Exploring how modern floor-cleaning equipment is helping to improve hygiene levels in healthcare facilities.
A healthy, hygienic environment is important for any location, but in hospitals and other healthcare settings it is particularly essential.
While infection control procedures often focus on handwashing and common touch points - floors accumulate and spread toxins, too.
So routine cleaning must deliver consistently reliable standards of cleanliness day in, day out, to prevent soils underfoot being tracked through the building with the risk of eventual cross-contamination of hands, equipment and other surfaces.
In recent years this focus has led manufacturers to develop new floor-cleaning equipment and protocols.
In turn, this means that choosing the right product for a specific application is more complex than ever before.
A spokesman for Diversey said automation has been a particularly-important step forward for the industry.
“The first generation of robotic cleaners were exciting because they offered new ways of working, powered by technologies that had never been seen in the professional building care sector.
“Their ability to operate on their own, and to liberate cleaning staff for more-important and productive duties, are compelling reasons for many cleaning teams to adopt them.
The spokesman added,“The second-generation machines, such as Diversey’s TASKI SWINGOBOT 2000 scrubber drier, go further by adding enhanced cleaning performance to the undoubted benefits of robotic autonomy.”
The TASKI SWINGOBOT 2000 is at least 25% more productive than the first-generation model it replaced, enabling floors to be cleaned much more quickly, an attractive proposition in busy hospitals.
The machine operates autonomously via sonar, 2D LIDAR, touch shield sensors, and floor-detector sensors that work in harmony with computer software, helping it to avoid obstacles in its path and to stop as soon as any change in its environment is detected.
Diversey has also concentrated its R&D efforts on cleaning product dosage. For example, the TASKI IntelliDose automatically prepares solutions onboard the machine to the correct specification for optimum performance, with no wastage.
At the same time it ensures the correct amount of solution is applied to the floor according to the speed of travel, reducing wastage and helping ensure the floor is dry after cleaning and ready for immediate use.
“Although robotic cleaners can be used in many settings, they deliver maximum efficiency when able to roam freely in large and open areas with few obstructions for the majority of the time,” said the spokesman.
“This makes them ideal for applications such as hospital corridors and other areas where regular cleaning is needed to maintain high standards of hygiene.”
He added: “The market for robotic floorcare machines continues to grow as more customers recognise the powerful benefits they can bring to their cleaning operations.
“No doubt, as-yet-unforeseen advances in robotic and cleaning technology will continue to drive this significant trend in the industry.”
The Truvox’s Multiwash range
Truvox International is another manufacturer at the forefront of the healthcare sector.
Gordon McVean, international sales and marketing director, said, “Machinery and equipment must be geared to the different flooring surfaces and materials across hospital sites, which may include buildings of varying eras and designs.
“A powerful, cordless, battery-powered scrubber dryer, which cleans nearly every type of floor, provides a practical solution. And a particularly-good choice is a model that can wash, mop, scrub and dry hard and soft coverings in a single pass.”
“The rotating cylindrical brushes of a scrubber dryer are particularly effective when it comes to cleaning deep into grout lines of tiles and safety flooring, where bacteria can easily multiply. The brushes counter-rotate and scrub without causing friction that could damage the surface" said McVean.
“These versatile machines are also suited to thorough cleaning of escalators, entrance matting and low-pile carpets.”
An optional side brush can also be incorporated to enable cleaning to ‘skirting board’ level. This is especially important with safety flooring, fitted in many hospitals and care homes, which tends to curve up the wall before it finishes, and in areas such as wetrooms.
“A bonus is that the modern scrubber dryer can economise on the use of water and cleaning solutions, aiding efficiency further,” said McVean.
Automation is fundamental to efficiency where there are large areas – foyers, corridors, wards, consulting rooms and theatres – to be cleaned daily. Healthcare teams often rely on rotary machines. Operating at speeds of around 1500rpm, these will burnish large areas rapidly to a high sheen.
“Hand mopping continues in hospitals, but is too labour-intensive for large areas. Even with microfibre mops, it cannot be relied on to shift stubborn soils and, critically, bacterial contamination,” McVean warns.
Truvox offers smaller models which are ideal for confined spaces, and cordless products.
Colour coded cleaning
Truvox’s Multiwash II 340 also includes the option of easily-changeable coloured brushes, which are compliant with the NHS national colour-coding scheme for hospital cleaning materials and equipment.
The distinct red, yellow, green and blue colours make it easy to separate tools into their correct area of use, helping to prevent cross contamination while providing outstanding cleaning results.
“The latest generation of floorcare machines are a world apart from their old and familiar predecessors, in terms of efficiency, manoeuvrability, sustainability and quietness,” said McVean.
“A notable example is cordless machines, powered by battery technology. These are ideal for quiet and unobtrusive cleaning. Gone is the hassle and risk of a trailing cable, making daytime vacuuming around visitors and employees seamless and safer.
“Cleaning operatives also appreciate the freedom of working without the stop-start of plugging and unplugging and finding the nearest wall socket.
“Light and highly-manoeuvrable machines are a popular option, too, as this makes transporting the machine between cleaning jobs, or to different parts of a hospital building, easy.”
Advice to specifiers
McVean advises, “The demands of a busy healthcare environment needs equipment that leaves floors hygienically clean and safe for patients, visitors and staff to walk on, and does so economically and consistently. In our experience, that usually involves a mix of scrubber dryers and rotary machines.
“Versatility and productivity are two vital characteristics, to make best use of labour and the investment in the machines.”
Staff using the equipment are also central to R&D within this area, as machines need to be ergonomically designed so they are easy and comfortable to operate, even on long shifts.
He advises estates and facilities managers to talk to manufacturers to ensure they are choosing equipment that will meet their specific needs.
“Sometimes trusts will benefit not so much from embracing the latest technology, but from matching the specifications of services and machinery such as their cleaning fleet more closely to their needs and priorities,” he said.
“To give two examples involving hard and soft floors: replacing two or three tub vacs with a wide-area vac will avoid wasting cleaners’ time and reduce servicing costs in a large building; while intensive day-to-day polishing can be made more cost-effective by specifying a streamlined rotary for the task.”
Terry Burt, senior application specialist at Diversey, concludes: “This increasing choice of cleaning and maintenance products means that it is more important than ever before to select the right one for the flooring material, finish and cleaning process.
“Most premises occupants will not have commissioned or constructed the building, so will be unfamiliar with the specifications of the infrastructure. So in all cases it pays to ask the help of a cleaning supplies specialist who will have the experience and expertise to identify the floor and recommend the right combination of floorcare products and processes.”