A process compliance inspection helps you ensure that the things you can’t see are being properly cleaned and disinfected. It helps get your entire team on the same page. Additionally, it’s a step you can take to assure your clients that you’re cleaning effectively.

Why now is the time to inspect your process

With the current COVID-19 outbreaks, it’s more important than ever to ensure your cleaning team is using the right process. Additionally, you need to be sure you’re offering good communication, the right supplies, and clear guidance on how to disinfect effectively.

Many janitors report feeling unsafe, uncertain, and unvalued in this time. You want your staff to feel the opposite: safe, confident in their training, and valued for their role in helping slow this global pandemic. That’s on you to provide, and you should view process compliance inspections as a way to build confidence and knowledge.

We were struck by this quote from Ecolab’s recent Public Health Matters: Understanding Coronavirus webinar:

“In addition to making sure you’re using the right disinfectant, the CDC is also recommending that you might want to do a little refresher training with your staff, and to monitor how well they’re cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and monitor the thoroughness of cleaning of high-touch objects in healthcare settings . . .

It’s product plus process. You have to make sure you not only use the right product but that you’re using it correctly and applying it to the right surfaces.”

Linda Homan, RN, BSN, CIC – Senior Manager of Clinical Affairs for Ecolab

When we interviewed Mark Heller, who shared his experience managing cleaning for hundreds of healthcare facilities, he also outlined the importance of inspecting the process. He mentioned doing audits for the cleanliness of carts, how equipment is organized, and staff knowledge:

“What makes healthcare unique is that it’s not just about getting a great outcome, it’s about making sure the cleaning process is done in the right way.”

— Mark Heller, president of Hygiene Performance Solutions. Read more from our interview with Mark.

Right now, every cleaning team is trying to fight against an invisible virus, and we can learn from the healthcare teams who have that experience in spades.

Additionally, right now, cleaning is a the forefront of everyone’s minds. They want to hear from you. Over-communicate about what your team is doing and the measures you’re taking to ensure effective cleaning.

How to do a process compliance inspection

1. Write out the process cleaners should follow.

Ideally, you already have this and are communicating it clearly with your cleaners. If not, this is your first step. Make sure you have the correct product to use and the correct instructions, including dwell time, clearly spelled out. (See the CDC’s list of Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 for more guidance.)

2. Create a checklist with the process.

This should be identical to the checklist your cleaners have, but will be for you or your supervisors to use for the inspection. Include any protective cautions the cleaner should take, such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), hand-washing, etc.

3. Tell the cleaner they are being inspected.

You need to be entirely clear about the purpose of this: it is to make sure they are safely and effectively disinfecting so you can provide clear training and direction. It is not to punish or micromanage them, but to be sure everyone is on the same page about what needs to happen.

Be friendly and reassuring. We all know it can be unnerving to have someone “looking over your shoulder” while you work. Thank the cleaner for letting you observe and learn.

4. Ask the cleaner to perform their process as they normally would.

Tell them you will watch, take notes, and connect at the end with feedback and questions. Unless you see something unsafe happening, try not to speak or intervene.

5. Watch and inspect.

Watch the process carefully. Score each part of the cleaning process as pass/fail.

For anything the cleaner does incorrectly, take notes to indicate what went wrong. For example, if the cleaner does not wait long enough for the disinfectant, note why — did they have a clock handy to check, or do you need to supply one they can see hands-free? Or did they not seem to realize the proper dwell time?

6. Share the results and feedback with the cleaner.

Show them the inspection and walk through the steps together. Offer positive affirmation for each step they did right. For steps they did not do correctly, offer clear direction.

If the cleaner correctly performed all (or nearly all) the steps correctly, and corrections are simple, you can share the feedback and be done.

However, if there were significant parts that the cleaner missed, you’ll want to repeat the cleaning with them one more time.

First, review the list and offer clarity about what they need to do differently. Then, ask them to repeat the clean and talk through it with you. You don’t want the cleaner to feel like this is a punishment; the purpose is to first, ensure the cleaning is done properly, and second, to ensure that the cleaner feels absolutely clear and confident in performing the cleaning. Talk through each step, encourage questions, and take note of anything that would make the process easier for the cleaner.

The more open you are to feedback, the more invested the cleaner will be.

7. Communicate the results to your leadership team.

Depending on the size of your team, you might be doing dozens of these process audits and aggregating the results, or you might only do a couple and then talk through important points. Make sure everyone is aware of common mistakes and follow up to ensure cleaners have fixed the problem.

8. Communicate the results to your cleaners.

Celebrate the positives, be clear about what they need to do differently, and communicate any changes you will be making.

For example: “Thank you all for letting us inspect your disinfection process. Overall, everyone is doing a great job ensuring that touch points are being disinfected properly. One mistake we noticed coming up a lot was missing the elevator buttons; please make sure you disinfect those well. We also noticed that some of you did not have enough gloves. We have restocked all the cleaning carts to that you can use fresh gloves for each space.”

Showcase the steps you’re taking

While process compliance inspections are valuable internally, for your team, they can also help reassure your clients and organizations.

For example, you might send your clients an email letting them know you are routinely performing process compliance audits to ensure all of your disinfection procedures meet your own high standards, as well as all guidelines from the CDC and chemical providers.

You don’t need to share the results of inspections themselves. Just knowing you’re on top of effective cleaning will help give your clients peace of mind. Right now, those of us in the cleaning industry have an opportunity to be a true partner to our clients; let them know you take disinfection seriously and are doing all you can to keep their facilities clean and safe.

For more assistance dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, see the BSCAI’s COVID-19 response page, ISSA’s coronavirus resources, and APPA’s COVID-19 resources and guidelines.