The handiest cleaning task that responds well and quickly to a dirty floor is mopping, and yet ironically, this simple cleaning task can in contrast make the floor dirtier by spreading bacteria from surface to surface. This happens when the same mop is used on different surfaces, resulting in cross contamination.
Cross contamination is the inadvertent transfer of bacteria or other contaminants from one surface, substance or object to another due to unsanitary handling procedures. For instance, cleaning tables or door handles in an office with the same cloth used for cleaning a toilet area would spread bacteria and contaminants around the building instead of eliminating them. A single mop for different surfaces is a deadly agent for cross contamination and infections. Unfortunately, use of the same cleaning equipment for all areas is a common occurrence in many facilities.
Luckily, this is where color coding comes in to save the day. Color coding is a system for displaying information by using different colors to prevent cross contamination between different surfaces. Materials, in this regard, are color-coded, and their differently assigned colors are used to represent their different features and functions. For example, a red colored cleaning tool is exclusively used in washrooms while a blue colored tool is meant for cleaning general areas. This clear, visual indication of what should be used where minimizes cross contamination and keeps the facility cleaner and healthier.
The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) is the largest professional and educational body in the cleaning industry around the world. It regulates the cleaning industry worldwide and many FM companies follow its standards which include the color coding system. The organization recommends four main colors with two supplementary colors as best practice. The main colors are blue, green, red and yellow, while the supplementary colors are white and red/white.
The blue color is exclusively used for general low-risk areas such as hallways, offices and common spaces where the risk of bacterial contamination is generally lower than in other areas like washrooms. Operatives cleaning these common areas must ensure the cleaning equipment and products in use are marked in blue.
The green color is assigned to food related areas such as eating spaces and bars. There’s a high risk of contamination when food is exposed to surfaces, and for this reason, it’s vital to regulate cleaning tools in areas where customers and workers eat, handle or prepare food through strict use of designated, green color coded equipment. Wiping table tops in the kitchen with a blue cloth instead of the officially marked green cloth is against the BICSc color coding system. However, this color code does not concern specific food processing areas as such places have their own hygiene regulations.
The red color is used in areas that pose a high risk of bacterial contamination such as washrooms. Here, the red colored tools are used for cleaning toilets, shower areas, changing rooms and floors. As a best practice, the white/red cloth is also assigned to washrooms for cleaning appliances such as urinals and toilet bowls. In other words, the red color is used in the washroom and the red/white color in specific areas within the washroom that have the highest risk of contamination. This means that the washroom, as a high risk unit, has two different color codes for different areas to prevent cross contamination and infection.
Further, the yellow color code is assigned to clinical and sensitive environments. This includes first aid rooms or areas with bodily fluid spills. The clinical environments exclude hospitals since they have a different color coding system that is not used beyond the health care industry. The yellow colored tools are also recommended for use during an infection outbreak.
Lastly, as a recommended best practice, the white color is site specific and is used for a bespoke requirement. If you require an additional color in your cleaning practice, then a white color is the suggested option.
In summary, identifying and using color coded tools and products for cleaning specific areas prevents cross contamination, poisoning, pollution and infection in a facility. Following the color coding system for cleaning is especially crucial in the management of Covid-19 to minimize the risk of spreading and infection.
The surfaces of your facility could look clean and attractive but the real magic lies in making them bacterial free to implement health and safety, an important element in FM industry. Most importantly, training your cleaning operatives in good standards such as color coding is a proactive approach that sets a company on the right path towards implementation of health and safety.