GLOBAL CONCERN: Jani-King disinfects the seating bowl at Globe Life Field, new home of MLB’s Texas Rangers. (Courtesy Jani-King International)

Jani-King’s Borland: Increase in vigilance will be permanent

Jani-King International’s vice president of corporate operations, Scott Borland, is responsible for directing a team of operations advisers who support the company’s regional offices while providing assistance to the firm’s dozens of master regions. His specialty is designing and implementing cleaning programs for large sports venues. Borland spoke with VenuesNow after a visit to the University of Florida in Gainesville, where Jani-King was helping the Gators ready athletic facilities for the start of the 2020-21 school year amid the uncertainty and upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s been about six months now since the pandemic struck. With some time to assess the situation, what’s the best approach in sanitizing venues? Are traditional methods still the way to go?
I think the janitorial and cleaning industry is pivoting to take on some of the processes and chemicals and some of the applicators that were previously used in operating rooms and hospital environments because what we’re trying to do is limit or reduce the coronavirus organisms on surfaces. Basically, we’re trying to eliminate them and then keep those levels of health as best we can throughout the day. We’re disinfecting like we would an operating room, kind of like when the next patient comes in and that operating room has to be sterile and as healthy as possible for that next patient. It’s kind of the same way we’re looking at facilities and venues. Overnight, instead of just doing cleaning like we have in the past, we’re disinfecting and trying to make that environment as healthy as possible for either students coming back onto a campus or athletes coming back into locker rooms or training rooms or people just coming back into office buildings. We’re taking the approach now where we’re disinfecting and trying to almost do a terminal clean (removing everything detachable and then disinfecting all fixtures and surfaces from floor to ceiling) in these environments.

What about things like UV light, robot foggers, drones and the like? Can some of those be of use depending a facility operator’s needs?
I really like the idea of bringing in new technologies, but I don’t think they are as effective as the applicators and technologies that we have been using to this point. I have looked at drones. I don’t think they’re quite there yet to my satisfaction as far as applications and their effectiveness. As far as UV light, that’s something we need to be careful about because the UV light that they’re using to disinfect is UV-C. There’s three different wavelengths of UV. There’s UV-A, B and C. The only C wave that exists on earth is man-made, and an example of UV-C light would be a welding torch, and the reason that welders wear a very darkened mask is to protect their eyes from this UV-C light. It’s very dangerous to retinas of people’s eyes, and if it’s going to be used it needs to be used appropriately and people need to be trained. It’s used a lot to sterilize medical instruments, but people aren’t exposed to it. So, I think we should take caution when we are looking at these new technologies just to make sure that we’re being safe and that these companies that are popping up and selling these items are also providing the proper training and making people aware of potential dangers.

What can you tell me about new technologies and protocols that Jani-King franchisees are arming themselves with and employing in the fight against coronavirus?
We’re using the cutting-edge technologies that are available today such as electrostatic sprayers, the most effective disinfectants whether they’re chlorine-based or quaternary ammoniums. We’ve had these relationships with equipment manufacturers and chemical manufacturers that have kind of helped us stay up to date. The electrostatic sprayers that you’ve seen pop up over the last few months, we’ve actually been using them for years now. We found those at the Green Sports Alliance Summit about five years ago. A lot of the chlorine-based, chlorine dioxides and effervescent tablets that are being used today are the ones that we found about four or five years ago.

CLEANING UP: Jani-King executive Scott Borland thinks upgraded sanitation procedures will be permanent in the post-COVID world. (Courtesy Jani-King International)

What about protocols and cleaning schedules?
One of the things I’m telling clients and franchise owners about some of the protocols that we’re going to have going forward is, in the past if it looked good and it smelled good, then it was clean. We’re going to have to have a way, with protocols put into place, that can verify the efficacy of our disinfection or infection control programs. One of the ways that we’re doing that now is with ATP swab testing. ATP is adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecule that’s found in every living cell, and what we are doing is we’re coming in pre-disinfection and post-disinfection just to see if we are removing the organic and bio-loads on those surfaces. It’s not a viricidal test, but it does tell us if we’re trending towards a healthier environment and it tells us if that surface is healthier than it was before we disinfected. So looking good and smelling good is not going to confirm the efficacy of programs going forward. It’s going to take some testing.

What advice do you have for venue managers faced with a slew of what at times seem like gimmicky sanitation or health and safety solutions?
I would just do a little bit of research on some of these companies and then the products, whether it’s an applicator or a chemical, just to see how long those have been in place or been used, to see the track record, not only of the applicators and the chemicals and the products, but of the companies like Jani-King that have been around for 50 years. There are a lot of good chemical companies that have been around for years and years. I think it’s important to kind of lean on the experience and the established companies during times like this and beware of the new ones.

There are also programs and task forces making recommendations or offering third-party evaluations of health and safety methods, some also offering certification and accreditation like GBAC and the Well Advisory. Are these valuable options for venue operators?
I believe they can be potentially very valuable, especially if there are industry leaders and knowledge used to come up with these certifications or these advisory councils or task forces. I think that the sharing of that knowledge, of people that have been in this industry and have had successes in the past, can be very valuable.

The custodial services sector is an essential ingredient in the venues industry’s recovery from the effects of this pandemic. Is it best to operate in a highly visible way as opposed to working more in the background as seemed to be the case pre-COVID?
It used to be that the cleaners were supposed to be pretty much invisible. Keep the venue clean, or the facility clean, but don’t be visible and now it’s the opposite. Now we’re asked to wear these bright yellow or lime green shirts that say disinfectant crew on the back and it just gives a level of confidence to guests and patrons of the venues that these people are in place and they’re doing the job of disinfecting.

Are some of the changes that we’re seeing likely to be temporary or are we looking at a sea change in methods and protocols going forward?
I believe they are going to be permanent. To what extent, I can’t say, but I believe that disinfection and the way that the janitorial business is looked at has changed forever. Whether we have different flu strains coming at us in the future, different viruses coming at us, I don’t think anybody will ever get back to the level of confidence or the feeling of safety that they’ve felt in the past, just from basically  taking a flu vaccine and not taking any further measures. The world has changed permanently as far as its viewpoint of cleanliness and disinfection.

What’s your sense of how the venues industry in general, including allied businesses, has responded to the COVID crisis? Are they ready to get back to business and host events?
I’ve been very impressed with the venues that I’ve visited and the people that I’ve gotten to work with. Just the level and extent that they’re willing to go to make the environment safe for their fans and their guests. It is so important to them and they are not cutting corners from what I’ve seen. They’re wanting to make sure, hey, if we do it, we’re going to do it right. They do not want to bring their guests and their patrons back to a potentially unhealthy situation or hazardous situation. I’ve been very impressed with the people I’ve gotten to deal with so far. I think it’s a top priority for them that their fans and guests are healthy.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned or conclusion you’ve come to at this point in the course of this pandemic?
From my standpoint, professionally, it’s been kind of a confirmation, and I’m not trying to brag here or anything because I know there are a lot of people at other companies and within this industry and they’ve probably enjoyed the same confirmations that I have, that staying on top of things as far as disinfecting goes and doing your research and having the best applicators and the best chemicals … that’s what we’ve been doing for years and that’s turned out to be very valuable.