7 FAQ’s + 3 Pro-Tips
As landlords prepare buildings for reentry and tenants prepare to reenter the workplace, CBRE consulted with Shannon Magari, an environmental health scientist who specializes in workplace health concerns, and Scott Salmirs, CEO of ABM, one of the largest facility services providers, to offer clarity to the complex issue of office cleaning protocols.
1. ARE THE NEW CLEANING PROTOCOLS COVERED IN MY LEASE?
The short answer is no, probably not. In a multi-tenant building, cleaning contracts do not typically spell out the level of detail that tenants now seek and expect. In most leases, the pre-COVID-19 cleaning baseline may have been sparse, including only nightly trash pickup and no disinfecting inside the office, other than the bathrooms or possibly a pantry for larger tenants. More robust cleaning is separate and apart from the lease, and every year as operating expenses increase, that gets passed along to the tenants. Landlords and tenants should work together to address the need for increased cleaning protocols, since it is not covered in the lease.
2. HOW CAN THE VIRUS BE CONTRACTED IN AN OFFICE ENVIRONMENT?
Current scientific consensus tells us that a person can contract COVID-19 through two possible routes of exposure:
3. HOW CAN WE MINIMIZE/REDUCE SPREAD OF COVID-19 IN AN OFFICE ENVIRONMENT?
- The main road is inhalation, which means breathing large droplets through person-to-person transmission. Some reports from mid-May posit that the virus can stay airborne and viable and infectious for up to 16 hours in air, which is why it is necessary to layer on different types of controls.
- Another route of exposure is hand-to-mucous membranes contact, or hand-to-eye, nose and mouth contact from dirty surfaces. Keeping both our surfaces and our hands clean are important.
The key message here is that we are absolutely not defenseless in all of this. Layers of protection exist, so we need a “Hierarchy of Controls.” This is the rubric that all health and safety professionals use to anticipate, recognize, evaluate and control all kinds of workplace hazards, whether they are chemical, physical or biological. Up until a few months ago, workplace safety efforts largely focused on the chemical hazards, such as benzene in a production facility, or physical hazards such as tripping. Now we apply this rubric to COVID-19. Because the virus can stay viable for pretty long periods of time on surfaces, up to a few days in some cases, cleaning efforts should be especially focused on high touch surfaces.
Many people are worried about handling the mail; the scientific consensus is that the virus lives on paper for a few hours and cardboard for a day or two. Individuals handling the mail should focus on good consistent hand washing to help mitigate any risk. Employers may wish to let mail sit for a day after it is received before handling to further mitigate any risk.
4. WHAT SHOULD LANDLORDS CONSIDER IN TERMS OF CHANGES TO THE CLEANING SPECIFICATIONS?
Step 1: Return Safely
Build trust that it’s safe to
return to your space
Based on timing of reentry
- Reentry site assessment
- Plan return to work strategy
- Facility checklists
- New workforce protocols (i.e. social distancing procedures, health screening,
- Reentry disinfection service using EPA-registered disinfections
- Touchless fixtures, dispensers & door openers
- Centralized trash receptacles
- Sensor technologies
- Hand-sanitizing stations (based on availability)
- Disinfecting wipes for occupants (based on availability)
- Step 2: High Touch Frequency
Instill confidence that a recurring cleaning and disinfection program is in place
Range from hourly to daily
- Site specific Statement of Work for each facility type based on occupancy levels
- Increased frequency of disinfection of all high touch point areas in facility
- Occupant Reentry Communication Kits
- EPA-registered disinfectants
- Proper PPE
- Microfiber program
- Step 3: Disinfect Broadly
Reset your full facility to higher standards beyond high touch point cleaning
- Suggested Frequency:
Range from nightly to quarterly based on business needs
- Full building/large area disinfection using electrostatic spraying with stronger disinfectants
CONTINUED PRODUCT TESTING:
- Electrostatic sprayers
- Hospital grade disinfectants with faster kill time and broader pathogen spectrum
- Testing and validation
- UV devices and UVC lighting
- Antimicrobial and environmental coating solutions
- Robotic disinfection
A top-tier janitorial company will have a very detailed playbook that landlords can and should ask to see. As a basic framework, landlords should focus on disinfecting high-touch areas prior to reentry and creating a presence that your cleaning takes place frequently and regularly throughout the day to increase tenant confidence that their workplace is safe. Download CBRE’s Landlord Briefing Guide
for additional guidance and considerations for building reentry.
5. WHAT ARE THE TENANT RESPONSIBILITIES FOR OFFICE CLEANING?
Now is the time for partnership between landlords and tenants. Tenants and their employees should focus on making the space easy for cleaners to thoroughly disinfect:
6. HOW SHOULD BATHROOM CLEANING BE HANDLED?
Bathrooms contain a lot of aerosols, which is a key route of virus transmission, so landlords and tenants should institute strict guidelines around ventilation and frequency of cleaning. Facilitate social distancing, possibly by blocking off certain stalls or urinals, and turn off hand dryers in favor of paper towels.
7. WHAT ARE THE RIGHT QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR CLEANING/JANITORIAL COMPANY?
Your cleaners should have a holistic program. They are expected to share this information, so don’t be afraid to ask for details. Some examples:
- What PPE do the cleaners wear in my space?
- How do they practice social distancing within the space?
- What kind of equipment and disinfectant will they use? And how often?
- How are the staff trained on the latest protocols?
- How do you communicate protocols?
- Do you participate in any kind of Cleaning Certification Program?
1. UV vs Electrostatic Spraying vs Elbow Grease?
UV light is a flashy solution with many applications and potential health concerns because it can be harmful to skin. They are best used in confined spaces and require very long exposure times to kill the virus. There are other applications that may be effective in HVAC systems, but are costly to install. There is no substitute for manual disinfection with microfiber cloths. It is also recommended to apply disinfectant via electrostatic sprayer on a periodic basis to ensure a broader disinfection to treat hard to reach areas. Any disinfectant used manually or otherwise should be EPA registered, appearing on List N,
which means they are approved for use against emerging viral pathogens like SARS-CoV-2.
2. Elevators vs Stairs?
Stairs seem like an obvious answer, but a socially-distanced elevator ride may be safer. People in the stairwells may be less likely to use the handrails, increasing the likelihood of a fall (the number one workplace safety incident registered with OSHA), and regularly sanitizing interior stairwell handles and doors may present an additional challenge.
3. Paper Towels vs Hand Dryers?
Touchless hand dryers would seem to be the ideal solution, but because the virus is transmitted through large droplets in the air and can travel some distance, having a machine blow particles around the bathroom is less desirable than using a paper towel, especially from touchless dispensers.
Additional Cleaning Guidance: CDC Guidance
All of CBRE’s COVID-19 related materials have been developed with information from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (and similar global organizations), public health experts, industrial hygienists, and global subject matter experts across CBRE and our strategic suppliers. Guidance and requirements from public health and governmental organizations vary by geography and should inform decisions in specific locations. Our materials may not be suitable for application to all facilities or situations.
CBRE does not endorse or guaranty the efficacy of any particular brand or type of products. Product information from the manufacturer is shared by CBRE in order to assist clients in their selection of the right products for their particular situations. These products may contain manufacturer representations or warranties, but CBRE makes none. CBRE further disclaims any warranty express or implied, of any nature, including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability, noninfringement and/or fitness for a particular purposes.
Ultimately, occupiers and landlords must make and implement their own reopening decisions for their individual stakeholders and facilities. CBRE’s guidance is intended to help facilitate those discussions and expedite the implementation of those decisions once made by the client. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of these materials. CBRE cannot ensure safety and disclaims all liability arising from use of these materials.