ISSA Canada has always been committed to the mandate of “changing the way the world views cleaning.” And, if there’s one positive to come out of this historic COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a new respect for the important role professional cleaners play not only in the health and safety of buildings but also the people who are housed within them.
“The pandemic has certainly buried the needle when it comes to a raised awareness of facility cleanliness,” says ISSA Canada Executive Director Mike Nosko. “It has been a long time coming for professional cleaners to be placed in the spotlight for the important role they play in protecting human health. Whether it’s a hospital, commercial, industrial or institutional facility, a recreational complex, or any other facility where people work and visit, the cleaning profession has certainly proved just how essential it really is.”
Long before the pandemic took hold, ISSA had always been an advocate for the cleaning and maintenance industry, establishing top-notch educational programming and cleaning standards to help build a strong foundation and elevate the professionalism within the industry.
That has not changed today. In fact, when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, through its Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC) Division, ISSA took immediate steps to once again arm the industry with the tools needed to combat this unseen enemy.
“It quickly became quite clear early on that disinfection was a key in the new fabric of standard cleaning practice,” Nosko explained. “That’s where the GBAC Fundamentals course came into play. The industry needed new cleaning protocols and training to deal with biohazards, and the GBAC Fundamentals course filled that need. It also provided frontline staff with the knowledge to deal with not only COVID-19 but other infectious diseases as well.”
With frontline teams readily becoming GBAC-Trained Technicians, ISSA set its sights on assisting facility owners and their in-house staff to establish a safe method of reopening by introducing the GBAC STAR™ facility accreditation program.
The gold standard for facilities, the GBAC STAR program relies on comprehensive training that teaches proper protocols, correct disinfection techniques, and cleaning best practices for biohazardous situations such as those presented by the novel coronavirus. To date, 17 facilities across Canada have achieved accreditation, and many more have committed to completing the process.
“It doesn’t matter what size or type of facility it is, GBAC STAR facility accreditation covers all the bases,” Nosko said. “By completing the program, facility owners are equipped with the tools they need to confidently establish and maintain a cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention program to minimize not only the current risks but future ones as well. We’re also so proud to be able to offer this outstanding program in all regions across Canada, as the program is available in both English and French.”
And the programming doesn’t stop there. Released in early December was the new GBAC STAR Services accreditation. Based on demand from the facility services sector, the Services program will assist building service contractors in distinguishing their cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention measures.
“With all the misinformation about cleaning and disinfection circulating all over the world, it is so important for BSCs to demonstrate their credibility,” Nosko said. “The GBAC STAR Services program provides this critical third-party validation, and differentiates these contractors from the others when it comes to implementing industry-recognized cleaning and disinfection practices.”
Although the focus in 2020 has understandably revolved around the pandemic and providing the industry with relevant tools to combat it, ISSA Canada has also remained focused on another one of its priority items – uniting all industry facets and providing a voice for the Canadian cleaning industry as a whole.
In addition to its Building Service Contractor (BSC) Council, ISSA Canada also established a Residential Cleaning Committee to better understand the needs of residential cleaners and support that sector through increased member programming and educational offerings.
In October, the healthcare housekeepers/environmental services sector also gained representation as the Ontario Healthcare Housekeepers Association (OHHA) merged with ISSA. Not only does this provide greater access to educational programming, but it also sets a solid foundation for this sector to grow across the country.
With all the new programming and mergers announced over the past year and many more to follow in the new year, it’s easy to see the impact ISSA has had when it comes to increasing industry awareness. So has the association actually changed the way the world views cleaning?
“We may not have entirely changed the way the world views cleaning, but we certainly made a dent when it comes to industry recognition and respect,” Nosko says.
“As many industries have experienced lay-offs and furloughs, our industry has managed to place renewed emphasis on cleaning as a viable and stable career option. I firmly believe the momentum we have generated in 2020 will definitely carry over into 2021, and probably continue to gain traction in years to come. That is the most exciting thing of all.”
Tanja Nowotny is Director of Marketing and Communications for ISSA Canada.