Friday, July 09, 2010

How to Keep Women's Restrooms Germ Free

The disposal of feminine care products in women’s restrooms is the problem no one wants to talk about. That is until now.

Now facility managers like Don Baker, Goodwill Industries are becoming aware of the problem and taking action. “ Frankly I never gave it much thought. Overall, I would say that this is an area us guys don’t take a close look at. I definitely see that this is an area that could use improvement.”

Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of Microbiology at the University of Arizona, has been studying bacteria growth in restrooms for more than two decades and has found that the number-one bacteria hot spot in a woman’s restroom is the “sanitary” napkin disposal unit. Beyond the contents placed in them, contaminants in the mist that emits from toilet flush can coat partition walls and the disposal units with hepatitis A virus, E. coli, salmonella, cryptosporidium, staphylococcus, and C. diff.

And the findings of a study conducted by Ethox International for The Scensible Source Co. are consistent with Gerba’s analyses. Additionally the study showed that unlined interiors of these disposal units yielded more than ten times the microbiological contamination of the exterior surfaces.

Restroom users and custodial workers are exposed daily to potentially harmful germs and blood borne pathogens with only minimal precautions available to protect them. Both hepatitis B and C are extremely hardy; and may survive outside the body for several days, even on a dry surface, and still be infectious. Since it is impossible to identify infected individuals before they use restrooms, facility management should follow standard precautions that treat all blood and bodily fluids, including menstrual blood, as if they are infected and potentially harmful.

Outside of health care facilities, there are no regulations in place to protect housekeepers or janitorial staff from exposure to blood or other potentially infectious material. OSHA guidelines simply dictate that feminine care products be discarded in waste containers that are properly lined to prevent contact with the contents.

Ann Germanow, Founder of The Scensible Source Company advocates for solutions to this dangerous restroom fixture. "When emptying and cleaning feminine hygiene product disposal units, there is a 'reasonably anticipated' expectation of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. That's why I asked experts in the cleaning industry to help write a best cleaning standard for these commonly found stall disposal units. Emptied usually daily, they are rarely properly cleaned."

Best Cleaning Practices Sanitary Product Disposal Receptacles
Safety Reminders: Wear protective gloves.
•Empty sanitary product disposal receptacle contents by removing the liner bag, sealing it and placing in lined cleaning cart trash receptacle or lined trash pickup container.
•Use extra caution when handling liner which may contain sharps such as needles.
•Visually inspect the inside of the receptacle and carefully remove debris remaining in the bottom and discard in trash.
•Use paper towel or other disposable wipes only.
•To properly clean, apply (via disposable wipes/spray bottle) an EPA registered hospital-grade disinfectant cleaner on interior and exterior of the receptacle including the lid, even when there is no visible soiling
•In order to be effective, always follow the recommended dwell time on the manufacturer's product label.
•To dry receptacle surfaces, use paper towels or other disposable wipes only and discard when saturated.
•To comply with the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, line the clean receptacle with one bag that will completely cover the inside surface and totally enclose discarded sanitary products. This protects the janitorial staff from coming into direct contact with materials containing blood or body fluids.
•Check the dimension of the stall receptacle to choose the correct size bag.
•The liner should reach all the way around the sides and to the bottom of the receptacle.
•Use one liner bag only; do not place multiple waxed paper bags in the receptacle.
•Handle the filled trash disposal container carefully; knowing that sharps and blood borne pathogens may be present. Do not sort through or compress trash with even gloved hands.
•Inspect your work to insure visible and hygienic cleaning standards are met; ATP measurement can help to verify organic soil removal.

Contributors: Allen Rathey, President of InstructionLink/JanTrain, Inc. and The Housekeeping Channel, LLC, Professional Edition; Lynn Krafft, Building Services Contractor and International Custodial Advisors Network, ICAN/ATEX Editor; Perry Shimanoff, MC2, Management, Maintenance and Cleaning Consultant; and Ann Germanow, Founder and CEO The Scensible Source Company, LLC

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