Considering how crucial regular sanitation is to preventing the spread of infection, it’s no surprise that hospitals are held to the highest cleaning standards.
Most medical professionals will know that individual hospital areas — including patient wards, operating rooms, administrative wards, waiting rooms, and others — have specific cleaning protocols. In fact, to ensure the safety of patients and frontline staff, some sanitation practices must be carried out multiple times a day.
Healthcare cleaning services are vital to creating and maintaining this secure environment. These professional organizations are trained in general practices like vacuuming, mopping, and trash removal, as well as specialized cleaning techniques — especially when dealing with hazardous fluids or critical care patients.
Let’s examine some reasons why adhering to cleaning standards is crucial and also delve into some of the best practices hospital janitorial services are expected to follow when working with U.S. based facilities.
Why Healthcare Cleaning Standards are Crucial
There are several reasons why employing hospital janitorial services is a top priority for healthcare institutions. Here are some prominent examples.
- Infection Control: Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) pose a huge risk to vulnerable patients and staff. Regular sanitation practices are key to preventing the spread of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
- Patient Safety: Proper sanitization of medical equipment and spaces can be the difference between a procedure being a success or a patient being expected to recover in an unsafe environment.
- Staff Reliability: Frontline workers are often exposed to infectious substances and allergens. Regular cleaning processes must be prioritized to ensure that staff stay healthy and continue to carry out their duties on a daily basis.
- Protecting Medical Equipment: Medical devices that aren’t regularly maintained and clean are at a higher risk of malfunctioning, leading to costly repairs — or, in the worst case, improper diagnoses and treatments.
- Improves Hospital Reputation: A clean and well-maintained hospital instills confidence among patients, staff, and the general community. It also protects a hospital’s accreditation from being at risk of being revoked.
- Lower Environmental Footprint: Hospitals can significantly lower their environmental impact by implementing sustainable cleaning practices and working with responsible healthcare cleaning services that use non-toxic products.
Cleaning Standards For U.S. Hospitals
Multiple bodies in the U.S. have outlined standards for hospitals to follow in their cleaning practices. Not adhering to these regulations can spell trouble for institutions, who risk incurring penalties or facing malpractice charges. The following standards emphasize the need for professional healthcare cleaning services:
OSHA Safety Standards
Individuals employed by a hospital cleaning service are exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) daily. Inappropriate handling of such substances can lead to serious or even life-threatening illness.
It is thus mandatory for hospital janitors to be trained in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards for dealing with bloodborne pathogens.
These standards require cleaners to always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves, gowns, eye protection, and masks; establish a plan to eliminate or at least minimize occupational exposures; implement universal precautions — so that all blood and OPIM are treated as infectious — and use warning labels and signs to identify potentially hazardous fluids.
In case a cleaner is exposed to a dangerous substance, hospitals must carry out an evaluation and documentation of how the exposure occurred and test the individual for potential infection.
Another critical step outlined in the OSHA Safety Standards is the disposal of contaminated needles in properly secured, leak-proof labeled sharps containers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has extensive guidelines for the prevention of infections in healthcare facilities. Specific cleaning procedures and frequency are determined by factors such as:
- Probability of contamination
- Vulnerability of the patients
- Potential for exposure (“high-touch surfaces,” including door handles and light switches vs. “low-touch surfaces,” such as walls and floors.)
The CDC also outlines a few general cleaning strategies, such as:
- Visual Site Assessments: This helps cleaners determine if a patient’s status allows for cleaning, determine what PPE will be required, or identify any clutter or damaged furniture that could interfere with the cleaning process.
- Cleaner to Dirtier Strategy: Cleaners must start with the least contaminated areas and work up to high-touch surfaces to avoid spreading dirt and microorganisms from high to low-contamination areas.
- High to Low Strategy: Professional cleaners must proceed from high to low when sanitizing hospital environments to prevent contaminants from falling or dripping into already clean areas. Floors and bathrooms are typically cleaned last.
The CDC also advises cleaning in a systematic manner — left to right or clockwise — to ensure no area is left out and lays down protocols for dealing with body fluid spills.
In terms of frequency, it advises that waiting rooms and admission areas be cleaned daily, consultation rooms at least two times a day, and operative procedure areas before and after each procedure.
Other Crucial Standards
Hospital cleaning services are additionally expected to adhere to standards and regulations outlined by:
- The Joint Commission
- The Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program
- The Association for the Healthcare Environment
- The Environmental Protection Agency
- Local and state health department regulations
Best Practices for Cleaning Services, Healthcare
Putting these various standards together, we’ve compiled a list of best practices that all healthcare cleaning services and medical institutions are expected to adhere to.
Use Proper Cleaning Products
Supplies used to clean healthcare facilities should be non-toxic, not have a strong odor, and preferably be environmentally friendly. Disinfectants need to work against a wide range of antimicrobial substances and be fast-acting.
For this, services are expected to use EPA-approved disinfectants and cleaning agents. It is also important to note that disinfectants are not substitutes for proper cleaning.
Frequency of Cleaning Practices
When cleaning general patient areas, hospital janitorial services should break up individual components and assess whether they require routine, terminal, or scheduled cleaning.
- Routine Cleaning: A daily process that involves cleaning high-touch surfaces, floors, and sinks of areas where patients are admitted.
- Terminal Cleaning: Carried out every time a patient is discharged or transferred, and includes cleaning and disinfecting practices. During a terminal cleaning, all disposable personal care items are discarded, and equipment is cleaned.
- Scheduled Cleaning: This type of cleaning is carried out once a week, month, or annually and involves a deep clean of low-touch items or surfaces, including windows, curtains, tops of cupboards, and vents.
Furthermore, some areas, such as shared toilets, must be cleaned twice daily, while blood or body fluid spills must be dealt with immediately.
Using Appropriate PPE
Hospital janitorial services must always wear the appropriate PPE, whether it’s masks, gloves, eye protection, or otherwise. The choice of PPE depends on the area being cleaned, as well as specific risks associated with it — different PPE is required to protect against airborne diseases, as compared to contact diseases, for instance.
Proper Audit and Tracking Processes
Besides using advanced techniques to ensure proper sanitation, cleaning services and facilities must also develop regular reports. These could include information on the person responsible for cleaning a particular area, outlining the best method and product to use, as well as detailing exact schedules.
Looking for the Perfect Cleaning Services, Atlanta?
All this information may be overwhelming, especially since the patient is always your first priority. So why not leave the hard work to the experts?
Georgia Facility Services has worked with medical supply manufacturers, laboratories, medical schools, nursing facilities, hospitals, and other healthcare-related organizations to ensure all crucial areas stay germ-free and sanitary. As one of the leading hospital cleaning services, Atlanta, we ensure that our methods follow strict protocols and maintain the highest standards to keep your patients and staff safe.