Stan Atkins, Group Chief Executive Officer of the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) discusses global cleaning standards and the importance of training cleaning operatives working in facilities management.
The on-going protection of assets is an essential requirement of the built environment and one that extends beyond “hard” FM disciplines including maintenance of a facility’s systems and external fabric, to cleaning and other “soft” services that focus on creating a pleasant indoor atmosphere for building occupants and visitors.
A facility is operated by a team whih includes cleaning operatives as an integral part. And, despite cleaning activities often being labelled low risk, there are ever present commercial pitfalls facing cleaning providers working in facilities management. This is because it is difficult for operatives to second-guess the degree of performance clients require; especially when many clients misunderstand the need to define realistic outcomes.
Indeed, multiple factors influence service delivery and this is the principal argument in favour of the wider adoption of published cleaning standards.
Global Cleaning Standards
Standardisation has been defined as a “framework of agreements to which all relevant parties in an industry or organisation must adhere to ensure that all processes associated with the creation of a good or performance of a service are performed within set guidelines”.
According to this definition, the purpose of standardisation is to ensure consistency in the quality of goods produced or services delivered and to facilitate comparison between like products and services.
Even within the same industry, however, membership bodies and major corporates will often compete against each other to publish “standards” pertaining to identical areas of activity but succeed only in exposing fundamental differences of opinion about what really does constitute best practice.
Fortunately the cleaning industry is different. Of the major standard providers only The International Sanitary Suppliers Association (ISSA) and The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) produce systems solely for use in the cleaning industry, making them true specialists in this field. Moreover, whilst other standards are available, few have secured widespread international acceptance.
Healthcare & Cleaning Standardisation
The healthcare sector has been a major influence on the development of cleaning standards.
In the United Kingdom the launch of the National Health Service in 1948 (the NHS was the first state-run organisation to provide free, universal healthcare) placed scrutiny on hospital hygiene since the relationship between the cleanliness of facilities and disease was well understood (in 1858 Florence Nightingale had lobbied successfully for the establishment of a Royal Commission to investigate sanitary conditions in India).
More recently, publication of the National Specification for Cleanliness in the NHS (2007) resulted in the distribution of a set of detailed standards and practice guidelines to healthcare facility operators; alongside proposals for the introduction of a national “colour coding” system for prioritising cleanliness across all areas of hospital buildings (an idea BICSc had suggested as a solution for “standardising” otherwise unsynchronised systems).
Internationally, standards and best practice guidelines relating to infection prevention in care are published by several organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO), International Federation of Infection Control (IFIC), American Society for Healthcare Environmental Services (ASHES) and The Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals (AHCP) in the United Kingdom.
The Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) Programme
ISSA operates the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) programme which is designed to manage the outcomes of existing processes whilst highlighting areas for improvement and promoting best practice across functions as diverse as service delivery, human resource management and environmental stewardship.
The IMS programme is client-driven and adaptable to a range of customer requirements. It has been designed to meet the needs of management personnel, however, and is most effective when it is used for creating specifications rather than in providing guidance to cleaning operatives about the performance of specified skills.
BICSc produces a range of cleaning operative-focused standards. The key areas these cover are:
They are encompassed by the Cleaning Proficiency Skills Suite (CPSS) - on completion of mandatory units, the cleaning operative is awarded a licence to practise (LTP) which is valid for three years and admitted as a practitioner member of the institute (PBICSc).
Cleaning outcome criteria
Standards required on completion of service delivery are set out in the BICSc Best Value document which is designed to remove ambiguity from output-based specifications.
Selection of equipment, materials and cleaning methodology
BICSc operates the Accredited Cleaning System (ACS) standard which provides annual accreditation of cleaning systems to ensure that they contain four key elements:
3. Bespoke training plan
4. Consistent outcome
Independent Quality Cleaning Inspections (i-CQI)
Inspections are performed by BICSc personnel for the sole purpose of ensuring an independent assessment of quality standards. A consensus-based, Acceptable Quality Level (AQL) model takes into account the opinions of the client, contractor and BICSc staff in defining the standard that will be used for assessment; with the AQL usually being set at between 90 per cent and 98 per cent. i-CQI enables factors that are particular to any facility to be taken into account (including condition, the type of facility and even the usual cleaning frequency).
The need for training
Correct training of cleaning operatives and supervisors and skills refreshment are essential since agreed standards of service delivery are a pre-requirement of successful contract fulfilment.
Training also reduces client dissatisfaction and eliminates the need for “rework” (and hidden costs associated with time originally spent on tasks or original materials and equipment costs) by addressing the most common reason for poor service delivery which is method failure or the application of incorrect techniques to the cleaning of elements within a facility.
Whilst BICSc has been established in the United Kingdom as a training and membership organisation for more than half a century, it is only in recent years that the institute has developed a strategy for sharing its knowledge and expertise and promoting cleaning standards globally.
Today BICSc International trains more than 6,000 cleaning operatives and institute members around the world through a network of accredited training organisations (ATOs).