Staffing of environmental services (ES) departments often represents between 75 and 80 percent of the departmental operating budget.

The starting point for an effective health care ES staffing plan consists of three very basic elements. The first is determining the required staffing hours and scheduling that match the department's responsibilities. This is the needed labor to perform the tasks, which are basic to all ES operations. The second is training. ES staff need to know what is expected of them and then be trained so that they develop the required skills to meet these expectations. The third is a quality measurement component to assure that a clean and safe environment is being achieved.

The staffing plan begins with an understanding by all parties of the role and responsibilities of the ES department in various areas of the medical center. For example, an inventory of all areas to be served and the requirements of each must be documented and agreed upon by each department director. Then an inventory of all the rooms and sections within each area can be conducted.

It is important that activities performed in each inventoried area be assigned a time frame for completion. The sum of all those task times ultimately will be the amount of time required to get the job done.

Sources must be determined for assigning task times to front-line workers. There are several good sources, such as the Association for the Healthcare Environment and the International Sanitary Supply Association, which are nationally known.

After listing all the rooms and offices, all corridors and public areas need to be measured and listed with required cleaning times. A "one-time" cleaning time needs to be determined and then multiplied by the number of times per week that the task should be performed. Regular maintenance requirements also should be entered into the staffing plan. Equally important is determining the needed time for such projects as stripping and finishing floors or washing walls and windows.

After all of these hours are totaled, two important steps follow: First, write a daily duty list for each employee for a defined work schedule area, then construct an on/off roster to assure that each duty list is covered.

Another critical component to add is supervisory and clerical staff. This component supports the front-line staff with coaching, skills training, and equipment and supplies. The supervisory team also does much of the daily quality-assurance documentation so that standards are achieved. Allocating employee sick, vacation and holiday time also should be added.

Finally, technology has made great strides in all areas of ES, particularly the ES staffing and operations software that now automates what previously had been a paper and pencil operation. It can be a tremendous asset.

By David A. Roberson, CHESP, owner of Proclean Healthcare Consulting LLC, Nashville, Tenn.

AHE insight

Valuable resources available

AHE is the membership organization of choice for a wide variety of professionals caring for the health care environment. Here are a few of the many resources that AHE offers.

EXCHANGE 2013. Attend the industry's premier conference and trade show at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on Sept. 15–18. Registration information is available at

Doing more with less. Join technology experts to explore up-to-the-minute advances and pinpoint innovations to improve efficiency and quality. Attend this valuable webinar, which is free for AHE members and $139 for nonmembers. It's on April 24 at 11 a.m. CST. For more, go to

AHE awards. AHE awards are now open to members and nonmembers. AHE encourages environmental services professionals to nominate their peers or themselves by April 15. For more, go to

From Top To Bottom: The Environmental Services Series. This multipart DVD series is an excellent training solution for environmental services managers and infection prevention professionals who may be challenged with high employee turnover and concerns about infection rates. For more information on the series, log on to