Green Cleaning in the Era of H1N1: One School Building Manager’s Experience

November 11, 2009

Today we have a guest blog from Bill Thompson, Director of Facilities for Lockport Township High School


Editor's Note: Bill Thompson, Director of Facilities for Lockport Township High School, first considered starting a green cleaning program after his janitors became dizzy when using a traditional chemical floor stripper. Since then, the school has become a model for successful green cleaning program implementation and Thompson has worked with HSC to spread the word about green cleaning. Thompson even traveled to Springfield to testify in the state legislature about the benefits of green cleaning as the legislature considered the Green Clean Illinois Schools Act, which now requires green cleaning in all Illinois schools.)

Here Thompson discusses how schools can work against the spread of H1N1 using green cleaning.


I
started implementing a green cleaning program back in 2003, and when
H1N1 starting getting a lot of awareness last spring, I realized we
needed to adapt our regular cleaning plans. We've made it through MRSA
and SARS in the past, so it seems that cleaning for infection control
is going to become even more of a standard practice in the future. So
far this year, our attendance rate has not dropped from the past
years, so we're doing OK. In short, we took a seven-step approach to
controlling infections while maintaining a green program. Here's what
we are doing.

1. Hand sanitizers. We got serious about providing hand sanitizers in every classroom and in common areas throughout the school.
2.
Education. Information was sent out via notices to the kids about
washing hands, proper coughing, staying home for 24 hours after a fever ends, eating properly and getting enough sleep.  Notes, announcements,
information on the school web page and phone blasts were sent out to
parents, students and staff ensuring that they all had this information.
3.
A reasonable but aggressive disinfection campaign. We began
disinfecting desks every other day (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and then
on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we use an accelerated hydrogen
peroxide cleaner, which has sanitizing properties.  We want to
disinfect, but not go overboard because we don't want to trade an
infection risk for a chemical exposure risk. And sometimes the
disinfectant gets a sticky residue if you use it too much without
wiping if off.  What’s really new is we are wiping down every desk every night instead of only when it is needed.
4. School buses. We provided all buses with hand sanitizers for the students to use.
5. Proper use of cleaning cloths. We want to minimize cross
contamination so we trained and enforced our custodial staff to fold
cloths twice and use one side and then the other side and so on.  I
encourage them to use as many cloths as necessary.  We have in-house
laundry so it is really no big deal keeping the cloths clean.
6.
Personal protection. My guys wear gloves, wash their hands regularly and
don’t come to work if they are even remotely sick.  This is highly
encouraged.
7.
Focus on health (rather than shiny floors). We cut down on the
burnishing of floors and then dedicate those employee hours to
disinfecting and cleaning lockers, door handles, computer labs, and
other high- touch areas. The floors

are still auto scrubbed every night.
Our floors are not as shiny as before, but we decided that to clean for
health is more important than having shiny floors.  This was a tough
one for me because I like shiny floors, but ultimately it means
healthier students and staff.

H1N1 may hit us hard at some point, but so far so good.

Plus: Interested in learning more about cleaning for health? Be sure to check out the infection control section of HSC's free Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools!