Custodial Services

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year about 75,000 people in the U.S. die of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). The most common bacterial and viral culprits are Clostridium difficile (C. diff), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), as well as several other multi-drug-resistant organisms. The newcomer to this slate of deadly pathogens is SARS-CoV-2, which can spread quickly in medical environments. To try to gain the upper hand against these pathogens, many medical institutions are looking to technology that delivers advanced janitorial service.

Keeping deadly germs in check is a high priority for hospitals, as even small gains in disinfection can save thousands of lives. To enable hospitals to reach this lifesaving goal, several technology companies have developed robots that destroy dangerous pathogens automatically. This technology, while still in its infancy, has the potential to make hospitals and other medical settings much safer. 

Environmental Robots: A New Way to Disinfect

Effective cleaning agents have long existed. The problem is getting those agents onto the surfaces and into the crevices where drug-resistant pathogens reside. So innovative entrepreneurs are developing programmable and remote-controlled machines with the ability to maneuver within a room and deliver cleaning agents without human help. In other words, they’re building robots.

Cleaning robots fall into two basic categories—those that disinfect using chemical sprays, and those that use ultraviolet light to sanitize. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks.

Disinfection Robots that Clean with Chemicals

The most common chemical cleaning agent used by robots is hydrogen peroxide vapor (HPV), which is highly effective at killing MRSA bacteria and other pathogens, including spores. These machines, such as the Bioquell Q-10, can resemble a portable air conditioner. The Q-10 consists of two units. One unit releases a 35% hydrogen peroxide solution into the air, and another unit aerates the room to thoroughly disperse the cleaner. With this technology, a patient room can be thoroughly disinfected in about ninety minutes.

While chemical-cleaning robots are efficient, they do have disadvantages. Because hydrogen peroxide can damage lung and other tissue, no one can enter a recently disinfected room until the hydrogen peroxide has completely dissipated, which means the room must remain unoccupied for hours after cleaning. And to keep the HPV from escaping into inhabited spaces, the room must be sealed before the robot is deployed. Air vents and spaces around doors must be covered, a process that can be time-consuming. HPV can also damage exposed electronic circuitry, making its use problematic in spaces like radiology labs.

Disinfection Robots that Clean with Ultraviolet Light

Currently, both the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend chemical disinfection in hospital settings. But because chemical cleaning is toxic to humans, many of the newer disinfection robots use a different technology– ultraviolet-C (UVC) light.

UVC light has many advantages. It can disinfect a room more quickly than HPV, for example. Some UVC robots can sanitize a patient room in just 45 minutes, half the time it takes to disinfect with a chemical robot. Also, with UVC light, there’s no residual danger once a room is cleaned, so humans can enter a room immediately after the robot shuts down, without waiting for an aerosolized chemical to fully disperse. This means that rooms can be put back into use more quickly.

But UVC technology has its own drawbacks. For example, UVC robots aren’t able to disinfect areas that fall in shadow. UVC technology also suffers from the same disadvantage as chemical dispersal systems—it’s not safe for humans to be in the room while a robot is actively disinfecting. Because ultraviolet-C light can damage the skin and eyes, the robot must be locked in the room alone for the duration of the cleaning, though there is no need to seal the room as with chemical cleaning.

Environmental Technicians and Disinfection Robots – A Future Together

While disinfecting robots have come a long way, many argue that they’re still not ready for prime time. Both HPV and UV light technologies, for example, require that a human clean the room first to clear away dirt and grime. Neither disinfecting technology can remove liquids or solids, so a room must be “clean” before these robots can be effectively used.

Also, the price tag for disinfecting robots remains high, with systems costing up to $100,000. Because of these constraints, most institutions continue to rely on highly trained environmental technicians for both cleaning and disinfection.

But change is on the horizon. Tech companies are developing shields for their UVC robots, in order to make it safe for humans to be in the room while the robot is disinfecting. If these companies are successful, and as prices for these robots drop, some experts foresee a partnership forming between humans and robots. In this scenario, robots will work alongside their human counterparts, who both guide the machine and disinfect the hard-to-reach germ reservoirs that no spray or UV light can touch. If this happens, hospitals and other large institutions will gain the best of both worlds. Environmental technicians can ensure that rooms are truly germ-free, and robots can cut the time it takes to get them that way.

Sustainable and Effective Janitorial Services

PRIDE Industries is CIMS-GB-certified. We have extensive experience cleaning medical, commercial, and public facilities. Our highly trained environmental technicians clean and disinfect hospitals and other medical settings quickly and efficiently. For commercial customers, we design and carry out GBAC Star-compliant programs tailored to the specific needs of each business. Our custodial services are thorough, sustainable, and cost-effective

The COVID pandemic made a lasting impact in commercial custodial services, and brought a heightened awareness to the importance of cleaning protocols. Now more than ever, employees look to their company’s leaders to keep the workplace safe and healthy. And customers want to be reassured that the business they’re entering has been cleaned with their health in mind. In other words, “clean” is no longer enough. Building occupants want to know that the space they’re in is regularly disinfected and free of contagion.

To help businesses meet this need, in 2020 the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a division of ISSA, created the GBAC Star Facility Accreditation. Facilities that display the GBAC Star seal let visitors know that the building they’re entering is safe and hygienic.

The GBAC Star seal is one way that businesses can show both employees and customers that their well-being matters, giving these companies a distinct competitive advantage. So it’s no surprise that nearly 2,000 businesses across a range of industries have adopted the protocols necessary to earn GBAC Star certification. From Hyatt Hotels to American Airlines, businesses are using the GBAC Star seal to signal their dedication to their customers, employees, and other stakeholders.

Commercial Cleaning at a Higher Level

In today’s post-pandemic world, the GBAC Star has become the gold standard in facilities accreditation. Companies at this level have created a cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention program that is designed to minimize an occupant’s exposure to infectious agents. At these facilities, cleaning and disinfection protocols combat not just COVID but other biohazards as well.

This is why five of the 20 program elements required for GBAC Star certification deal specifically with cleaning supplies and their management. Among other requirements, facilities must use EPA-approved, broad-spectrum chemicals shown to eliminate coronaviruses and other infectious agents. In addition, companies must abide by strict inventory control procedures, as well as defined waste management protocols. And of course, PPE must be used by cleaning staff when indicated.  

The Need for Highly Trained Commercial Janitorial Professionals

Gone are the days when a custodian could be hired, handed a push broom and a supply trolley, and told where to start cleaning. To meet and maintain the high standards of GBAC Star certification, cleaning staff must be specially trained in the safe use of powerful cleaners and disinfecting agents. They must learn specific cleaning and sanitizing protocols that vary with the type of space. And they must become experts in outbreak response and infectious disease prevention.

This requires the development of a comprehensive training program for the people hired to clean your facilities. Such a program must include education in the proper use, storage, and disposal of various cleaning materials. Custodians must be able to recite and carry out emergency response protocols, and understand the details of today’s enhanced infection-control techniques.

In addition, GBAC Star certification requires that custodial managers receive biohazard response training. These managers must also strictly control the inventory of cleaning chemicals, and maintain up-do-date personnel training records.

Custodial Services You Can Rely On

The steps needed to achieve GBAC Star certification—and the expertise required to maintain that certification—can be daunting. If your company would prefer to focus on your core business, you can still earn GBAC Star certification by making sure your contracted service provider has the training and expertise to meet the GBAC’s stringent requirements.

At PRIDE Industries, we have thirty years of experience keeping commercial and public facilities sparkling clean. As a CIMS-GB certified company, we utilize industry best practices to create safe and healthy work environments for businesses and their employees.

GBAC Star accredited
Businesses use the GBAC Star seal to signal their dedication to their customers, employees, and other stakeholders.

In 1592, Sir John Harrington presented his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I, with a wonderful gift he’d designed himself—a commode that used water to flush away waste. For that time and place, this brand-new invention was the first high-tech toilet.

But while a handful of royals did make use of this new technology, most of Europe ignored the leap forward in sanitation. Then, in 1775, a watchmaker named Alexander Cummings resurrected Harrington’s design, and made one crucial improvement—he added an S-shaped pipe under the toilet basin to trap foul odors.

Over the next 150 years, other enhancements were made, including flushable valves, water tanks that sat on the bowl itself, and toilet paper rolls (first sold in 1902). Despite these improvements, however, today’s toilets are essentially the same as Harrington’s original device.

But if tech companies have their way, that’s about to change.

Today, a race is on among toilet manufacturers to develop high-tech versions of the standard commode, bringing this bathroom staple into the 21st century. Their new toilet technology runs the gamut from the silly (toilets that sing to you) to the sublime (a commode that can monitor your blood sugar). Most innovations in toilet technology, however, focus on one of three categories of the bathroom experience: cleanliness, comfort, and sustainability.

A New Era of Clean

One of the best ways to keep both a toilet and its user clean is to minimize contact between the two. Automatic flushing was invented to address this problem, and to make sure that forgetful users don’t leave behind a surprise for the next person who enters the bathroom stall. But today’s automatic flushing systems have a distinct drawback—they sometimes flush when it’s not necessary. This can waste a lot of water. Some studies show that automatic flushing uses up to 54% more water than old-fashioned manual systems. Another annoying drawback? Users are sometimes subjected to an unwanted spray.

To put control back in the hands of users—while still limiting contact—some new toilets incorporate infrared sensing eyes. Now users can simply wave a hand over the sensor eye to initiate a flush. Automatic flushing is still employed, but those sensors are becoming more accurate in their ability to detect when a person is in the stall.

Touchless flushing technology is relatively inexpensive, so it’s spreading faster than other high-tech enhancements. But those, too, will be coming to a bathroom near you in the not-too-distant future.

Integrated bidets, for example, while slow to be adopted in America, are a hit in countries like Japan. Integrated bidets are essentially dual-use toilets. They function as traditional toilets, but after the waste is whisked away, users are treated to a spray of cleansing water, followed by a breeze of warm, drying air. This process leaves the user in the bathroom a bit longer, but it is more hygienic. And more sustainable too, as it eliminates the need for toilet paper.

Keeping the user clean is just one of many new tricks that toilets are offering. Manufacturers are also producing self-cleaning toilets. Some toilets spray a fine mist of cleaner into the bowl after the user has gone. Others use ultraviolet light to disinfect after each flush. And new bowl materials—like titanium dioxide—provide a slippery surface that cuts down on microscopic waste.

Heated Seats and Colored Lights: Luxury High-Tech Toilets

The Internet of Things (IoT) entered our homes years ago, but there is one room where it’s been noticeably absent—the bathroom. Now that’s changing.

Industry leaders like Kohler are introducing futuristic toilets that use voice commands to raise the seat, flush, and even turn on music. There are also toilets with ambient lighting and built-in Bluetooth, so you’ll never have to miss any part of your favorite sporting event.

Heated seats are gaining popularity in colder climes. There are also toilets with automatic deodorizers that eliminate the need for candles or spray bottles. Some integrated bidets can be operated by a remote control, which not only adjusts the water spray, but lets you run your Bluetooth audio through the toilet’s speakers for optimum sound.

A number of luxury toilets even offer Amazon Alexa integration.

A Sustainable Solution

Even as toilets become more luxurious, they’re also becoming more eco-friendly. In addition to integrated bidets, which cut down on paper use, today’s toilets are doing more with less water.

Europe’s dual flush system—one type of flush for liquid waste, another for solid—has been shown to cut down on water use. Fortunately, this system is finally gaining popularity in America. These and other innovations have made it possible for many new commodes to earn the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense label.

But the biggest leaps in sustainability haven’t been made for the developed world. To see truly cutting-edge, green toilet technology, you have to go to developing countries.

Toilets for Everyone

The flush toilet is one of the biggest advances in public health of the past 300 years. Before the widespread adoption of the toilet and municipal sewage systems, waste was often simply tossed out windows or into rivers. This was the era of cholera and typhoid, common waterborne illnesses. During that time, approximately half the poor population of European cities died before the age of five. The humble flush toilet, combined with the rise of sewage systems, changed all that.

Amazingly, though, this simple sanitation device is not available worldwide, and in those countries that don’t have toilets available on a mass scale, children are still dying of preventable waterborne diseases. Fortunately, there are organizations that are working to change that. These groups are developing innovative, sustainable solutions that not only benefit poorer countries, but will also help more developed nations improve their ability to conserve water.

In 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.” The goal of the challenge is to design advanced toilets that are easily constructed, use little or no water, and can be deployed on a mass scale. And these toilets don’t just forego water, many of them are designed to operate without electricity (solar power is a popular substitute) or a sewer infrastructure.

To function independently of a sewer system, waste must be recycled at the commode site, and that’s just what these toilet systems do. One toilet, developed by Dr. Shannon Yee, uses a filtration process to turn urine into clean water. Solid waste is pasteurized by the toilet (which kills harmful pathogens) and turned into cakes of fertilizer. Right now, Dr. Yee’s device is about the size of a washing machine, but it should get smaller as this new toilet technology advances.

The Future of Toilets

Bathroom innovations like Dr. Yee’s are remaking the humble toilet. Plans are in the works for toilets that can analyze waste to search for disease markers, or filter out valuable elements like phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium for commercial use.

The toilets of the future will be easier to clean (or self-cleaning) and will do more than just send waste to the sewage system. One toilet system currently in development, for example, can detect leaks and send alerts to facilities personnel, preventing expensive water damage and making facilities maintenance just a little bit easier.

A Partner in Innovation

PRIDE Industries doesn’t develop toilet technology. But we do have 30 years of experience delivering best-in-class custodial services to commercial and public entities as diverse as VSP Global and the Sacramento International Airport. We are also experts in GBAC Star certification, and even invented our own line of green cleaning products that effectively kill coronaviruses, including COVID. Contact us today to learn more about our sustainable and cost-effective approach to janitorial service.

Alani Letang, anchor/reporter for Monterey’s KSBW8 Action News, details the work done by PRIDE Industries by employing people with disabilities all year long. She interviews several PRIDE Industries employees at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, who credit PRIDE Industries with giving them the skills and a sense of belonging by being able to go beyond their disabilities to become valuable employees.

Media Contact
Kat Maudru

PRIDE Industries is a social enterprise delivering business excellence to public and private organizations nationwide.

With the advent of COVID-19, cleaning services have entered the mainstream consciousness. Even office workers who never thought twice about how the bathrooms were scrubbed or the floors were mopped are now very interested in how their offices are cleaned. As a result, facilities managers are demanding higher levels of disinfection than ever before—at a time when staffing shortages have gotten worse. But while these two trends are making life harder for the industry, other trends are coming to the rescue. Read on for our picks of the top five trends in custodial management.

Trend #1: Cleaning is now a strategic business imperative.

There has never been a more exciting time to be in the business of commercial cleaning. Office cleaning used to consist of tidying up and cleaning surfaces. Now, a healthy office environment can give companies an edge in attracting and retaining staff. With the pandemic and the increased awareness of airborne and surface-born illnesses that can be transmitted in shared indoor spaces, the race is on to offer the most reliable, proven cleaning services possible—or people won’t come to work. This is why new types of cleaning agents, cleantech, and hazard testing are being developed for a wide range of work environments.

Trend #2: The high turnover in staff will continue to rise.

Even in the best of times, turnover in the janitorial services space is 75 percent. But today’s business climate is more challenging than ever, leading experts to predict turnover rates as high as 400 percent. At this rate, cleaning businesses will be replacing their staff 1-2 times per year—at a cost of more than $50,000 annually. Given this high cost, cleaning businesses will be seeking to raise employee retention by providing training and advancement opportunities, improved safety conditions, and welcoming work environments.

Trend #3: Connected apps will bring new efficiencies.

Custodial services will continue to incorporate new technologies, including the use of apps to streamline services.

  • Contractors will rely on apps to provide quotes, purchase supplies, and send invoices.
  • At the worksite, new communication apps will allow custodial teams to receive instructions and instantly alert facility managers when a room or sector is cleaned. Teams will also be able to share images, so that managers can troubleshoot problems from their offices.
  • New scheduling apps will enable cleaning personnel to self-schedule, pick up additional shifts, and track work time.
  • Sophisticated analytics capabilities will enable managers to identify inefficiencies, coach team members, and continually optimize performance.
  • Facilities managers will use easy-to-navigate apps to book routine and specialized cleaning services.

Trend #4: The use of robotics and other automation will escalate.

Labor shortages and high turnover have plagued the custodial industry for years, and the pandemic has only exacerbated those issues. This has led to the increased deployment of cleaning robots, which help mitigate staffing shortfalls by freeing janitorial workers to focus on high-value tasks. Here are the numbers:

  • Autonomous cleaning robots generally cost in the range of $30,000 to $50,000.
  • A commercial-grade, rider-style scrubber costs roughly $15,000 upfront. Labor costs bring the total annual cost of this technology to about $27,000.

As these numbers show, the investment in a robot pays off in about two years, assuming 20 hours a week of use.

Trend #5: The demand for green cleaning will continue to grow.

According to Prophecy Market Insights, the market for green cleaning products will triple to $11.6 billion by 2029, up from $3.9 billion in 2019. Key growth areas in 2022 are:

  • Ultraviolet-C disinfection services: UV-C rays are highly effective—even against antibiotic-resistant superbugs—because they destroy the molecular bonds of the DNA of bacteria and viruses. Because of its disinfecting power, UV-C technology is being deployed in hospitals, schools, gyms, office buildings, and public transit.
  • Steam cleaning: Steam was making a comeback even before the pandemic, especially in hospitals where healthcare-associated infections had risen, and it has since proven effective against the COVID-19 virus. Medical-grade steam cleaners neutralize the COVID-19 virus in two ways—high pressure rips the protective coating off the virus, allowing the associated heat to kill it. Steam is as green as you can get, and professional-grade steamers are as effective as traditional disinfectants like bleach.

Ready to take your custodial operations to the next level?

Partner with PRIDE Industries for cost-effective, turnkey solutions designed for today’s demanding environments.

There’s a good chance that in the future, custodians will be trading in their mops and spray bottles for control panels and joysticks. Several new types of cleaning robots have already reached the market or will debut soon. These and other developments in automation are expertly explained in this detailed overview from Services Magazine. The article is our recommended read for this month. Click the link above to learn why the sight of the school janitor pushing a dust mop—or of a window washer hanging ten stories above the ground—may soon be a thing of the past.

Highlights

Don’t have time to read the full article? Here are our top takeaways:

Robotics Revolution

We’ve been promised automated cleaning for decades, but costs and technological limitations have kept that dream from becoming a reality. But the technology is finally here, and new trends—including labor shortages, consumer demand for green cleaning, and safety concerns—are driving a renewed push for these safe, cost-saving devices. The article focuses on four types of robots, each designed for a specific job: cleaning floors, clearing ducts, washing windows, and other specialized tasks.

Floor-Cleaning Robots

Commercial floor cleaners are a lot more sophisticated than your home’s Roomba. Some models can clean more than 200,000 square feet per day, using laser scanners and ultrasonic detectors to maneuver around people and other obstacles. And when they’ve finished their route through the building, these robots return to their docking station to recharge and refill with cleaning fluid.

image of floor cleaning robot

Duct-Cleaning Robots

Robots are ideal for cleaning ducts. They can access ductwork through existing vents, eliminating the need to cut access points that might compromise the integrity of the duct system. They’re remote-controlled, and equipped with high-quality cameras that allow their human operators to inspect ducts as they clean.

image of duct cleaning robot

Window-Cleaning Robots

In 2014, two window washers became trapped 70 stories above ground when the motorized cable of their scaffold failed, tilting the platform nearly vertical. Firefighters had to cut through a window in order to rescue the two men. If robotics manufacturers have their way, these types of risks will soon be eliminated. Automated window cleaners can now effectively clean curved windows and crawl from one side of a building to another. And unlike their human counterparts, they can operate in high winds.

image of window washing robot

Special-Purpose Cleaning Robots

Different environments call for different robots. Hospitals are one space where anything less than the most stringent adherence to cleaning protocols can have devastating results. Fortunately, while humans may have an off day, robots don’t. This is one reason why hospitals are investing in cleaning robots, which use sophisticated technologies like pulsed xenon UV light to kill bacteria in minutes. There are also robots designed specifically to clean bathrooms, making them ideal for high-traffic businesses like gas stations.

image of robotic vacuum

Final Note

Right now, robots are built to conform to the buildings where they operate. But experts see a change on the horizon. As automated cleaning becomes more common, buildings will be designed to make it easier for these machines to do their jobs. Already in Japan, some office buildings come equipped with sensors that communicate with robots, so that these automated cleaners can summon elevators to move from floor to floor. And just to show how inexpensive these cleaning robots are becoming, here’s a small window cleaner—perfect for homes and shops—that retails for about $400:

Ready to take your custodial operations to the next level?

Partner with PRIDE Industries for cost-effective, turnkey solutions designed for today’s demanding environments.