The global pandemic of COVID-19 has changed our perspectives in many ways. In the cleaning industry, the outbreak has challenged the very concept of cleanliness and what it means for a place or a surface to be “clean”. To follow the normal cleaning standards is no longer enough for cleaning service providers, nor is it sufficient to adhere to the basic safety standards and precautionary measurements that are self-initiated or mandated by the government. For cleaning service providers to deliver safe, reliable, and high-quality solutions they must go beyond the current standards, take the initiative, and invest in research, training, and technology.
We take a look at the current cleaning standards in the Middle East and ways to exceed them and make a difference from the point of view and experience of Isnaad (the Soft FM arm of Imdaad Group), as well as from the perspective of the buyer of such services.
Current Cleaning Standards
The most common cleaning standard in the Middle East is that of the British Institute of Cleaning Sciences (BICSs). BICSc is widely known and respected by most commercial and institutional buyers of cleaning services, and it is often a mandatory requirement in tenders and RFPs for government departments and multinational companies.
As the name suggests, cleaning is a science and so the BICSc standard is one that is backed by science and research. The standard offers different modules of cleaning techniques which can be combined into a process. Overall, the BICSc standard is a valuable tool and reference for managers. It also empowers the blue-collar level to understand the basic concepts of cleanliness and makes it easier for them to execute and achieve a clean environment.
Unfortunately, apart from the BICSc, there has not been any other widely accepted alternative in the Middle East region. However, there is another reference that has been growing in popularity, and that is the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association (ISSA) and their Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS). CIMS is the first consensus-based management standard for the cleaning industry, and it helps providers demonstrate their commitment to quality, customer satisfaction, and green operations.
In addition to standards, cleaning service providers take advantage of specialized product trainings made available by suppliers, which can be extremely valuable and effective albeit on a smaller scale. With global leaders like Diversey and Ecolab pioneering cleaning products and solutions that are backed by science and research, the trainings provided by such companies add to the knowledge and experience of cleaning service providers and help them deliver better quality solutions to end users.
Standards During the Pandemic
During the pandemic, professional bodies like the BICSc and ISSA issued several valuable updates, guidance standards, and resource kits to help service providers as well as facility managers at end user facilities on how to properly clean and disinfect for the novel coronavirus.
Facility management service providers had to incorporate new ways to live up to the new challenges and align themselves with the growing requirements of buyers. For example, standalone hygiene cleaning and disinfection services became a common requirement, while disinfection of frequent touch points became an additional part of regular maintenance schedules, and special handling of waste was also required by many.
In parallel, end users also expected their cleaning service providers to exercise extra care and follow precautionary measures such as the use of PPEs and the practice of social distancing, and to have risk mitigation and response plans in place in case of any suspected or confirmed cases.
With little guidance and a lot of pressure, service providers had to get their act together quickly to update and upgrade their standard operating procedures and master new skills and equipment in no time. This required real-time planning, quick action, innovation, and practicality.
Every Challenge is an Opportunity
Imdaad Group and particularly Isnaad saw the opportunity within these challenges and was one of the first companies in the market to address the shift in requirements and provide dedicated disinfection services that are accredited by Dubai Municipality, and developed specialized solutions such the automated disinfection tunnel ViroShield. This helped Isnaad gain a competitive edge in the market and gain valuable insights to feed into the research and development towards improving quality and standards.
Isnaad also embedded the use of new technologies in its operations such digitized touch-free processes, and the use of portable swab tests that detect the count of particles and bacteria on surfaces which were originally used almost exclusively in the food and healthcare industries.
With equal importance, Isnaad invested heavily in training and retraining its workforce to adapt to the revised processes and new technologies and ensure a streamlined high-quality service with no disruption to the client’s operations.
Choosing your Service Provider
When looking for a commercial and specialized cleaning service provider, it is important to prioritize the health and safety of your staff and the visitors of your facility. Work with competent providers who can help you assess and analyze your facility to identify potential risks and ways to mitigate them. Evaluate your existing scopes and schedules in light of the new reality and identify areas that need expansion.
Your provider must adhere to the guidelines of the government and healthcare authorities and follow the precautionary measures you have in place in addition to having their own.
Look beyond just meeting the basic cleaning standards and identify the providers that go the extra mile towards making a difference and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their clients.
When evaluating costs, do not forget to take into account hidden costs and benefits. For instance, there is a multi-faceted financial benefit to having spotlessly clean and fresh facilities, from better impression on clientele to improved productivity among employees. Likewise, facilities that are not well-cleaned and do not have a good hygiene leave a bad impression on clients, reduce the morale and productivity of employees, and might even cause sick days and attrition.