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Microfiber Systems Help Hospitals Boost Infection Control, Worker Safety

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An increasing number of hospital environmental services departments are evaluating the role that microfiber products can play in preventing cross-contamination and upholding institution-wide infection prevention efforts.

A report on microfiber mops being used in healthcare environments produced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states, “Using conventional loop mops for wet mopping of patient-care areas has long been the standard in floor cleaning for janitorial operations in hospitals. However, the healthcare industry has taken a recent interest in evaluating hard floor maintenance techniques in terms of employee, patient and environmental health.”1

Microfibers are densely constructed nylon fibers that are one-sixteenth the size of a human hair. Because of their diminutive size and density, these fibers can hold up to six times their weight in water — making them much more absorbent than standard cotton-loop mops. And because these fibers have a positive charge, they attract dirt particles to the mop, facilitating improved cleaning performance.2

In a continuing focus targeting the reduction of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), the 391-bed Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Va., initiated a program to eliminate factors that contribute to these hazards. Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital Environmental Services partnered with Rubbermaid Commercial Products to enhance the cleaning productivity facility-wide, and reduce the sources of cross-contamination, a leading cause of HAIs.

Healthcare facilities derive particular benefits from the use of microfiber mop systems. Because environmental services staff must change mop heads and mop water frequently to prevent the transmission of infectious pathogens from one patient room to another, these constant tasks can mean increased opportunity for healthcare worker strain or injury — a significant occupational hazard.

The Bon Secours St. Mary’s program focused on improving associate productivity and satisfaction, reducing workers’ compensation injuries for the environmental staff and improving cleaning effectiveness.3

“Bon Secours is committed to providing a safe and clean environment,” says Wes Thiss, director of environmental services at Bon Secours Hospitals. “The Rubbermaid products help us to achieve these goals. (They) are very well designed, with a focus on workers’ needs and productivity. Long term, we feel we will benefit from increased productivity while realizing a reduction of our workers’ compensation claims.”

The Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital staff determined, after evaluation of the major suppliers in the healthcare segment, that the Rubbermaid Commercial Products’ microfiber line most effectively addressed the targeted objectives. Among the microfiber items selected to support their program goals relating to infection control were the 18-inch Wet Pads, which feature color-coding to reduce cross-contamination by differentiating areas of use, as well as the Disinfecting Buckets. To help boost ergonomics, the Bon Secours staff selected the Quick Connect Handles and Frames with handle shapes and grips to make these tools comfortable to use and to speed mop assembly and changeover, as well as the Pedal Wring Mini Cart, which is foot operated to eliminate bending and pulling of wringer handles.

While conversion to microfiber systems can represent significant upfront costs, the return on investment demonstrated by these systems can include reduced use of water as well as a substantial reduction in the number of chemicals — an accomplishment in an era of green cleaning in the healthcare environment.

The EPA report notes, “Many floor cleaners used in hospitals contain harsh chemicals such as quaternary ammonium chlorides and butoxyethanol, which can be harmful to human health and the environment. To reduce the risk of cross-contamination for patients, conventional mopping techniques require janitors to change the cleaning solution after mopping every two or three room, meaning that cleaning solutions (including both chemicals and several gallons of water) are constantly being disposed of and replenished.”1

References:

1. Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Best Practices for Health Care Facilities. Using Microfiber Mops in Hospitals. November 2002. Page 1. Available at: www.epa.gov/region09/waste/p2/projects/hospital/mops.pdf

2. Polonsky D and Roill JD. Old mops die hard: should you microfiber for infection control’s sake? Infection Control Today. July 2004.

3. Rubbermaid Commercial Products. Microfiber Case Studies: Major Medical Center Focuses on Reducing Hospital-AcquiredInfections. www.rcpworksmarter.com

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