Absenteeism (Part 2 of 2)

Absenteeism (Part 2 of 2)

Healthy Workplace Study

Often, organizations that track absenteeism are missing the quantifiable connection between cleaning activity and spread of illness in their facility.  But in doing so, they underestimate the human resources savings of proper cleaning.  In 2010, Kimberly-Clark Professional* launched The Healthy Workplace Project*[1] (HWP) in North America and by the end of 2012, HWP was in more than 30 countries. The program uses a combination of techniques to affect behavior and attitude changes in employees. The project’s premise is that if property owners and managers can motivate building occupants to adopt better hygiene habits, they could break the chain of germ transmission, resulting in cleaner buildings and promoting a healthier work environment. In fact, the program’s Wash, Wipe, Sanitize protocol has demonstrated that it can reduce the probability of infection for common cold and influenza by approximately 80 percent and can reduce the number of surfaces contaminated with viruses by 62 percent.  The program also can reduce absenteeism by as much as 46 percent.

atp-test-meter-6-02-1-735-w1000-h1000The project’s research team used ATP (adenosine triphosphate) monitoring to demonstrate cleanliness improvements by comparing the level of soil and contaminants present before and after implementing the protocol [2]. The team collected thousands of ATP samples from offices and developed a substantial knowledge base of the locations and nature of office contamination hot spots.

The following table, furnished by ATP luminometer provider Hygiena, correlates ATP readings with levels of cleanliness.

Table 2:  Hygiena ATP Levels of Cleanliness[3]

Hygiena ATP Levels of Clean

Relative Light Units

Ultra Clean
Sterile surfaces and food preparation areas
Very Clean
Critical touch points
Good Clean
Floor requirement and typical microfiber performance
Somewhat Dirty
Caution: Surface should be cleaned and has some risk of contamination from disease-causing bacteria
Warning: Surface needs cleaning and has medium risk of contamination from disease-causing bacteria
Very Dirty
Danger: Surface needs cleaning and has a medium to high risk of contamination from disease-causing bacteria
Danger: Surface needs cleaning and has a high risk of contamination from disease-causing bacteria

The research team found in their monitoring that the percentage of office surfaces tested and found to have high levels of contamination (an ATP count of 300 or higher), includes:

•          75% of break room sink faucet handles;

•          48% of microwave door handles;

•          27% of keyboards;

•          26% of refrigerator door handles;

•          23% of water fountain buttons; and

•          21% of vending machine buttons.

In addition, half of all computer mice and desk phones tested were found to have ATP levels between 100 and 300. After implementation of the protocol, the levels decreased an average of 62 percent, providing significant improvement in overall workplace cleanliness.

stop-germsTo demonstrate the program could break the chain of transmission of germs, the research team engaged Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona to carry out a study to quantify the reduction of exposure of viruses after the introduction of a hygiene intervention.

The study was conducted in a hundred-person office, where a person and a surface were contaminated with a surrogate virus at the beginning of the day. After 4 hours, numerous commonly touched surfaces and people’s hands were tested for the virus, and transmission was determined. The same test was conducted after introducing the project’s educate and engage protocol, and targeted hand and surface hygiene products.

The results demonstrated that if these viruses were placed on either the hand of one individual or on a common encountered surface like a door handle, up to half or more of the hands or surfaces in the office were contaminated within four hours. This illustrates how important a contaminated object or hand can be in the spread of a virus in an office environment.

After the hygiene intervention, there was a statistically significant reduction in the concentration of the virus on hands and surfaces, which in turn, greatly reduced the spread of the virus in the office. Mathematical modeling indicated that the probability of infection by the common cold, flu and other viruses among office employees was reduced by 80 percent. This was achieved with only half (52 percent) of the office employees participating in the intervention.

Additionally, ATP samples collected at sites adjacent to the virus sampling indicated there was a significant correlation between ATP reduction and virus reduction on surfaces. This suggests that reduction ATP readings can be used to monitor the success of the protocol.

The program was designed to deliver measurable value to human resource departments, facility managers and other influencers that are responsible for office employees. The program can deliver the following outcomes:

  • Cleaner buildings with more satisfied tenants, giving property managers an edge
  • Elevating the level of cleanliness in buildings without increasing annual cleaning costs of the existing cleaning contractor or in-house staff
  • For Building Service Contractors, the ability to enhance client relationships by promoting workplace wellness
  • Improved relations with employees who are concerned about cleanliness and personal hygiene
  • A reduction in the probability of illness, which can positively impact the costs associated with worker absenteeism and presenteeism


[1] The Healthy Workplace Project* is a trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.

[2] ATP is the universal energy molecule found in all animal, plant, bacteria, yeast, and mold cells. Residues, particularly food or organic residues, contain large amounts of ATP. When left on a surface, residues can harbor and grow bacteria, cause cross-contamination, develop biofilm and lead to many other problems that can compromise quality. After proper cleaning, all sources of ATP should be significantly reduced. Multiple brands of ATP luminometers are available for use in such testing.

[3] Kimberly-Clark used a Hygiena ATP luminometer to measure ATP. When ATP is brought into contact with Hygiena’s luciferin reagent in the Ultrasnap surface-testing device, light is emitted in direct proportion to the amount of ATP present. The system measures the amount of light generated in relative light units (RLUs) and provides information on the level of contamination in just seconds. The higher the RLU reading, the higher the level of contamination present. ATP hygiene monitoring provides accurate and traceable verification of the hygienic status of a surface.


Dan Wagner

Dan Wagner is ISSA's Director of Facility Service Programs and has been with ISSA since November of 1999. He is primarily responsible for leading the association's sustainability and facility service programs, including the Cleaning Industry Management Standard & CIMS-Green Building Certification Program and Transpare. Dan has published numerous articles and spoken at various conferences, workshops and seminars on CIMS, standardization, management principles, and the true value of clean.

Dan is also a noted "subject matter expert" on green cleaning and a sought after speaker on environmental preferability, sustainability and green operations and maintenance. He has served as an SME for the International Facility Management Association and IFMA Foundation and is a co-author of the Foundation's "Global Guide on Green Cleaning," as well as a primary contributor to the "Business of Green Cleaning" manual.

Dan is also the association's Director of Facility Service Legislative Affairs and in-house legal counsel, having received his Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University in 1998. He is also a licensed attorney in the State of Illinois; a member of the American Bar Association, the Illinois Bar Association, the American Society of Association Executives; and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Floor Safety Institute.

About ISSA

The leading trade association for the cleaning industry worldwide, ISSA has a membership that includes more than 6,100 distributors, manufacturers, building service contractors, in-house service providers, and others interested in the cleaning industry. ISSA helps its members and their employees make valuable contacts through the industry’s largest cleaning shows, produced in conjunction with Amsterdam RAI, under the brand name ISSA/INTERCLEAN®.

ISSA also helps increase professionalism and networking opportunities through its global Web site, ISSA.com, and by offering business tools, industry standards – including the popular CIMS/CIMS-GB program - and legislative and regulatory services. It is through these initiatives that ISSA increases awareness of the true value of clean and its impact on human health, the environment, and a better bottom line. The association is headquartered in Lincolnwood, IL, USA. For more information, visit www.issa.com.

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