It’s time for spring cleaning

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by Emily Atkins

Cleanliness has probably never been more top of mind for facility managers than now with the Covid-19 pandemic. But proper distancing and PPE are not all you need to consider to keep your employees and product safe.

According to Trevor Ludolph, industrial category manager at Nilfisk Canada, since the pandemic began, 63 percent of facilities have reported boosting their cleaning standards, while 75 percent say they have developed more formal cleaning plans to ensure the health and safety of their workers.

Since spring is the traditional time for a deep clean, we asked Ludolph and other cleaning experts to suggest their top tips for ensuring a safe and healthy environment.

Loading docks

Starting at the doors, we asked Ed Blau from Arbon Equipment Corp to highlight areas that might need attention. Start with dock levellers, he suggested. For mechanical levelers, clean the pit area and examine all lip out mechanisms (pins, lip crank, links, chains) and replace any that look worn.

For air and hydraulic levelers, inspect conduit boxes, control boxes and electrical connections, as well as the hydraulic system. When the leveler is supported by a maintenance strut, inspect the air tower or hydraulic fluid level. Look for any damage to the air tower and call a professional for replacement if needed. Add fluid to the hydraulic leveler as necessary.

Friction is the enemy of levelers, so be sure to lubricate them.

“Because the leveler is an essential part of the shipping operation, it’s better to provide a few hours of proper maintenance every 90 days than to have a day-long or week-long shutdown due to equipment breakdown,” Blau said.

Next, move to vehicle restraints. Whether it’s a rotating hook vehicle restraint or a wheel-locking vehicle restraint, examine the hardware to make sure any moving parts are free of debris and are greased with proper lubricant. Verify that all horns and inside and outside lights are working and replace any that are not. In addition, make sure to inspect all conduit boxes, control boxes and electrical connections for damage and make sure to perform operational tests after all maintenance repairs and adjustments are complete.

“Any restraint that can no longer properly secure a trailer to the loading dock is not effective and should be repaired, replaced, or upgraded,” Blau noted. “This kind of specialty equipment should only be serviced or repaired by trained technicians.”

Now, take a look at the doors themselves, Blau suggested. Look for wear or damage and listen for unusual noises like squeaks or clicks. Jittery movements during the operation of automatic doors is another problem to watch out for. If there are dents or broken seals at the bottom or sides, consider replacing the panel or damaged components to make sure the door works as intended. If the door itself is functional, test the operation of safety devices for the door, such as photo eyes and breakaway features. Activation devices and control switches should also be checked. Finally, clean and lubricate tracks, sliders, rollers, or pulleys to ensure the door continues operating at peak performance.

“For facilities that partner with professional service providers offering planned maintenance programs (PMP), these spring-cleaning tasks can be scheduled and performed easily,” Blau said. “Trained technicians can offer valuable insight on when it’s time to repair, replace or upgrade old or worn equipment.”

Pest control

Alice Sinia, quality assurance manager – regulatory/lab services, with Orkin Canada, pointed out the importance of keeping creatures, whether insects or rodents, out of the building. The first step is looking at landscaping, she said. Many pests survive winter weather in burrows, dens, or holes outdoors. These safe havens can cause problems on your property. Fix eroded areas such as lawns, ditches, or basins, as these become a breeding spot for mosquitoes in warmer weather.

Ensure landscaping is properly trimmed back and spaced out. To avoid pavement ants, inspect your parking lot and paved areas for cracks. Remove rotting woods as it can attract carpenter ants.

Inspect exterior foundations for cracks and crevices, debris build-up and loose or displaced soil. Also look for signs of moisture leaks around your foundation. Ensure garbage and compactor areas remain clean.

Check exterior walls for wear and tear that create entry points for pests. “Cracks and crevices from missing blocks, contraction and expansion of buildings, gaps, damaged windows or doors, and worn-out seals are welcome signs for pests,” Sinia noted. “Fix these as soon as you notice the issue.”

Check under eaves for birds’ nests. Cobwebs or old wasps’ nests should be removed, gutters cleaned out and roof damage fixed as soon as it is discovered. Inspect roof vents for signs of pest activity; birds and wildlife like to shelter in these areas. Ensure they are properly protected to prevent these issues in the future.

Storage rooms and hard to reach or low traffic areas are places pests seek shelter in the winter; inspect them for signs of activity. Check perimeter walls and floors for cracks and crevices that serve as entry points for pests. Also check these areas for moisture leaks that will attract pests inside.

The indoor environment

According to Ludolph, nine out of 10 facility managers agree that a clean warehouse is very important. “Clean warehouses improve employee safety and confidence, support greater productivity, and experience fewer workflow disruptions,” Ludolph said.

But do you know exactly how to achieve and maintain good hygiene? Ludolph suggested a three-pronged approach: Keep dust down, sanitize floors and disinfect surfaces. These are the basics for safety and health of your workers. “Dust affects air quality, worker health, and equipment lifetimes,” he said. “Likewise, pathogens can find their way onto shoes and unshelved products, and high-touch areas should be given extra attention whenever possible.”

To manage dust, which can be a problem where there is a lot of corrugated waste being cut and bundled, Ludolph recommends regular vacuuming. “Low levels of dust, debris, and contaminants in inventory or packing areas means greater packaging safety and quality,” he said.

Sanitizing shared vehicles is critical, he noted, as is adopting a policy of deep cleaning by default. “With so many people moving in and out of storage areas, a more detailed cleaning process is a safer bet,” he added. He suggests looking at steam cleaning or ultraviolet light as options for eliminating pathogens such as the Covid-19 virus.

Besides making the workplace more pleasant and safer, a comprehensive cleaning regimen has other benefits. Ludolph notes that equipment will last longer and need less maintenance when it operates in a clean environment.

“Hygiene and waste-containment regulations are no joke,” he concluded. “Failure to comply can lead to fines and even shutdown.”