An Industry Unites: Pulling Together Through Strategic Planning for the Future

united, cleaning industry

Editor’s Note: This article is the last of a five-part series (see previous articles on BSCsmanufacturers, distributors, and environmental services (EVS) workers) investigating what the cleaning industry is doing in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

 Everyone is keeping a close eye on what the U.S. government is doing amid the coronavirus pandemic to help not only the population, but businesses as well.

ISSA’s government affairs department, led by John Nothdurft, is working with many government entities and leaders to advance the call to action by the cleaning industry.

“We are supporting small business relief, making sure the cleaning supply chain goes uninterrupted and is deemed essential, and monitoring other roadblocks facing the industry such as tariffs and labor related issues,” he said.

Matt Vonachen, a building services contractor (BSC) director with the ISSA board of directors, operates the Vonachen Group, a commercial and industrial service provider based in Peoria, Illinois. He has been paying attention, as well.

“The No. 1 issue on my desk is the United States government,” he said, explaining he has been in recent discussions with members of congress. “Most of us don’t need these trillions of dollars they are talking about. Flooding the [small business administration] SBA community does not help us. What we need is a very clear, concise plan from the government detailing how we will be reimbursed for providing specific things for our employees.”

Vonachen added that his priority is to make sure his people are taken care of, and when the crisis is over and the market comes back, he is very optimistic of the future.

A bright future

As Vonachen and many others believe, this current crisis will result in an elevated view of the value of cleaning and the role that industry professionals provide.

“It is one bright spot—cleaning is getting a much broader awareness and respect,” he said. “The community is going to understand the importance of cleaning and how cleaning is tied to healthy people. There will be opportunity for cleaning companies to accelerate quickly.”

Lessons learned

All of us have learned valuable lessons about being prepared for this type of infectious outbreak. When we come out of it, we all need to be ready for anything else that comes our way.

Bill Hemann, the vice president of sales and marketing with HOSPECO, an industry manufacturer of cleaning products, describes this current situation as sobering and a wake-up call for the future for the cleaning industry.

“Remember the lessons we learn in the personal protective apparel industry—that is, it is rarely a first dangerous task that puts a worker most at risk. Workers are most cautious when a task is new,” he said. “But, as this war we wage on the pandemic continues for months, a lot of the practices we take on will become rote. We cannot stop being vigilant. We cannot stop being careful. We should be brave but remember that [personal protective equipment] PPE does not make us superhuman; rather it protects our very humanity. The vitality of the building services and facility cleaning workforce is paramount to prevention.”

As far as planning for the future, Hemann advises that facility owners must continue to promote “clean and sanitized public spaces. This will be the lasting behavioral adaptation of this pandemic. Patrons will worry about viral transmission. Technologies like dispensers that contribute to the no-touch washroom must be advanced. And what must be touched must be quickly and easily sanitized.”

He concludes with these words of advice: “Your job is to clean for health. Our job (manufacturers) is to equip you to be excellent in this endeavor.”

Be prepared

For the global cleaning industry to be prepared and ready to battle microbial and pathogenic threats, all involved must have proper training and education. Business owners and managers must have a 30,000-foot view of what must be done to protect the public when it comes to cleaning, disinfecting. Front-line technicians and workers need the skills necessary to do the work according to industry standards and expectations.

That’s where ISSA’s Cleaning Management Institute (CMI) and Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) really shine.

Brant Insero, ISSA’s director of education, certification, and standards with ISSA, knows that moving forward, awareness is going to bring demand to his department.

“Now, more than ever, shows the importance behind properly educated and certified custodial technicians who have been verified through a third-party certification process,” Insero said. “There are many individuals who lay claim to having expertise in specific vocations that increase liabilities for their organizations.”

In times like these, it is crucial to have individuals certified in the fundamentals of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting for health, not just appearance. “The best way to accomplish this is to provide a documented industry career pathway and the best place to start is through a solid front-line program such as CMI’s Certified Custodial Technician,” Insero advised. “Remember, if you truly want to make an impact and elevate the industry, provide a vision and career pathway to your employees.”

Learn more about CMI and educational opportunities.

GBAC specializes in training professionals to handle microbial and pathogenic threats through mitigation, response and recovery. The pandemic has kept the GBAC expert team of trainers busy with both training and planning for the future to keep the cleaning industry prepared.

“It’s what you can’t see that can make you sick or kill you,” according to Patricia Olinger, the executive director of GBAC. “Infectious agents are things we cannot see. But we know they are there, and we know that cleaning professionals, decontamination professionals, EVS staff, and forensic operators will be at the frontline when it comes to prevention and response. GBAC helps them all take their skills to the next level with our training programs and protocols.”

As she teaches, professional cleaning and disinfection for health does and should go beyond asking “does it smell and look clean?”

Learn more about GBAC and training opportunities.

Share your thoughts

ISSA wants to hear your voice. Please contact us with questions and concerns and tell us how we can help you in this crisis. Share your own observations and what you are doing to handle this COVID-19 outbreak. What are you doing? How will you cope? How will you move forward when the crisis is over? Share your thoughts.

Join our global community

ISSA is here to help, not only its members but the entire global cleaning community. By uniting and working together, we will be able to more effectively battle the next public health issue, in whatever form it evolves.

Become an advocate of clean and join the global cleaning community as it unites each and every day: Join ISSA and help.

Posted On March 31, 2020

Jeff Cross

ISSA Media Director

Jeff Cross is the ISSA media director, with publications that include Cleaning & Maintenance Management, ISSA Today, and Cleanfax magazines. He is the previous owner of a successful cleaning and restoration firm. He also works as a trainer and consultant for business owners, managers, and front-line technicians. He can be reached at [email protected].

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