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Cleaning Services

Navigation: Minimum Sustainable Recommendations | What are the Issues? | What are the options? | PDF Version 

Did you know... The average janitor uses 87 litres of chemicals each year, 25 percent of which are hazardous. (Green Cleaning Seattle.com).

Minimum Sustainable Recommendations

To minimize the potential for unfair wages and poor worker conditions:

  • The Contractor shall adhere to all provisions of the Employment Standard Code CCSM cE 110 in respect to wages, hours of work and conditions of employment for both employees and individual subcontractors. Please visit http://web2.gov.mb.ca/laws/statutes/ccsm/e110e.php.

For cleaning products:

  • Cleaning products used in cleaning services, include: all purpose/hard surface industrial cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, floor cleaner/degreasers, dishwasher detergents, floor strippers, disinfectants, glass cleaners, carpet and upholstery cleaners, spot and stain removers must be EcoLogo or Green Seal certified.
  • EcoLogo and Green Seal products must be requested for any odour control, drain and grease trap additives used in the cleaning process.
  • Any adhesives, shellacs, finishes, varnishes, coatings, required for the cleaning service must meet the California Code of Regulations maximum allowable Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) for Specific Product Category. Please visit http://www.arb.ca.gov/consprod/regs/regs.htm.  

For cleaning equipment:

  • Vacuum cleaners: Certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute “Green Label” Testing Program for vacuum cleaners and operate with a sound less than 70dBA.
  • Carpet extraction equipment: Certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute’s “Seal of Approval” Testing Programme for deep-cleaning extractors.
  • Powered floor maintenance equipment: Electric and battery-powered floor buffers and burnishers, equipped with vacuums, guards and other devices for capturing fine particulate and operates with a sound level of less than 70 dB.
  • Automated scrubbing machines: Equipped with variable-speed feed pumps and on-board chemical metering to minimize the use of cleaning fluids. Alternatively, the scrubbing machines use only tap water with no added cleaning products.
  • Powered equipment is ergonomically designed to minimize vibration, noise and user fatigue.
    • Equipment is designed with safeguards, such as roller or rubber bumpers to reduce potential damage to building surfaces.

Hand soap selected for replenishing must meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • No antimicrobial agents (other than as a preservative) except where required by health codes and other regulations.
  • EcoLogo, or Green Seal certified for hand cleaners and hand soaps.

For garbage, recycling and compost bags (bin liners):

  • Garbage bags must be EcoLogo Certified
  • Recycling Bags must be transparent and EcoLogo Certified
  • Compost bags must be transparent and Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) Certified; or meet ASTM D6400 and ASTM D6868 requirements.

NOTE: For more information on garbage, recycling and compost bags, please see “Garbage, Recycling and Compost Bags (Bin Liners)” under the Building Maintenance, Repair and Operations.

Accessibility requirements for cleaning services:

  • The contractor must provide customer service training to their employees on the Accessibility for Manitobans Act and the Human Rights Codes as it relates to people with disabilities.  Cleaning services must be provided in a manner consistent with the key principles of independence, dignity and integration. The training must include instruction about:
    • how to interact and communicate with persons with disabilities and;
    • how to interact with persons disabled by barriers who use an assistive device or require the assistance of a support person or service animal.
  • Instructions to prevent barriers for persons with disabilities within the building(s) must be accommodated by the proponent (e.g. prevent potential tripping hazards for visually impaired, special cleaning instructions for people with disabilities and environmental sensitivities, etc.)

Other things to consider

If selecting cleaning supplies for cleaning services for projects seeking a green building certification such as LEED, ensure the supplies purchased meet the requirements set out in the rating system criteria.

Rating systems may also provide guidance to minimize the content of volatile organic compounds (which have significant vapour pressure and can cause environmental and health effects) in any adhesives, coatings, sealers, varnishes, shellac or stains used in cleaning services, and stipulates environmental requirements for cleaning equipment.

 

What are the issues?

There are a wide variety of potential environmental and social issues associated with cleaning services.

Since World War II over 70,000 synthetic chemical substances have been developed, and the vast majority of these have had little to no testing on their long term environmental and health effects.  A large number of manufacturers put these chemicals in cleaning products.  Some of these chemicals are carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, sensitizers, high in nutrients, caustic, etc. These chemical components also enter our bodies by inhalation and skin absorption during manufacture and use.  Cleaning staff are exposed to cleaners on a daily basis and this chemical exposure can lead to significant human health effects. Cleaning chemicals also result in a degradation of indoor air quality impacting everyone who resides in the building.

Many of these chemicals do not degrade in the sewage treatment plants and eventually enter our water ways and bio-accumulate in plants, fish and other animals.  Cumulatively, the residents and businesses in cities such as Winnipeg, discharge significant amounts of chemicals into our waterways and which has resulted in a degradation of our ecosystem.

The Province of Manitoba has partnered with Lake Friendly www.lakefriendly.ca promoting the use of Eco Logo and Green Seal certified cleaning products in an effort to protect Lake Winnipeg and reduce the degradation on this ecosystem.

In addition to health and environmental impacts, there are potential concerns associated with fair wages and work conditions. For a number of reasons, including the economics of today’s market, the competitiveness of the cleaning industry and the constant expectation by Property Managers to get the job done for less, cleaning companies often subcontract the cleaning service out to individuals as subcontractors, not employees.  In an article written by Bill Garland. “Policies to Temper a Harsh Business Climate: Unscrupulous Labour Practices Undermine Operational Efficiency” (Canadian Property Management, Feb/March 2008),  a critical look was taken at one of the social aspects of responsible real estate in Canada, namely the labour and employment practices of the contract cleaning industry.  The article noted that by subcontracting to individuals the contractor can reduce costs associated with employee taxes and benefits. The cleaner, as a subcontractor, is then able to write off some of their business costs.  However, with the low prices demanded by Property Managers and the reasonable profits needed by the cleaning contractor, there are instances where individuals hired as subcontractors make far less than minimum wage.

Services may be provided directly to employees or customers with accessibility barriers. Therefore, the service provider must be trained in Accessibility and Human Rights issues to ensure services are provided in a manner that supports the key principles of independence, dignity and integration.

 

What are the options?

Substituting traditional chemical cleaners with “green” cleaners is one of the most effective ways to reduce or eliminate exposure to chemicals that pose environmental and human health risks; however, as purchasers we can’t possibly be expected to decipher the chemical formulations of cleaners to determine their impact.  We can however, find credible information sources to develop our product and service specification.

Within this framework EcoLogo and Green Seal certified cleaning products should be selected to minimize environmental and human health risks and meet Lake Friendly initiative.  The EcoLogo and Green Seal websites provide the strict certification criteria for a variety of cleaning product types (e.g., glass cleaners, all purpose cleaners, degreasers etc).  The criteria include proof of performance (the cleaner must work) and restrictions on pollutants such as phosphates, endocrine disrupters, chelating agents etc.  Reduced packaging, strict limits on aquatic toxicity and biodegradability are also part of the criteria.

Many services providers including cleaning service contractors are aware of accessibility legislation and can integrate requirements to support accessibility and minimize potential barriers.

 

Last updated: April 2017

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