What do all of the following have in common? 

  • A food service worker removes the safety boots she wears when working in the food-processing area.
  • Another worker ties his shoelaces while working in the kitchen.
  • An office visitor places her purse on the floor while using the restroom.
  • A cafeteria worker picks up utensils that have been dropped on the floor.
  • A trade’s person wraps up the power cord they were using.
  • A plant supervisor places a briefcase on the floor while talking to kitchen workers.

In each case, in one way or another, these individuals have indirect contact with floor areas. In fact, studies now indicate that we have as many as 50 direct and indirect contacts with floors each day. In most cases, we do not even realize that we have had that contact.

This in and of itself is not critical, but it is important to know that floors can be germ and bacteria reservoirs. As such, through the process of cross contamination, potentially health-endangering pathogens on floors can be transferred to people and surfaces, spreading disease and causing illness.


Pathogenic Hitchhikers

Have you heard of listeria?

Those in the meat-processing industry will likely know that listeria refers to a particular species of bacteria. It is found in varying degrees in soil, vegetables, water, animal feed, and other places. If listeria contamination is present in a meat-processing or food service facility and ingested in significant amounts by high-risk individuals such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems, it can threaten health and even prove fatal. There are many sources of listeria, and because it needs moisture to survive and grow, it is often found on food service area floors, especially near drains. If the listeria is on a worker’s shoe bottoms and the bottoms of those shoes are touched, the beginning of cross contamination is likely.

Another contaminant found on the shoes included Klebsiella pneumoniae, a common cause of bloodstream infections as well as pneumonia, and Serratia ficaria, which can cause respiratory infections.

Clearly, contamination on shoe bottoms can spread from contaminated to uncontaminated floor surfaces as well as onto fingers and hands. In essence, the contaminants are hitchhikers, catching a ride on shoes from one location to another.


Steps to Stop the Transmission

The most effective way to stop the transmission of germs and bacteria from one surface to another is through more effective cleaning and disinfecting. In some cases, this may mean simply cleaning floor areas more frequently, using a more effective cleaner, or cleaning them with an appropriate disinfectant cleaner.

However, certain precautions must also be in place, especially in regards to the cleaning tools used.

Studies have found that soiled mops, water, and buckets can actually spread germs instead of removing them. Because of this it is recommended to:

  • Change the cleaning solution frequently, ensuring that the parts per million (ppm) of the disinfectant is still adequate.
  • Change mop heads frequently. Some facilities reuse mops several times before changing them. As the mop head becomes contaminated, it spreads disease and pathogens instead of removing them.
  • Clean and disinfect mop frames, buckets, and even carts. Although they are often overlooked, these also become contaminated in the floor cleaning process and can transmit disease.


Adjusting cleaning products, frequencies, and procedures based on infection risk levels is key. This is referred to as the DEFCON (Defense Conditions for Cleaning) ranking system and there are essentially four infection risk levels, each requiring adjustments in cleaning products, frequencies, and procedures.

These are:

DEFCON 1: No dangerous infection or pathogen risk exists. Cleaning personnel should follow proper cleaning procedures using neutral and all-purpose cleaners in most areas with sanitizers and disinfectants primarily used to clean restrooms, food service areas, and floors.

DEFCON 2: This level signals that a contagious disease, infection, or virus is present in a community or area, but not in a specific building. For example, the swine flu has been reported in several schools and colleges, but its impact has been minimal on many other types of facilities. However, this level requires that neutral and light-duty, all purpose cleaners be replaced with products that have greater cleaning efficacy and use disinfectants with stated kill claims for the pathogen(s) of concern, which should be indicated on the product’s label. There should also be an increased focus on cleaning and disinfecting floors, other horizontal surfaces, and cross contamination contact points, in this order.

DEFCON 3: At this level, more specific and extensive measures must be implemented because the disease or virus is present in the facility. Cleaning products and disinfectants as well as procedures for all surface areas should be increased significantly in efficacy with floors cleaned and disinfected first, then walls, counters, fixtures, and high touch-point areas, and then the floors again. Surfaces should be precleaned with an effective heavy duty cleaner or cleaner/disinfectant and then the disinfectant should be applied, allowed to remain wet (dwell) on the surface per the label directions.

DEFCON 4: This is the most serious risk level and denotes the presence of a dangerous biohazard. This situation calls for experts who are trained in hazardous agent removal.

Frequent and thorough floorcare ensure a healthy and clean floor in any facility, but particularly important in a food service establishment. Using the proper products combined with proper procedures will ensure the best results for all floor areas and reduce slip and fall risk.


Our ServClean® Enhanced Concentrate Program will effectively clean 95% of a food service facility using only 3 products. The program includes additional degreasing capabilities and more floor/auto scrubbing applications.


To learn more about our ServClean® Simplified Food Service Program click below.