illness in public spaces and work environments. Providing a cleaning program for your clients that includes FTO cleaning procedures can be a value added service that sets you ahead of the competition, and you are backed by research that shows healthy employees are more productive and happier.

Preventing CAIs

How can CAIs be prevented? The first step toward reducing infections in public spaces, office, and work environments is to practice effective and frequent hand washing with a good quality hand soap. Good hand washing (thorough scrubbing with soap and water that lasts at least 20 seconds) is your first and most effective defense against infection from bacteria that dwell on FTOs.

The most attentive hand washer is still at risk of picking up germs from their environment, however. Clean hands in a dirty environment will only get you so far, however. Hand hygiene is just one piece of the puzzle. Data is revealing that more and more germs can survive and thrive on hard surfaces, making CAIs from FTOs a greater health concern than ever before.

Beyond personal hygiene and hand washing, the next step toward preventing CAIs is to establish an effective and sustainable cleaning program. Cleaning staff that are trained to clean FTOs and who are equipped with effective tools, materials, and cleaning supplies can help reduce the spread of infection in public spaces, hospital and health care facilities, and work environments.

Working with a building service contractor to develop a specific cleaning plan for FTOs will also help. Spot cleaning throughout the day, scheduling cleaning staff to be on duty during business hours, and incorporating sustainable and effective cleaning products are all parts of a comprehensive approach to cleaning solutions.

What is your protocol for cleaning FTOs? Many times these surfaces are overlooked in training sessions because they are conspicuous. It is important to directly address cleaning procedures for FTOs so that you don’t have to assume they are cleaned: you will know that they are being cleaned.

Addressing FTOs

FTOs are often overlooked, and germs have been found to survive and thrive on them. Developing a system for cleaning and disinfecting FTOs is critical to public health. Here are tips for addressing FTOs:

  • Create a comprehensive cleaning program that addresses FTOs. Janitors and sanitation technicians and distributors should give input while you design a program. The addition of FTOs in a cleaning program may require increased labor, training, supply purchasing, etc. Take the whole picture into account.
  • Define your FTOs. Each building and facility will have its own unique list of FTOs. You and the building service manager know the space better than anyone. Work together to create an exhaustive list of FTOs. Some common examples include door knobs and handles, hand rails, keyboards, computer mice, window blind adjustors, push plates on doors, light switches, restroom surfaces, and desk drawer handles. Make sure you discuss how to handle more personal FTOs like computer accessories and components with each client.
  • Create a written procedure for each cleaning site. Having an easy to understand and clearly written document that explains FTOs, how to clean them, and why is an important part of your cleaning program. You can also make it a part of your procedures manual for each cleaning site.
  • Determine the cleaning frequency for FTOs. FTOs should be cleaned at least daily. Spot cleaning is recommended in order to keep surfaces free of infectious germs and bacteria.
  • Train your staff. It is important to tell your staff about FTO cleaning procedures, and to give them documentation, but it is also vital to actually train them, answer their questions, and formally introduce them to the concepts behind frequent FTO cleaning.

The Importance of Cleaning FTOs

Cleaning FTOs is more than a matter of value added service. Creating a cleaning plan that addresses FTOs can reduce the spread of infections, improve public health, and prevent illness. Including FTO cleaning procedures in the scope of work of employees, and making FTO cleaning a matter of policy will create a culture of FTO cleaning in your staff. The health and safety of building occupants relies heavily on the care and attention given to cleaning FTOs.

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FDA to Antibacterial Soap Manufacturers: “Prove It”

antibacterial-handsoapsThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) keeps a close watch on consumer health.

Tasked with approving hundreds of thousands of food and health products, the FDA has strict standards for products that can impact public health.

On the top of their list this month is triclocarban and triclosan — chemicals used widely in antibacterial hand soaps and other products. On December 16th, the FDA released a statement saying that it would require proof of the safety and effectiveness of the chemicals. If manufacturers cannot satisfy the FDA, their products will be removed from the marketplace.

Are Antibacterial Soaps Effective?

The FDA has proposed a rule that will require manufacturers of antibacterial hand soap and other hygienic products to provide proof that their soap products are as safe and effective as plain hand soap and water when it comes to preventing the spread of infection and preventing illness. The rule also calls for manufacturers to prove that long-term use of their products is also safe.

In a statement released by the FDA, the agency said “Millions of Americans use antibacterial hand soap and body wash products. Although consumers generally view these products as effective tools to help prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. Further, some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products — for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) — could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.”

Health officials estimate that approximately 2,000 individual soap and hygiene products contain triclosan and triclocarban.

Cleaning Chemicals in Question

The chemicals triclocarban and triclosan were originally used by surgeons. Before operating on patients, they would disinfect their hands with the chemicals to help prevent instances of infection in the operating room. The chemicals were eventually adopted by manufacturers of soaps, mouthwashes, cleaning products, and some cosmetics.

Growing concerns over the effectiveness and safety of these chemicals, as well as their environmental impacts have led the FDA to demand proof from manufacturers within one year. Several studies have suggested that the chemicals can have negative effects on the development of reproductive systems in animals, including humans. If the FDA isn’t convinced, the chemicals will be banned from use.

A particularly revealing study conducted in 2008 by the University of California Davis found that both triclocarban and triclosan caused reproductive hormone activity disruption, interfering with the signaling of cells in both the heart and the brain. Dan Chang, a professor emeritus at the university who was involved with the study, says “Americans spend nearly one billion dollars a year on these products even though studies show that they are no better than regular soap and water at reducing the spread of illness.”

“As you can imagine, this decision will affect many industries,” says Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting and promotional organization for green cleaning. “However, the impact [of these chemicals] on the environment and health and their overall effectiveness has been questioned for years.” Ashkin goes on to say that “except where [these chemicals] are required for use by law or for health reasons, proper hand-washing is all we really need to protect our health.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council Takes Action

Attorney Mae Wu, a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) attorney, said, “This is a good first step toward getting unsafe triclosan off the market. The FDA is finally taking concerns about triclosan seriously. Washing your hands with soap containing triclosan doesn’t make them cleaner than using regular soap and water and can carry potential health risks.”

This isn’t the first time the FDA has questioned the use of triclosan. The agency first made a proposal to remove triclosan from many products as far back as 1978. No final action was taken on the proposal, however, and the chemical has been used with greater frequency in the decades since.

The issue was brought back into the spotlight in 2010 when the NRDC sued the FDA to bring the proposal to a final rule. The new rule is the result of a settlement between the FDA and the NRDC.

The FDA is allowing public comment on the rule for 180 days. A one year period has been established for companies to present data proving the chemicals are safe and effective and do not pose long-term health threats to people or the environment. The public comment period has a targeted deadline of June 2014, while companies have through December of 2014 to submit research and other data to make their case. The agency’s stated goal is to have the rule finalized and to have a determination as to whether triclosan and triclocarban are “generally recognized as safe and effective” in September of 2016.

Environmental Impacts

Because many of the products manufactured with the antibacterial chemicals are hygiene products, a large percentage of them is deposited into the environment through drains and sewer systems.

The risk of infection at home, where many of the hand soaps and body wash products are used, is relatively low, not justifying the use of the chemicals.

Additional Information

The rule does not affect hand sanitizers, antibacterial products, and wipes used in hospital and health care environments. Hand sanitizers generally contain at least 60 percent alcohol and are considered a safe alternative when soap and water aren’t an option for washing. Most health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), believe that hand washing with regular soap and water is the best and most effective method for hand hygiene.

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Can your hospital save money with a bigger cleaning budget?

hospital-budget-cutsBudgets are tight in hospitals across the country.

Finding ways to save money and reduce spending has been helping hospitals and healthcare facilities become more efficient and cost-effective in their services.

One area of the budget that is vulnerable to reduced funding is the cleaning department. At the same time that many hospitals are cutting their cleaning budgets, however, they are making increases to their infection control budgets.

The two areas are intimately related. In fact, infection control relies heavily on proper cleaning techniques, materials, and supplies, and methods. While cutting the cleaning budget to bolster the infection control budget may seem to make sense on the surface, compromising the effectiveness of your cleaning department can actually make infection control more difficult.

Save Money without Cutting Your Cleaning Budget

The truth is that cleaning and infection control go hand in hand.

Adequate cleaning procedures are critical in the prevention of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). HAIs are more than an inconvenience, they are a large and growing concern in the healthcare industry.

HAI Facts

HAIs are a serious health threat. Here is some alarming information about HAIs in the United States, alone:

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) reports that roughly one in 20 people in U.S. health care facilities who are given inpatient care acquire an HAI. More than 5 percent of all people admitted to hospitals in the U.S. acquire an HAI.
  • HAIs are often caused by indwelling medical devices and procedures, including infections formed at injection sites, urinary catheters, the improper administration of antibiotics, and surgical procedures. HAIs can also be transmitted between patients, or from healthcare employees to patients. HAIs are also caused by contaminated surfaces in hospitals and healthcare facilities. This last cause of HAIs is directly related to cleaning procedures.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2009 that the total annual cost of medical expenses related to HAIs was in the tens of billions of dollars. One estimate by the CDC puts the cost at more than $30 billion. The same report revealed that the average cost per patient that was affected by an HAI was nearly $20,000.
  • Some sources cite HAIs in the United States as being responsible for more annual deaths than breast cancer, AIDS, and automobile accidents. In fact, an average of 4 people obtain an HAI every minute of every day. The CDC reports that more than 2 million people in the U.S. obtain infectious diseases in hospitals every year, an average of 5,400 per day. That includes more than 30,000 newborn babies who are infected in hospitals. An average of 250 people die every day from HAIs.


The numbers don’t lie. These statistics show that every time an HAI occurs because of a contaminated surface in a hospital or health care environment, it costs an average of $20,000 that could have been prevented by proper cleaning.

Not all HAIs are caused by inadequate cleaning, of course, and it’s difficult to measure exactly how many infections are caused from surface contamination in healthcare environments. If the number of HAIs in the U.S. were divided equally among the possible causes, however, then it is possible that contaminated surfaces and improperly cleaned areas harboring infectious bacteria could account for at least 16 percent of the total number of HAIs.

Preventing Infection Requires Proper Cleaning

With the health of patients, the reputation of hospitals and health care facilities, and huge amounts of money at stake, it makes sense to properly fund, equip, and train cleaning departments. It is reasonable to assume that comprehensive and effective cleaning programs using effective materials, supplies, and techniques could actually reduce HAIs, saving hospitals time and money.

If an effective cleaning regimen could reduce HAIs by even just three percent (from the estimated 16 percent to 13 percent), it would translate to a savings of millions of dollars.

Sustainable Cleaning = Affordable Cleaning

Well funded cleaning departments also have the opportunity to research, train, and incorporate sustainable cleaning practices that save both time and money.

Sustainable cleaning programs use cleaning products that are more concentrated and require less packaging and transportation. This makes them good for the environment, and also more affordable.

A comprehensive sustainable cleaning practice also includes:

  • Daytime cleaning hours. While not all facilities can be completely cleaned during peak hours, by transferring much of the cleaning to the daytime, hospitals and health care facilities can save money on energy bills while reducing light pollution and energy consumption. Adopting this simple change may require some complex scheduling at first, but will be worth it in the long run as your cleaning department becomes more cost-efficient.
  • Sustainable training. A well-funded and well-organized cleaning department can train its staff to clean and disinfect surfaces right the first time, and teach them how to use the proper equipment. Sustainable cleaning techniques include top-down cleaning of restrooms and patient rooms, observing dwell times for cleaning products, properly mixing concentrated cleaning solutions, and spot checking high traffic areas throughout the day to ensure their cleanliness.
  • Green cleaning products. While some green cleaning products appear to be more expensive, when the bigger picture of packaging, transportation, and concentration of solutions is taken into account, many end up being more cost-effective.

Do the research at your hospital or health care facility and see how your cleaning department can improve patient care, lower infection rates, and save money. You might be surprised to find that investing more resources in your cleaning department can translate to overall savings for your facility.

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Is your doctor’s smart phone making you sick?

doctor-smartphoneWe already know that our smart phones are dirtier than toilet seats.

But is your doctor’s smart phone making you sick?

A recent article in the Irish Times revealed that doctors’ cell phones can be sources of potential life-threatening or fatal infections. No control protocols currently exist for the use of phones in many hospitals, making them potential agents for infection.

The article highlighted work done by researches from the Netherlands. The research team conducted medical research on smartphones, discovering that in five of eight hospital studies, doctors’ phones were carrying antibiotic-resistant bacteria on them. Among the infection-causing bacteria the studies found was Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The potentially fatal MRSA has no control protocol, making it a very serious threat to hospital patients and others with compromised immune systems. The strain of bacteria is also known as oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (ORSA). While the bacteria is resistant to forms of penicillin, it is not considered more virulent. Because it is responsible for many diseases that are difficult, and in some cases impossible, to treat in humans, it is considered very dangerous.

Smartphones and Hygiene

The VU (Free University) Medical Centre research team in Amsterdam conducted studies in eight hospitals in the Netherlands. The results showed that more than 80 percent of doctors in hospitals carried smartphones with them. 57 percent used them while they were treating and meeting with patients, disregarding proper hygiene.

Given that the average smartphone harbors more than 25,000 bacteria per square inch, making them dirtier by far than public toilet seats, using them while treating patients could lead to infection.

Published in the medical journal Medisch Contact, the findings of the studies showed that up to 95 percent of the 989 doctors’ cell phones that were tested were infected with nosocomial and healthcare-related bacteria. Medisch Contact strives to keep doctors informed and educated about current research that affects their practice.

The most disturbing finding, however, is related to antibiotic resistant bacteria. In five of the eight hospitals that where the study was conducted, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including MRSA, were discovered to be living on doctors’ smartphones. MRSA is better known as the hospital super bug that resists all current control methods and antibiotics. Patients with weakened or compromised immune systems can develop fatal infections from MRSA, including endocarditis and blood poisoning.

Rings, long sleeves, and watches are already banned in many hospital and healthcare environments because of the risks they pose to hygiene and patient health. Smartphones, however, because they are used to contact doctors and keep them informed, are heavily used by doctors and hospital staff. Doctors carry them everywhere, including areas in and out of hospitals that are not considered hygienic. Until protocols and rules regarding the cleanliness of cell phones in hospitals are created, they remain uncontrolled carriers of bacteria and infectious agents.

Proper Hand Hygiene

While eliminating the use of smartphones while treating patients may seem like the best answer to preventing hospital infections, it is unlikely that phones will be banned from healthcare facilities. They are a useful and powerful tool for contacting doctors, and keeping hospital staff informed. An alternative to banning the use of smartphones in hospitals is to promote and enforce proper hand hygiene.

What makes our phones so dirty? One reason is because we keep them in close proximity to our bodies (in our pockets, usually) where they are kept warm, touched frequently, and rarely disinfected or cleaned. These conditions are perfect for bacteria to flourish in. The average cell phone is also used every six minutes, making it one of the most touched things in our lives, and one of the dirties.

Because we touch them so frequently, and during all times of the day, it’s no surprise that your phone is only as clean as your hands are at the time you touch its surface. Incorporating proper and effective hand washing methods can help prevent the unchecked growth of bacteria, especially in hospital and healthcare settings.

Effective hand washing techniques aren’t as commonly practiced as they should be. Some studies have revealed that only 5 percent of people wash their hands properly after using the restroom.

You can keep your hands clean by :

  • Giving them a thorough wash and scrub. To kill and remove bacteria and the dirt and grime that it clings to, you need to vigorously wash your hands with hand soap for at leaset 20 seconds. Scrub all of your fingers, both sides of your hands, and under your nails to make sure all surfaes are fully exposed to soap and friction. Rinse your hands completely, and dry with a paper towel. Washing for less than 20 seconds, or not thoroughly scrubbing your hands, can be a waste of time because it doesn’t fully clean your hands.
  • Opt for automatic hand hygiene facilities. The fewer contaminated surfaces you touch, the more you reduce your chance of infection or cross contamination. Automatic sinks, automatic foaming hand soap dispensers, and automatic hand towel dispensers help eliminate the need to touch high traffic surfaces in restrooms and keep your hands cleaner.

Hopefully the results of the Dutch studies will pave the way for improved phone hygiene in hospital environments. The fact that doctors may be infecting their own patients through the use of their cell phones is powerful information that could change the way cell phones are used in the healthcare industry. Whether protective films or some other disinfecting methods are employed, something needs to change to improve phone hygiene and protect patients from infection.

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6 reasons contract packaging is better than doing it yourself

contract-packaging-solutionsContract packaging is in the spotlight again.

When efficiency and effectiveness become the focus of the way companies do business, contract packaging is inevitably one of the most discussed options. Why? From saving money on equipment and facilities to packaging and marketing specialty customization, contract packaging can cost less and deliver more for many businesses.

Benefits of contract packaging

The strength of hiring a third party professional to handle your packaging needs lies in several important factors. Outsourcing your packaging means the capital required for equipment, staff, training, materials, and software is in someone else’s hands.

It isn’t just cheaper, however. We actually think packaging is better, more intuitive, smarter, and more effective when it is handled by a contractor.  Why?

Companies that specialize in contract packaging are experts in their field. The focus of their business is to provide packaging solutions that meet the requirements of each individual product they deal with. Their staff, equipment, training programs, and software are all tailored to deal with packaging solutions. This makes their processes faster, more specialized, and cost-effective.

Here are 6 of the most compelling reasons to use a contract packager for your next project:

  1. Less capital, more capitalization. A well-equipped contract packager has the production facilities, packaging equipment, staff, training, and materials that allow you to expand your production without investing capital in space, equipment, or employees. When you have recurring instances of increased production or the need for more capacity, relying on a contract packager allows you to use them as a resource when you need them without paying to maintain the facilities and staff on your own. Many costs will be reduced, and some will be entirely eliminated. Using a contractor can also help you take more risks by developing products that you don’t have the facilities or expertise to create packaging for. Outsourcing packaging to a contractor may allow you to bring more creativity to your product division.
  2. Expand your development. An experienced and successful contract packaging outfit has not only the equipment and technology to create your custom packaging, they also have a well-trained team of staff members that are packaging and marketing professionals. Many contract packagers are brought into the packaging design phase of a project because of their expertise and insight. By bringing in a third party who has created hundreds if not thousands of customized packaging solutions for multiple industries, you are expanding your development team with experts who know what works. Whether you are looking for a packaging solution for a new product, or are rebranding existing inventory to make it more saleable, developing effective packaging is key.
  3. Faster output. Because contract packagers are professional package designers and manufacturers, their businesses decisions are made to improve their efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and speed. By including a contract packager early-on in your product development process, they can be completely set up and ready to roll the moment you have created your product, reducing the lead-time to market, and helping you move your inventory on time. If you work with a centrally located contractor, they can even help you make your national distribution more efficient and quicker.
  4. Design input. When developing a new product, including a contract packager during the design phase can help you design and manufacture custom packaging that intimately relates with your product. Your design phase can be shortened by relying on a contractor to provide packaging designs and ideas instead of devoting your own staff and resources to the task.
  5. Short-term needs, long-term profits. An efficient and effective packaging division can meet any packaging need, makes your product look better, and incorporates effective marketing and sustainability practices into its solutions. That includes efficiency in customized or short-term packaging needs. A contract packager’s facilities are set up to handle any kind of packaging need. If you have short-term or seasonal packaging needs that don’t justify maintaining your own staff and facilities, a contractor can save you time and money.
  6. Opportunity for downsizing. If your business has a packaging department and you are looking for ways to downsize, cut costs, and boost efficiency, consider transferring your packaging needs to a third party contractor. Outsourcing packaging can save you money in personnel and facilities fees. Add maintenance, training, and upgrade costs, and using a contractor can create significant savings.

Contract packaging options

The decision to work with a contract packager is a good one. Choosing the right one for you is just as important.

You will need to consider several different factors when selecting a third party contractor, including:

  • Availability
  • Equipment / automation facilities
  • Turnaround
  • Management style
  • Location
  • Plant certifications
  • Experience
  • Communication
  • Quality assurance
  • Space
  • Staff availability and experience

It doesn’t matter if you’re a start up company or a fortune 500 corporation, the launch of a product relies on the packaging process. A smooth transition from manufacturing floor to package will help your product hit the shelves on time, earning respect for your brand and poising you for profit. Any company, from cleaning material suppliers to food distributors, rely on primary and secondary packaging solutions. Packaging protects your product, communicates your brand, and is a valuable marketing tool. Relying on a professional contracting company to help you deliver an effective packaging solution is one of the best decisions you can make.

Additionally, many contractors offer “turnkey” packaging services. This means they source and acquire materials for packaging, as well as manufacturing it for you. They rely on their network of vendors and suppliers, or will work with the ones you identify. This kind of outsourcing is extremely valuable and well worth the cost. Not only are you outsourcing the design and manufacture of your packaging, the headache of tying everything together is eliminated by relying on a professional contract packaging company that specializes in handling the entire process. Say goodbye to mistakes and delays, and hello to efficiency and effectiveness.

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5 effective steps to stop restroom germs

germs-in-restroomsPublic restrooms have a bad reputation.

Many people consider them to be unsanitary, smelly, and full of germs. Many times they are right.

Much of the blame lies with restroom patrons who do not properly wash their hands. Improper hand washing promotes the spread of infection-causing germs on high touch surfaces in restrooms like sinks, faucets, soap dispensers, and door handles.

Research backs this up: a 2013 Michigan State University study discovered that a shocking 95 percent of people who visit public restrooms do not wash their hands well enough to fully kill germs. Ten percent of patrons didn’t wash their hands at all.

Improving restroom cleanliness

With flu season around the corner, and with millions of Americans making travel plans for the holidays, it is more important than ever for facilities managers to keep restrooms clean to prevent the spread of germs.

A truly clean restroom is one that is also disinfected. Using the proper combination of products and practices, your restrooms can look clean and reduce the spread of germs.

The following five steps can help make restrooms cleaner and less of a liability for the people who use them:

  1. Promote frequent and proper hand washing. Hand washing is one of the most effective, and one of the simplest, ways to stop the spread of infection-causing germs. Both patrons and employees should wash their hands after using the restroom. Improving the incidence of hand washing can be achieved with signage by sinks. Information about hand washing statistics, and step-by-step instructions make a difference. Although it may initially seem ridiculous to include hand washing instructions in a bathroom (everyone knows how to wash their hands, right?), many people actually don’t know how long they should wash their hands to effectively kill germs. Vigorous, thorough scrubbing with a hand soap is needed on all parts of the hands for at least 20 seconds. This includes wrists, fingernails, and between fingers.
  2. Create a Comprehensive and Sustainable Cleaning Strategy. Not all of the responsibility for germ-free bathrooms rests in patrons’ hands, however. Facilities that provide restrooms need to be proactive and consistent in eliminating germs from restroom surfaces. An effective plan begins with a detailed schedule. A good cleaning schedule will outline specific cleaning tasks and frequencies. Employees will also mark when a cleaning task has been accomplished to make sure that the schedule is current. Knowledge and training of current equipment and cleaning practices will make sure that staff members are effective cleaners. A solid training program will include ongoing education of cleaning solutions, safety practices, equipment usage, and best practices. Regular inspection will help reinforce the importance of proper cleaning and will give you assurance that your facilities are properly maintained. Finally, as a step toward preventing cross-contamination, restroom cleaning equipment can be color-coded to alert staff that it is only intended for use in restrooms. On that note, equipment used on floors and toilets in restrooms should not be used to clean faucets and counter tops. A top to bottom cleaning approach will prevent this, and will help ensure that dirt and bacteria are effectively removed.
  3. Use Effective, Professional Cleaning Solutions. Doing a job right means using the right tools. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a list of professional-strength cleaners. It is important to select cleaning products that are both effective and sustainable. An all-purpose cleaner will both clean and disinfect, and is an ideal cleaning agent for restroom surfaces. It is important to use a product that both cleans and disinfects. Cleaning is the removal of dirt; disinfecting is the actual killing of germs. Additionally, cleaning staff need to appropriately apply the all-purpose cleaner for its benefits to be realized. Using the right proportion and allowing it to dwell on a surface for the required amount of time are both essential for the solution to perform effectively. Some dwell times can be as long as 10 minutes. Make sure your staff are aware of the dwell times of each cleaning product and adhere to them.
  4. Enforce a daily cleaning regimen. Some restrooms need to be cleaned every few hours — some are only cleaned at the beginning or end of the day. The frequency of cleaning will depend on how heavily used the restroom is. At the very least, restrooms should be deep cleaned every day. Staff should temporarily close the facility so they have enough time to allow for dwell times and thorough cleaning practices. A complete cleaning of every surface should be performed, from walls and baseboards to faucet handles, towel dispensers and toilet seats. Additionally, all supplies should be restocked to ensure patrons always have access to soap and hand drying options.
  5. Frequently focus on high-touch surfaces. In addition to scheduled daily cleaning and deep cleaning, you should require regular spot cleaning of restrooms. Quick five minute cleaning stops can keep high-touch surfaces like faucets and counter tops clean throughout the day. Most importantly, frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces can help reduce the amount of cross-contamination between restroom patrons. A spot-clean can target door knobs, toilet seats, counter tops, light switches, dispenser levers, and handles. Spot cleaning is also a good time to remove the trash and make sure that paper towels are not strewn across the floor. Studies have documented that people avoid using unclean restrooms and may avoid proper hand washing if facilities appear unclean.

These five tips will ensure clean bathrooms that help reduce the amount of infection during the upcoming holiday season. These practices will also keep your bathrooms both clean and disinfected.

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The secret to successful green cleaning

green-cleaningGreen cleaning is more popular than ever, and for good reason.

Companies that incorporate green cleaning products and practices are contributing to a better environment, more sustainable practices, and better business.

An educated consumer base is also on the prowl for companies that incorporate green practices into their standard operating procedures.

The power of going green

  • Green cleaning can improve indoor as well as outdoor air quality. Many studies link the use of commercial cleaners that use harsh chemicals and detergents to the development of asthma and asthma-like symptoms. Sustainable cleaning programs also reduce emissions during the manufacturing and transportation process.
  • It’s contributions to improved outdoor air should not be overlooked, however. By reducing or eliminating the use of harsh commercial chemicals, green cleaning products can improve air quality — but there are other aspects of sustainable cleaning that also add to the effort. By creating more concentrated cleaning products that require less packaging and shipping, sustainable cleaning methods can lower emissions related to transportation and manufacturing, as well.
  • The adoption of green products and sustainable cleaning practices that focus on efficiency can reduce the amount of chemicals that enter the environment. This can affect air, soil, and water quality. Given the size of the built environment (all of which requires some level of regular cleaning), a sustainable approach to cleaning can have an incredibly positive impact on the environment.
  • Green cleaning products protect more than those who use the spaces that are cleaned and the environment — they also provide more safety for the cleaning staff who use them. Generally speaking, green cleaners are not corrosive, they meet inhalation toxicity standards, are usually non-combustible, and are not as harmful to the skin.
  •  Green cleaning products also rely less on antibacterial ingredients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has outright stated that washing with antibacterial soaps is not more effective than using regular soaps. What’s more, the American Medical Association (AMA) has reported that the overuse of antibacterial products and actually promote resistance in bacteria, creating microbes that are stronger, more resilient, and potentially more harmful to humans. Most green cleaning supplies do not rely on antibacterial agents and do not contribute to this cycle.

The right way to go green

Once you’ve made the choice to start incorporating green cleaning products and practices into your cleaning routine, it is important to make sure that you are doing so effectively.

The use of natural ingredients is inherently beneficial to the environment, but green cleaning products also need to be effective. In order to meet cleanliness standards and to be adopted as effective products, green cleaning needs to incorporate the two basic principals of successful disinfection: pH and physical removal.

  1. Good old fashioned elbow grease is still one of the best methods of decontamination. Scrubbing and removing dirt and grime removes gathering and breeding places for bacteria and other pathogens that can cause infection, stains, and foul odors. In order to thrive, bacteria need a food source. By removing grime from surfaces, you can immediately reduce the food sources that contribute to their survival and reproduction. Physical removal also reduces the number of bacteria on a surface. No matter how green your cleaning products are, if they don’t aid in the physical removal of dirt, germs, and bacteria, they will compromise the cleanliness of the surface they are applied to. Many contaminated, dirty, or stained areas require a cleaner to help release the particles. This is where pH comes in to play.
  2. The pH of a cleaning agent can make the cleaning process more effective. Everything has a pH, and the baseline for measuring starts with water. The pH of pure water is 7. Manipulating the pH of a contaminant can help kill the bacteria present in it and make soil and stains more removable. Creating cleaning products by combining substances with water that alter the overall pH of the mixture is the starting point for creating an effective cleaning agent. This is a critical element to keep in mind when developing, choosing, and using green cleaning products. Depending on the characteristics of the surface that is being cleaned and the kind of soil and contaminants that are present, solutions with different pH levels may need to be used. Using cleaning agents with proper pH can also help make cleaning tasks easier for staff members. There is no substitute for having the right tool for the job. A cleaner that helps dissolve, dislodge, and loosen dirt and grime from surfaces will make the cleaning process more efficient and complete.

The companies that develop green cleaning products and the consumers that purchase and use them need to be educated and trained in cleaning practices that incorporate these principles. There is more than money at stake — the proper use of effective cleaners has a large impact on the staff that administer them and the people in the buildings where they are used. The adoption of green cleaning products on a national and global scale also has implications on planetary environmental conditions.

So before you buy your next order of green cleaning products, take the time to determine if they are the most effective for your needs. Selecting products that are designed for your specific cleaning tasks will improve your overall performance, and will contribute to the health of the environment in which you use them.

The advancement of green cleaning, including its effectiveness and acceptance, depends on cleaning products that work.

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Why social media is making bathrooms cleaner

social-media-and-restroomsA blogger on recently wrote:

“I recently went to wash my hands in a restaurant bathroom that was so dirty, I honestly believe that my hands were cleaner before I went in than when I walked out. It made me a little — no, a lot — resistant to ordering food from this place, because I have always believed that a restaurant’s bathroom is a pretty good indicator of the cleanliness of the kitchen.”

Now, imagine being the owner or manager of the restaurant being described. A comment like that from a customer is like a bad dream. A comment like that posted on a social media site where it can be viewed and shared by countless people: that’s like a nightmare.

As people rely more on social media, online reviews, and feedback from their social networks about which restaurants to frequent, they are taking all aspects of a business into account.

Social media and restaurant restrooms

Harris Interactive, one of the world’s leading market research firms, recently conducted a survey centered around restaurant restroom cleanliness. More than 94 percent of respondents said they would avoid a business in the future if they had a negative experience in an unclean restroom.

Honestly, would you visit a restaurant if you read a scathing review like the one above? As people continue reviewing and checking-out restaurants on social media sites before visiting them , reviews of dirty and unpleasant restrooms are becoming more common. Given the powerful aversion people have to dirty restaurant restrooms, social media will likely play a lead role in improving restroom cleanliness around the country.

Bloggers aren’t the only ones targeting dirty toilets: online companies like TripAdvisor and Yelp have thousands of restroom reviews. Throw in Facebook status messages, and the instant broadcasting abilities of Twitter, and dirty bathrooms have nowhere to hide.

Change is on the way

With the power of social media in their hands, purses, and pockets, customers who notice dirty bathrooms now have a powerful voice. Tweeting, texting, and blogging is how millions of Americans are connecting with one another. Their use of social media goes beyond pictures of their pets and vacations: people are leveraging these online tools to share their experiences at the business they frequent, including restaurants.

The fact is that restaurants just can’t get away with dirty bathrooms anymore. With 94 percent of Americans stating that they won’t eat at a restaurant with a dirty bathrooms, the impacts of an unclean restroom could be devastating.

In the often busy environment of a restaurant, how can restrooms be kept clean throughout the day?

Many restaurants are employing touch-free faucets, hands-free toilets, automatic foam soap dispensers, and hand dryers. These additions can help greatly in reducing the amount of waste in garbage cans, and keeping restrooms looking and smelling clean. Implementing sustainable and effective cleaning programs is also helping restaurants improve the quality of their restrooms. From implementing a cleaning schedule to ensure frequent cleaning, to engaging in effective cleaning like full dwell time, effective and sustainable cleaning products, and cleaning that helps prevent foul odors from forming.

Many businesses choose to outsource their cleaning operations to a professional service provider. The trained and experienced staff adhere closely to industry standards for cleanliness, operate on a regular schedule, and have access to sustainable and effective cleaning products and equipment.

Online culture and public health

Online culture has also resulted in a more educated consumer, especially when it comes to health.

Consumers are very aware of the conditions that contribute to the spread of infection-causing bacteria and germs. The more often you touch surfaces that are likely to be contaminated — such as faucets, sinks, and toilets in high traffic restaurant restrooms — the more likely you are to spread or contract a disease.

Websites and online resources devoted to public health, cleanliness, and best cleaning practices are contributing to a knowledgeable and empowered public. A dirty restroom is more than unsightly — it is likely full of microbes, germs, and bacteria that can cause disease and infection, and consumers know this. A more knowledgeable and a more connected public spells big change for the state of restaurant restrooms if businesses want to remain competitive and attractive to their customers.

Industry impacts

Many businesses who supply hands-off bathroom equipment are experiencing an uptick in business as restaurants adopt more and more of their products and services. Hands-free equipment is appealing because it requires users to come in less contact with potentially contaminated surfaces, and because they are often more efficient and cost-effective for business owners.

“We’re getting a lot of orders,” said Elliott Greenberg, a supplier of automatic bathroom equipment. “People are concerned about spreading germs, so they get touch-free faucets, touch-free auto soap dispensers, and automatic flushers.”

The trend for hands-free restroom equipment is extending beyond restaurants. Hospitals, churches, businesses and office spaces, and gyms are adopting the new technology at a quick pace. The benefits are easy to understand: customers are more concerned about germs now than ever largely because they are more educated about them.

An online report from WebMD illustrates what the kind of information that consumers now have available to them 24 hours a day: “there can be plenty of bugs lying in wait in public restrooms, including both familiar and unfamiliar suspects like streptococcus staphylococcus, E. coli and shigella bacteria, hepatitis A virus, the common cold virus, and various sexually transmitted organisms.”

Touchless bathroom products offer a way for customers to reduce the amount of contact they have with surfaces in restrooms.

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