Verified fit for business

Our health sector requires a first class service from the bottom to the top. It is just as important for the consultant to be at the top of his or her capabilities as it is for the housekeeper or cleaner, whose role it is to provide and maintain a healthy hospital to treat patients.
This is where Stan Atkins, CEO of the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc), sees a massive potential in the market for a set of standards to be applied and recognised. The training element of this core cleaning service is required for the healthcare sector, one that is similar to the DEFRA food preparation and cleaning. Accordingly, a new accredited cleaning systems standard for cleaning equipment and products manufactured by corporate members has been introduced by BICSc. These standards have been designed to provide all areas of the cleaning industry with an assurance of excellence that has been independently tested and verified. They provide a means of judging the quality and effectiveness of products available in the professional cleaning market.

Established in 1961, BICSc is a leading professional and educational body that exists to promote and advance the knowledge of the science of cleaning, and to raise standards. The Institute has 5,000 members across all areas of the cleaning sector, including local authorities, contract cleaners, manufacturers and suppliers, training organisations and cleaning operatives in the UK and overseas. There is a choice of individual or corporate membership, with the services provided including:
legal, technical support, health and safety or employment law advice, discounted bespoke insurance rates, a quarterly magazine and an annual industry handbook.
Stan Atkins has set out his thoughts on the future: “With almost four decades experience of improving industry knowledge of cleaning science, BICSc is the natural leader in the education of those in the cleaning industry. Our mission is to sustain and protect the safety of the built environment and to ensure that equipment and systems used for cleaning are safe and effective for the users and the occupants of the buildings being cleaned.”

The Institute is currently inviting manufacturers and suppliers of cleaning equipment to submit their products for field testing, in order to establish their reliability, efficiency and safety in the environments in which they are being used, and to obtain BICSc Accreditation as a badge of approved reliability and safety. Once the rigorous testing regime has been completed and a manufacturer, supplier or product has been found to meet all the requirements of the BICSc Accreditation, a certificate is awarded and the manufacturer or supplier is entitled to use the BICSc Accreditation logo in their promotional and point of sale material.
This accreditation has been designed specifically to provide the end user with knowledge and assurance that the equipment being used, the method applied and the trained person using it, will enable him to achieve the best possible standard in cleaning. In an environment where standards are critical, this not only provides peace of mind but also a real assurance of quality.
BICSc is a leading authority on providing the standards for training in the cleaning sector and works tirelessly to ensure that training providers adhere to its standards.


Stan explains why the accreditation was introduced: “To help purchasers identify best practice in terms of value for money and quality products, which in these price conscious times is essential for the healthcare sector. We are all looking for a product/system that enables a high quality finish to be possible. This in turn aids and promotes best practice.
“The accreditation system is a valuable reference for the cleaning sector, as it aligns their products with the above requirements. For the end user, if the key elements of the system are maintained, they should have a quality outcome; in a critical environment where there is no option of second best, this assures the client of a quality solution.”
He went on to explain: “Currently the accreditation is set primarily around commercial use. However, if there was a case presented for healthcare use we’d have to revisit our criteria. Of course we’re not looking at kill rates etcetera, but we would need to adapt our scheme to meet the exacting demands of the healthcare sector. There’s no reason why the scheme can’t be expanded for healthcare.
“The accreditation looks at the overall cleaning system so it’s a building block to achieve quality standards. It provides a company with the ability to achieve accreditation for equipment or a product but as it’s a cleaning system, if one element changes the accreditation process has to start again. If the company is actively involved in the research and development of its products or services, it will have to resubmit and come back again when it further develops the product/equipment. Companies that strive to be at the forefront of the cleaning industry will be constantly accrediting their products. And this can only be a good thing for the healthcare sector, where the ‘goalposts’ in terms of infections and the methods of eradicating are constantly changing.”
Unlike many other cleaning sectors, healthcare does not stand still and one area that cannot be overlooked is best practice. It is at the forefront of trust managers and housekeepers policy decisions, and the BICSc accreditation scheme can play an instrumental role in this objective. “We can do this by continuously policing such equipment and products that are accredited and by thoroughly investigating any enquiries that raise concern. What I am looking to do is to make sure that any piece of equipment or product that’s beneficial in the cleaning and hygiene arena is properly used to obtain the optimum result. For example, it doesn’t matter whether I give you a Mercedes or a Ford, if you don’t have a driving licence you can’t use it in the proper manner. It’s the same with cleaning systems/products. With accreditation you have a product and methodology etc. If it is applied correctly then you will get the proper end result,” reinforced Stan.
It really highlights what BICSc is about, which is essentially the science behind the cleaning. By producing a set of clear guidelines and standards for training providers, the Institute is working towards the cleaning sector being recognised as a professional and valuable solution to the UK business and economy.
As Stan points out it is, however, not simply enough to provide a set of guidelines: “The overall service will be improved as it’s all part of the building blocks to achieve a quality outcome, so you need to get enough good products and then you can pick from the whole repertoire. The combination of product, method and training should provide a quality outcome. With the end result being a 100 per cent clean bill of health in the hygiene stakes.”

The long-term goal is to ensure quality, good service and ultimately savings. Stan continued: “Cost savings can be achieved in three areas. In the correct use of equipment or product/cost in use, lifetime cost of the substrate of the building (if we don’t use the machine properly, then it may ruin a floor) and finally in the welfare of the operative. Cleaning is after all very much a people-based service. It is vitally important to engage the workforce fully and equip them with the best product, knowledge in how to use this and also allow them to feel a valued part of the service.
“There are examples of products that have been verified and recognised for providing something different to the cleaning sector. One such product is microfiber. When it was introduced, BICSc developed tasks for the product. If a magic robot were developed that killed all known germs we would deal with it. But for now, we are more than happy to work with our colleagues in the healthcare sector to improve their expectations and in turn to ensure that those pitching for this work are trained to the professional levels required by healthcare.”

BICSc will be striving to this end by “working with the government more to raise the profile of the cleaning sector, with particular regards to training. And one point in particular that we will push for is a national colour coding scheme for cleaning in the UK. We need to educate the government of the important role cleaning plays in preventing infection outbreaks. Eventually we will end up lobbying. However, for the immediate future we need to raise the awareness of alternative products within the existing marketplace. Through accreditation, we will raise the profile of alternatives over accepted methods.
“There are three key parts to the accreditation – equipment/product, methodology and training – without these three covered you don’t get the accreditation. It’s not just about the product. BICSc fully endorses the whole circle from product verification to ensuring that the cleaner is fully capable of properly using said equipment. Training and industry standards are vital to cleaning being recognised as a valuable service in healthcare, and they should not just be seen as an added cost. Training is a vital element of any contract; it is how the service is provided.”
After all, when infection outbreaks occur it is the cleaning companies or contractors’ which are hauled over the coals. Perhaps, therefore we should be involved at the very beginning: and the BICSc accredited cleaning systems standard is one that measures and demonstrates the quality of the product and service.