BS EN 13549 (2001) – Cleaning Quality Measurement and Auditing

The provision of cleaning services is a vital part, either directly or indirectly, of any commercial or public enterprise, particularly as it can have a direct impact on the health and well-being of staff, customers and the general public. And yet with such a close connection to the running of enterprise there is no universally agreed system of quality control of cleaning processes. Poor cleaning affects everyone: from lingering dirt and poor cleaning standards which has a subconscious effect on everyone, to a health and safety incident like an outbreak of an infectious microorganism, or even a slip on a wet floor.

If cleaning standards are particularly poor the resulting potential ‘harm’ to individuals could represent a significant financial risk, both in terms of legal issues and to the reputation of the organisation. From a reputation point-of-view an individual visiting, be that a staff member, a customer or a member of the public, subconsciously connects how ‘well’ an organisation is run with how well they perceive the cleaning standards to be. In the mind of that individual it makes not the slightest bit of difference if there is no causal link. This is the risk all organisations face: how well are we perceived affects the confidence people have in our organisation.

Loss of confidence is not the only risk organisations face, the law stipulates that an organisation must provide a safe environment and poor cleaning directly impacts the viability of maintaining a safe environment. Poor cleaning poses a direct health and safety risk through slips and trips, food contamination, risk of infection through cross contamination or personal injury problems.

This begs a number of questions: how do we measure the quality of a service? It is easy to measure the quality of a manufactured product, you simply take objective measurements of the size and function of the product and compare it against a written standard. How do you take objective measurements of a clean surface? How do you define a clean surface?

There are pre-existing methods to measure quality from the manufacturing industries that can be employed to measure quality in cleaning services. If you are a manufacturer producing hundreds of thousands of products, you can’t reasonably be expected to test the quality of each and every product. The methods adopted, which we can translate into measuring quality in cleaning services, involve taking samples of pre-defined number and location, such that the results of the samples present a reasonable objective reflection of the whole service. The number of samples taken and location differs from area to area, and depends of the critically of the cleaning requirement.

A framework that defines what, how and where these measurements are to be taken, under-pins the work carried out with which an appointed person, could make an accurate and consistent:

  • Assessment of risk and cleanliness
  • Measurement of the cleanliness of items
  • Audit areas within the remit of cleaning services
  • Publish and implement recommended corrective actions

This framework establishes an objective quality measurement system, as codified in BS EN 13549 – Cleaning services — Basic requirements and recommendations for quality measuring systems, but only defines the sampling actions to be taken. It is critical that the right approach to sample selection be taken as this will have a significant bearing on the validity of the results.

As we asked the question – how do we define a clean surface? To attempt to draw a sampling process (pre-requisite for BS EN 13549), it is important to understand the complete picture of the cleaning requirements in the area and on the different surfaces. These requirements are based on three broad external factors: aesthetics, hygiene and safety. Each one of these factors influence the definition of a clean surface and its degree of importance within the local environment. You cannot reliably and consistently measure cleaning quality if you do not understand how these factors influence the cleaning requirements expected.