A Course in Sustainable Maintenance Procedures

With the launch of GS-42, the Green Seal Environmental Standard for Cleaning Services, school facilities now have objective guidance to help them develop a green cleaning program. GS-42 establishes requirements encompassing all indoor activities typically required to clean commercial, public, and industrial buildings. It is not meant to cover highly specialized areas (e.g., operation rooms, IT clean rooms, etc.).

The standard embraces five key areas:
1.    Planning requirements;
2.    Products, supplies, and equipment requirements;
3.    Cleaning procedure requirements;
4.    Communication requirements; and
5.    Training requirements.

The following is an overview of the Green Seal standard which provides a summary of what to look for in developing a green cleaning service. For more complete information, access and download the complete standard at: www.greenseal.org/certification/cleaning_services_gs-42.pdf.

Planning Requirements
Planning is an important attribute of any cleaning service. GS-42 requires that cleaning service providers (CSPs) — both in-house and outsourced — develop and maintain a set of written guidelines or standard operating procedures (SOPs) that govern cleaning procedures, chemical handling, equipment, communication, training and inspection, reporting, and record keeping. These guidelines must be available to all cleaning personnel and customers. The CSP is also required to have a building-specific green cleaning plan in place with a comprehensive description of the methods by which a particular facility is cleaned.

A plan for use and quarterly maintenance of powered equipment is required in GS-42, as well as a plan for phasing out equipment that doesn’t meet the standard’s criteria. Powered equipment must meet the following criteria:

•    Vacuum cleaners must meet the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Green Label Program requirements and operate at a sound level of less than 70 dBA.
•    Carpet extraction equipment must meet the CRI Bronze Seal of Approval.
•    Powered floor maintenance equipment must have controls or other devices for capturing and collecting particulates and operate at a sound level less than 70 dBA.
•    Propane-powered floor equipment must have low-emission engines certified by the California Air Resources Board under the Small Off-Road Engines or Equipment program, and have catalytic and exhaust monitoring systems.
•    Current in-use propane-powered equipment may only be used when the building is unoccupied and under conditions allowing for as much air circulation and exchange as possible.
•    Powered-scrubbing machines must be equipped with a control method for variable rate dispensing to optimize the use of cleaning fluids.

Requirements for Products and Supplies
As an environmental leadership standard, the Green Seal standard naturally recommends the use of environmentally preferable products. See the standard for a definition of “environmentally preferable” and additional information.

For the following generally used cleaning products and supplies, the CSP must use only environmentally-preferable products:

•    General-purpose, floor, bathroom, glass, and carpet cleaners;
•    Floor finishes and floor strippers;
•    Liquid hand soap;
•    Toilet tissue and facial tissue;
•    Paper towels and napkins; and
•      Plastic trashcan liners must contain at least 10 percent post-consumer recycled content.

Product Dispensing/Cleaning Procedure Requirements
According to GS-42, in order to reduce chemical waste, improve safety, reduce environmental impacts, and make efficient use of chemicals, CSPs should do the following.

•    Provide easy-to-understand directions to staff for dilution of chemical cleaning products.
•    Track quantities of chemicals consumed on at least a quarterly basis.
•    Use a chemical measuring and dilution control system to limit exposure to chemical concentrates while facilitating proper dilution.
•    Train workers on safe and effective use of cleaning products.
•    Use appropriate technology (coarse spray bottles, automatic chemical dispensers on powered equipment, etc.) for applying the chemical product in a manner that does not result in overuse and waste of the product.
•    Provide directions for the proper rinsing and disposal of used or expended chemical solutions or empty chemical containers.
•    Prevent other building areas from being adversely affected.
•    Reduce, minimize, or eliminate the need for using cleaning chemicals wherever possible.

The Green Seal standard recommends ways to reduce solid waste as part of a green cleaning service. This includes buying products and supplies in bulk, using reusable microfiber technology instead of paper cleaning products, and recycling all waste items from the cleaning operation that are acceptable for recycling in the community.

Vacuums should be equipped with proper filters and bags, following the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacement. And precautions must be taken to limit worker exposure to dust when replacing bags and filters.

Proper maintenance of entryways (the source of many contaminants tracked into buildings) is stressed. CSPs should ensure the use of walk-off matting both inside and outside building entryways that consists of at least six ft. of scraper/wiper matting, followed by at least six ft. of wiper matting. In keeping entryways free of debris and preventing migration of contaminants into the building, the outside area should be cleaned and inside area vacuumed daily.

Floor care operations covered under GS-42 include those for hard floors and carpets.
The standard emphasizes frequent cleaning and vacuuming, under a predetermined schedule, to maintain floors and carpets. For periodic floor maintenance, mop-on or auto-scrubber methods are preferred over spray application, and equipment with devices for collecting buffing particulate are required. Restorative measures for floors and carpets should be performed on an as-needed basis and should be done during times of minimum occupancy.

Criteria for cleaning restrooms, dining areas, break rooms, and trash collection are also covered in the standard. And where school facility management has implemented a recycling program, CSPs are encouraged to work with management to ensure that the areas are clean, accessible, and well-marked.
Noteworthy too, the Green Seal standard requires measures to help protect “vulnerable populations such as children, asthmatics, and pregnant women.” These measures include:

•    Scheduling daily cleaning activities to avoid exposure of vulnerable populations;
•    Using alternative cleaning practices that minimize or make unnecessary the use of cleaning chemicals;
•    Using cleaning chemicals only where there is sufficient ventilation to allow chemicals to dissipate before the area is occupied; and
•    Conducting cleaning operations in a manner that prevents the transfer of impacts to other areas of the building that may contain vulnerable populations.

Communications Requirements

Good communication between the CSP, managers, and occupants is central to any effective cleaning program, and Green Seal gives attention to this need.

To make sure the Building-Specific Green Cleaning Plan is successfully implemented, a communications plan should be developed in conjunction with school administration, facility managers, and building occupants. The CSP should include the following.
•    Provide employees with proper training, as outlined in the standard. Training shall be done in a manner that respects any unique needs of the employee.
•    Allow cleaning service employees to provide comments and suggestions about workplace issues and improvements.
•    Communicate to the management of the school building the presence of pests and any maintenance issues discovered while performing cleaning operations.
•    Tell facility managers about opportunities for building occupants to reduce the need for more intensive cleaning processes or treatments (e.g., reporting spills, reducing clutter in personal spaces).
•    Notify management of all cleaning products used in the school, including a list of all chemicals that may be used and a contact person. That contact person should maintain the product labels and MSDSs of each product used in the building and be available for information, questions, and comments.

Facility managers may be requested to identify building occupants with special needs or sensitivities (to dust, chemicals, noise levels, etc.) and have a process in place to work with management, cleaning staff, and individuals to mitigate the problem.

Training Requirements
Lastly, training is strongly emphasized. The success of a green cleaning program depends upon all cleaning personnel being trained in the proper handling of chemicals, use and maintenance of equipment, and cleaning procedures.

Upon hiring, all cleaning personnel will undergo 12 hours of training on SOPs, the proper sequencing of cleaning steps and the proper use of personal protective equipment. The training will also include standard safety training to reduce injuries and exposure to hazardous materials. This training must take place before the new hire begins independent work.
Site-specific training that covers the Building-Specific Green Cleaning Plan will be required, including tailored procedural training (e.g., servicing areas for vulnerable populations) and hazardous communication standards.

All employees must receive 24 hours of in-service training, continuing education, and/or professional development opportunities on an annual basis. Cleaning or custodial management/supervisors shall have at least 24 hours of in-service training and/or education on an annual basis. This will include training in the selection of green cleaning materials. And records of training shall be maintained on each employee for all training specified within this Standard. The documentation shall include topics of what was included in the training, including a general outline of information covered, the name and qualifications of the trainer, and the duration of the training or courses.

Ensuring Compliance
Beyond tracking implementation of the requirements in GS-42, how will Green Seal ensure that a service is in compliance and maintains the long-term quality of GS-42 Certification?

Green Seal has instituted an annual monitoring process as part of maintaining certification to help cleaning operations stay “on track” while giving service providers input and assurance that their green cleaning procedures are being periodically evaluated and certified.

How Does GS-42 Help?
Since GS-42 is a third-party, science-based environmental leadership standard, being GS-42 certified sets a cleaning operation apart from others. Not every cleaning service will qualify — or stay in compliance — and this makes active GS-42 certification special and, ultimately, valuable as a differentiator and marketing tool for facility operations.

Facilities that select a GS-42 certified organization to clean their properties or that have their own operation certified by GS-42, can not only have greater peace of mind by doing the right thing for employees, students, and customers, but obtain a stronger market position by promoting this advantage.

The GS-42 Standard may be downloaded from Green Seal’s Website at www.greenseal.org/certification/cleaning_services_gs-42.pdf.

Cheryl Baldwin is the director of Standards at Green Seal. For more information, about GS-42 Certification, visit www.greenseal.org or call 202/872-6400.