Colour-coding is the idea of designating certain cleaning tools and processes with consistent colour schemes. The purpose of segregation of equipment, materials and procedures is to prevent spread of infection and cross-contamination be it at home, hospital or at workplace.
Simply touching a contaminated surface and then coming into contact with another surface will quickly spread diseases in any facility. A report from University of Arizona states that cold and influenza viruses are found on 30% of surfaces in commercial offices. This, with the fact that people touch about 30 objects a minute (their keyboard keys, mouse, pens, phone buttons, etc.), it is easy to see why cross-contamination is a serious threat. While these statistics are alarming enough, it only pertains to office areas. Imagine how bad it would be if diseases from the restroom find their way into the office.
To avoid potential problems, Building Service Contractors can introduce colour-coding system in the cleaning process. This system applies to professional cleaning and can be defined as the principle of using colour to designate certain cleaning tools or procedures to specific tasks or areas. Colour coding of cleaning tools is being practiced worldwide and it has its own set of advantages, says Chhavi Vij, Associate Director, Kibble Enterprises, one of the first companies to introduce colour coding in manual cleaning tools in India.
Chhavi explains that colour coding of manual tools not only helps avoid cross contamination but also enhances building safety, simplifies supply management and above all elevates employee performance. “Manual tools in different colours enhance visual learning and do away with language and literary barriers. During the process of training, workers can be easily taught different operations based on the different colour of tools. This will help the worker in quick selection of the appropriate tool to clean different areas,” says Chhavi.
Using colour-coded mop heads, buckets, rags, microfiber cloths and other tools will help ensure that tools used to clean high-risk areas are designated for only those areas. In most situations where it is incorporated, a few colours are selected, with each colour denoting either a particular duty, such as cleaning toilets and urinals, or a specific area, such as restrooms, explains Chhavi.
Most of the hospitals already have colour schemes for cleaning materials and equipment. For example, red for bathrooms and yellow for isolation areas, ensuring that they are not used in multiple places and thereby, reducing the risk of cross-contamination. This has been particularly useful in the management of MRSA outbreaks.
Colour coding of cleaning tools is being practised worldwide and it has its own set of advantages. It not only helps avoid cross contamination but also enhances building safety, simplifies supply management and above all elevates employee performance.
Sanket Gala, Sales Manager of Freudenberg Gala Household Product Private Limited, agrees, “A regular mop that is being used for cleaning a bathroom today can possibly be used in the kitchen area tomorrow or even in the lobby. A cleaner who is responsible for cleaning the premise is in fact spreading the bacteria.
“Hence, like chemicals, colour-coded cleaning tools help in easy identification. Colour-coded mops help avoid and eliminate such errors. It is a powerful mechanism that works on simple visual clues. It also helps facility managers with easy inventory management, quicker & sharper monitoring over cleaning process and even reduces training time. On the whole, utilisation of colour-coded tools adds so much credibility to the cleaning system that it far outweighs the costs involved.”
There are different ways to utilise the colour-codes. One such way is, on the basis of the usage area. For example, a hotel can have red cloth in washroom, green cloth in kitchen, blue cloth in public areas and yellow cloth in guest rooms.
It is a powerful mechanism that works on simple visual clues. It helps facility managers with easy inventory management, quicker & sharper monitoring over cleaning process and even reduces training time.
Sanket says, “Coding could be also done according to the level of dirt like the blue bucket for no-dirt to low-dirt and red bucket for high-level dirt. Floor pads have been colour-coded according to the application like black for stripping, green for scrubbing, red for stripping and white for polishing.”
Sunil Puri, Partner – Galileo Associates, says, “Colour Coding should be an integral part of all cleaning activities. In India, where the majority of janitors are poorly educated, colour coding helps in identifying the correct tools for specified areas. However, this system also calls for excessive maintenance of stock of consumables. One has to stock all consumables according to the colours and usage. This result in, an increase in inventory maintenance and management.”
Even though, the industry follows a standard colour-coding system which includes red for high-risk areas such as toilets and urinals; yellow for low-risk restroom areas, including sinks and mirrors; blue for all-purpose cleaning (dusting, window cleaning, wiping desks, etc.) in other areas of a facility; and green for food-service areas, some building service contractors devise their own colour combinations to meet their specific needs.
Sometimes switching to colour-coded products can be difficult because cleaners are used to a routine. After using the same product for so long, cleaners have to adapt to the mindset of using different colours for different reasons. In such cases, pasting a colour-coding chart by the time clock, in the locker room, on the cleaning cart or in other areas serves as reminders. Also, BSCs should make sure they have enough quantity for each colour to prevent employees from using a red cloth, for instance, if they run out of blue ones. Some employees may also have trouble adjusting to the fact that many products are launderable and can be re-used. After using disposable rags for so long, cleaners may not always remember to throw the cloth in the laundry hamper rather than the trash can.
Implementing colour-coded products is not simple. However, with proper training that includes the “whys” of cleaning along with the “how-to,” employees will better understand the products and be able to protect from the threat of cross-contamination in a facility.