Cleaning and disinfection is vital part of return to business

A facilities provider explains why the right products, cleaning measures and awareness efforts are key to safer campus reopenings.

Back-to-school season always comes with its fair share of challenges—students are moving in, classrooms are reopening, and the logistics of gathering a college community are complex. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a multitude of variables to an already-complicated time for colleges and universities. Among a survey of ABM Industries’ higher education clients, more than half said visual reassurance and access to staffing and supplies were top factors to consider for re-entry. With additional factors such as cost, liability, health and safety, and compliance to weigh, leaders in higher education are facing especially difficult decisions in the days ahead.

Mike Morris, ABM Industries
Mike Morris, ABM Industries

But there’s one decision that should be easy—colleges and universities must invest in comprehensive cleaning and disinfection strategies to limit the spread of disease, encourage social distancing measures and ultimately keep classrooms and campuses as safe and healthy as possible. About 85% of ABM’s higher education clients identifying revenue shortfall as a concern, but cleaning and disinfection are vital to help colleges and universities approach a return to business as usual. Here are a few of the most pressing facilities solutions measures leaders in higher education can take amid the 2020-21 school year:

1. Ensuring the right products are used

In today’s environment, cleaning and disinfection products are hitting the market at breakneck speed, each one promising a higher standard for health and safety than the last. With no shortage of claims around efficacy and disease prevention, organizations can turn to a facilities solutions provider with the resources and expertise to cut through the noise and deliver effective, well-researched products for use on college campuses. Furthermore, industry experts can pinpoint the right blend of EPA-certified products and procedures to help universities stay on track to meet their sustainability and environmental impact goals. The implementation of safe and effective products and procedures is a tenant of a comprehensive cleaning plan and vital to the success of reentry this school year.

2. Paying attention to high-touch hotspots

With students and faculty constantly moving between campus classrooms to dining halls, dormitories and study rooms, there’s no shortage of places and spaces for colleges and universities to consider when it comes to cleaning. With a lot of ground to cover, ABM’s Expert Advisory Council—made up of infectious disease experts and professional industrial hygienists—have identified the importance of frequent cleaning for high-touchpoint areas such as door handles, elevator buttons and faucets. ABM’s EnhancedClean program provides high-touchpoint areas with frequent disinfection as part of a holistic plan to combine electrostatic spraying and visible cleaning and disinfection with the sanitation of key areas. This protocol, designed in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been rolled out on college campuses nationwide as a significant factor in 2020-21 school year plans. By strategically identifying these hotspots and developing a plan to clean and disinfect frequently, college and university leaders can help prevent the spread of disease in their campus communities.

3. Using signage—safety that is seen

There are a variety of stakeholders for leaders in higher education to consider: surrounding communities expressing concern about the spread of disease and students, parents and faculty seeking the assurance that campus is safe. To balance these interests and minimize the risk of revenue shortfalls with changes in on-campus courses and living, officials need to ensure that the audiences they serve are armed with the knowledge and confidence that comes with insight into the health and safety procedures on campus. Signage is a great way to keep the community informed—readily accessible information on enhanced cleaning procedures and the presence of uniformed disinfection specialists in action, alongside reminders to wear face coverings, stay socially distant and wash hands thoroughly, can offer significant peace of mind to those you serve.

With the trials and turbulence of the pandemic, leaders in higher education have a difficult path ahead to successfully close out the 2020-21 school year. But investing in strong cleaning and disinfection measures now is sure to pay off in the long run and have a meaningful impact on the health and safety of campuses across the country. These measures reflect a significant shift in public awareness around cleaning and disinfection—this newly heightened awareness is sure to persist long after the pandemic is behind us. The future of higher education depends on colleges and universities taking decisive action now to invest in the health and wellbeing of the communities they serve.

Mike Morris, is president of education for ABM Industries. His team works with 500+ K-12 school systems, colleges and universities throughout the U.S. 


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