The new school year is here, and for some, anxiety is growing. Schools provide a safe space to learn and grow mentally, socially, and physically. Unfortunately, germs are returning to the classroom too, and understandably, this creates concerns over infection. As germs are invisible to the naked eye, the unseen creates uncertainty. Innovations in technology, including surface imaging technology, and cloud-based quality management solutions (QMS), provide schools with the tools to validate cleaning and disinfection, and inspire confidence through evidence.
The Difference Between Cleaning, Disinfection, and Sanitizing
In today’s society, many microorganisms, bacteria, and viruses exist in a person’s immediate surroundings and require different processes to eliminate. As contamination occurs throughout the day, all school staff have a role to play in keeping things hygienic, so it’s essential to know the difference between these processes. Let’s break down the terminology:
Cleaning typically includes soap (or detergent) and water to remove dirt, organic matter, and to a certain extent, germs from surfaces or objects. Cleaning alone does not kill the germs – it can only physically remove some of them.
Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill viruses and bacteria on surfaces and objects. Disinfectants often include bleach or alcohol-based solutions. For disinfectants to effectively kill germs, they must remain on the surface for a certain period of time (also known as dwell time), which varies by the specific solution. Disinfecting does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs.
Sanitizing is the process that lowers the levels of bacteria to a safe level but does not kill viruses and fungi. Sanitization can be achieved with chemicals or through prolonged high-temperature exposure.
Cleaning must be completed before sanitizing or disinfecting to prepare the surfaces so the disinfecting and sanitizing chemicals can work effectively.
Identify Germ Hot Spots in Schools
Some surfaces have more germs than others. High-touch surfaces are those that people touch most often, like doors, light switches, or toilet handles. Some are not always obvious, particularly when young children are involved, as they explore and interact with their learning environment in countless ways. Here are some of the high-touch surfaces in K-12 schools:
- Bathroom and toilet door handles
- Faucets, soap dispensers and hand-dryers
- Vending machines
- Locker doors and locks
- Water fountains
- Cafeteria tables and trays
- Desktops, backrests & seat arms
- Computer keyboard & mouse
- Kitchen cupboards, coffee machines, cutlery, milk containers
- Gym equipment and matting
Surface imaging solutions enable you to target the contaminated areas in less time; avoid wasting time and cleaning surfaces that do not require the same treatment.
Monitor and Measure Performance
With time and budget constraints, schools need to implement targeted hygienic cleaning. A simple paper checklist on the back of a bathroom door doesn’t provide any evidence of the quality and effectiveness of the cleaning.
Innovative technology like Opstisolve’s surface imaging (Pathfinder™) and quality management software (SAVI®) equips teams with a precision cleaning approach. Digitized checklists, standardized procedures, and results can be stored securely in the cloud, and used to train, educate, and report. Custodians can work through and update their performance as they go, they can do so offline if required, and the data will then upload as soon as they join a secured wifi network.
Game-changing surface imaging solutions like Pathfinder™ identify the location and density of pathogens that can be easily seen and interpreted through visual heatmaps. Cleaning teams can create visually-informative assessments, including before and after photographic images. Gathering this data helps teams make more informed decisions about resources, investments and performance outcomes.
Real images taken with Optisolve® Pathfinder™
Use Chemicals Safely And Avoid Unnecessary Exposure
The beauty of having all of your cleaning and reporting data stored centrally means that it takes the guesswork out of chemical usage. Schools can keep their comprehensive cleaning plan accessible on a tablet, with recommended cleaning solutions and appropriate dilution rates. The visual step-by-step checklists help custodial staff, teachers, and others who use cleaners and disinfectants to understand safe and proper use. Not all surfaces will require harsh chemicals, and reducing redundant chemical use helps to improve indoor air quality and safety.
Involve And Educate Everyone In The Process
Informing parents and staff of a facility’s precision cleaning protocols is essential, mainly as disinfecting goes unseen. Staff and students should be encouraged to keep shared spaces clean so that janitorial staff can focus on disinfecting and sanitizing high-risk areas.
Hand hygiene is still one of the best methods to reduce the spread of germs, so providing touch-free technology like soap and sanitizer dispensers, and opting for paper towel products, avoids re-contamination. Faculty staff must be involved, supporting hygiene practices at critical times during the day – arriving at school, before eating lunch/snacks, playing outside, or using the bathroom.
With digitally documented protocols in place, adequate training, good hand hygiene, and visually validated cleaning and disinfection, schools can minimize the spread of germs on-site so parents, staff and students can feel confident about returning to school.
Source Innovative Suppliers
As Canada’s source for cleaning supplies and equipment, Swish ensures learning spaces inspire healthy interactions, transformative experiences, and overall wellbeing. We provide custom cleaning solutions, products, and training born from decades of experience and innovation and are proud to offer Optisolve™ as a solution for your school. Visit www.swish.ca/optisolve to learn more about our special offer and free site assessments.