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Accreditation helps ease COVID-19 recovery phase

07 September 2020

As a wide array of facilities from offices to restaurants to shopping malls return from COVID-19 shutdown, and others such as hotels and airports prepare for heavier traffic, facility managers are tasked with creating plans that protect occupant health and inspire customer and employee confidence.

The natural response is to turn to their cleaning service provider or product supplier to help them understand how cleaning can play a role in building their business comeback. This is an opportunity to be the responsible leader in your community if your response is properly managed.

Many people emerging from stay-at-home orders in the United Kingdom and Ireland will be hesitant to return to work or frequent a business if its building does not demonstrate that it has implemented specific cleanliness standards to reduce the risk of spreading the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes the disease. Responsible attention to cleaning and disinfecting, and effective communication about these activities, will go a long way to setting stakeholders’ minds at ease.

One option for cleaning professionals to help meet these new demands and provide international validation to your local response is the recently launched GBAC STAR facility accreditation programme for cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention. 

Created by pandemic response experts from The Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, GBAC STAR is the industry’s only global outbreak prevention, response, and recovery accreditation. It assists facilities in identifying which work practices, protocols, procedures, and systems they need to establish to control risks associated with infectious agents, such as SARS-CoV-2, as well as to prepare for any other future outbreaks. 

“Facility decision makers are being asked to develop and implement protocols they may not have handled before, and that can lead to uncertainty, plus the barrage of misinformation in the marketplace further confuses them,” said Dianna Steinbach, ISSA international vice president.

“By explaining that your services can help them gain an international accreditation, it helps validate that what you are proposing for their facility meets global standards of excellence, boosting their confidence in your recommendations.” 

Facilities in the UK have already started to utilise GBAC STAR to confirm their choices and reassure their stakeholders, and many more are preparing to begin their accreditation process. The Marker Hotel is one of many propertes going through the programme currently. 

“The Marker Hotel has always followed very high cleaning, disinfecting and and safety protocols, in compliance with local regulation," observed Gaurav Joshi, director of front of house operations.

"However, it is more important than ever to maintain these very high standards and highlight them to our guests. That’s why we are reinforcing our hotel’s committment with GBAC STAR, which is recognised globally and specialises in providing the highest standards in health, hygiene and training for best cleanliness practices.” 

How to get involved
Steinbach encourages cleaning service providers and distributors to have key staff take the GBAC Fundamentals of Cleaning & Disinfecting online course and get their own offices GBAC STAR accredited. 

Kimberly Clarke Professional, a member of ISSA, has sponsored scholarships for up to five people per service provider to take the GBAC Fundamentals course at no cost. For more information and to apply contact emea@issa.com.

Going through the GBAC facility accreditation not only helps them align their customer support with global guidance, but also helps them see what customers need to go through when they apply for the programme. 

Having their own facilities accredited also proves that service and product providers are willing to use the same advice to protect their own greatest assets – their employees.

Moreland McDiarmid, managing director of Capital Cleaning Service, in Edinburgh, is putting his facility through the GBAC STAR process. “Firstly, I am conscious of the duty of care I have for my own staff and clients visiting our office and warehouse,” he said.

“Additionally, although we are a smaller business in the supports services sector, the help and resources of GBAC and the ISSA will ensure that we remain at the forefront of innovation in the industry.

"By following and documenting the processes and principles contained within the GBAC STAR program, our business will be in the best position to help our clients undertake the same accreditation and offer the same protection to their staff and facility.” 

McDiarmid believes that now is the time for cleaning service providers to be viewed as true hygiene experts and value-added partners for their customers, to do so, they need to be well trained to advise accordingly. 

“With an even greater emphasis now put on the cleanliness of a facility, this ultimately means more programme controls and monitoring of service need to take place,” he added. “We need to advise how the facility is cleaned, when the facility is cleaned, and what PPE the cleaning operative needs to carry out the cleaning and disinfection safely.

"Service providers need to advise what protocols and practises should be put in place to defend against the virus if it re-emerges or another infectious disease takes hold.”

The performance based GBAC STAR programme enables facilities to create and maintain an effective cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention programme. To achieve GBAC STAR accreditation, facilities must demonstrate compliance with the programme’s 20 elements, which range from standard operating procedures, risk assessment strategies and cleaning protocols, to personal protective equipment, contact management tactics and emergency preparedness and response measures. Applicants must show proof of following local and national regulations and requirements. Some have found that the documentation required by GBAC STAR often makes it easier for them to prove to their local authorities that they are in compliance.

To ensure ease of access to GBAC’s expert team, facilities apply online for GBAC STAR and then can tap into an ever-updating variety of readiness assessment, risk assessment, planning, and cleaning and disinfecting resources. They also receive a complimentary GBAC Fundamentals of Cleaning and Disinfecting course. Once they have determined their plans to protect occupants in the 20 areas required, they upload their documentation for review by GBAC’s team of global experts.

The GBAC STAR Accreditation Council determines the status of all GBAC STAR facilities. Accreditation criteria and facility applications are available at www.gbac.org.

Several leading organizations across more than 30 countries have already committed to achieve GBAC STAR accreditation in their facilities, especially hospitality, events, and tourism organisations. Hyatt Hotels & Resorts has committed to accredit all 900 of their properties worldwide and The Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) has also endorsed the programme.

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) also has endorsed the programme for its global membership, as have associations in the exhibition, entertainment, sports, retail, food processing, salon and spa, and other industries

“We’re absolutely thrilled with the response that the GBAC STAR programme has received,” said GBAC executive director, Patricia Olinger. “With more and more organisations committing to follow the GBAC STAR framework, we can create a world that values cleanliness and implements it to the highest degree.”

Tapping expert advisors
There are many programmes popping up to address reopening protocols, but GBAC’s team has been creating occupant protection and bio-risk cleaning protocols for the last few decades, during outbreaks of Ebola, SARS, MERS and more, across multiple continents. 

From a global standards perspective, GBAC experts chaired the working group of the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), which developed the first international standard for "Biorisk Management" in laboratories (CWA 15793:2008) and the accompanying guidance document (CWA 16393:2012). These documents formed the basis for the new ISO 35001-2018 standard for biorisk management. 

Many of the GBAC team also have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, decontaminating evacuation planes and quarantine facilities since the early days in Wuhan, China, as well as advising governments, local municipalities, private businesses and more. Through GBAC’s global health preparedness platform, its experienced network of experts and certified partners prescribe best practices for public health response, including how to assess, contain, monitor, and eradicate pathogenic and microbial threats in organisations and businesses. 

For additional resources regarding cleaning and disinfecting for COVID-19 as well as a complimentary tip sheet regarding how to discuss changings scope of work with your customers to meet pandemic needs, visit issa.com/coronavirus and click on the downloadable tools. 

For more information on GBAC STAR facility accreditation nor GBAC training and resources, visit gbac.org

 
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