I recently had the opportunity to take a training course from the ISSA (the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association) and obtain my Accredited Professional Auditor certificate. This training addressed the importance of sanitation quality controls, in other words, how to control and measure the quality of cleanliness.
Since sanitary maintenance is changing at a rapid pace, it is very important to have the tools that will allow you to do a good audit. The ongoing health crisis has greatly contributed to changing attitudes and standards of cleanliness. While visual cleanliness used to be acceptable, today we aim for real cleanliness, even in the invisible. Now we must clean for health, nothing less!
With this in mind, across all the types of audits that sanitation quality control program managers can choose from, it is becoming increasingly important to add ATP audits to your quality control program.
The three main types of audits that are readily available and feasible are visual inspection, fluorescence audits, and ATP audits. These three types of audits are not in competition with each other, as they complement each other perfectly and provide information on the quality of the work performed. For your understanding, here is a detailed description of each of these audits as well as their limitations and advantages.
1. Visual inspection
As the name implies, visual inspection relies on our eyes to assess and evaluate the cleanliness of a room, an object, or a surface and to detect non-conformities in sanitary maintenance. Obtaining a good score (or rating) on a visual inspection is the basis of cleanliness. However, visual inspection is an introduction, it is very subjective and limited only to what we can see and does not tell us about the level of contamination of the surface. However, the foundation of hygiene and sanitation controls is to know if a surface has been properly cleaned!
The quality of sanitary maintenance is an unstable result that can vary greatly over time, so it is important to verify it continuously. Visual inspections should be done on a regular basis throughout the year.
Example of a visual inspection:
2. Fluorescence audits
These audits are very interesting because they also allow to distinguish real service providers from amateurs. First of all, what is a fluorescence audit? It is a way to verify if a surface has been cleaned by applying a fluorescent marker product on the surface. This marker is invisible to the naked eye but becomes fluorescent under a UV lamp. Surfaces that are cleaned daily are coated with this product BEFORE the service provider comes to clean. Once the cleaning is complete, we return to check with our UV lamp to see if the fluorescent marker is gone or still present on the surface. If it is present, in whole or in part, the service provider did not clean the object properly. If it is gone, the service provider has cleaned the surface properly. The result is definitive and rarely negotiable. While the fluorescence audit does not tell you whether the surface is contaminated or not, it does at least tell you whether the surface was indeed scrubbed. It is ideal for toilets, countertops, sinks, door handles, etc.
How does this type of audit distinguish real service providers from amateurs? Take the example of a toilet seat. A real service provider will train their cleaners to clean all toilet seats on a daily basis, whether they are visually clean or dirty. Since germs are invisible, a visually clean toilet seat is not necessarily germ-free! Instead, to save time and money, amateurs will encourage their staff to check first and clean only those toilets that are visually dirty. At this point, they assume the title of inspectors rather than cleaners...But fortunately, not everyone does this and if you are a service provider reading this column, you are certainly not part of this group, are you?
Of course, there is a method to follow to conduct fluorescence audits. It will be our pleasure to accompany you in this process so that the result is meaningful and most representative of reality. To try it is to adopt it!
Example of a fluorescence audits:
3. ATP audits
ATP audits are the superior mark of quality! They measure the amount of organic matter, of living microbes, on a surface using Adenosine Triphosphate, a molecule present in all living germs. This measurement is recognized in the environment as the relative quantity of germs in general. ATP is a widely used control method in the food industry.
A surface may be clean on visual inspection, the fluorescence audit may show that it has been cleaned, but only an ATP audit can confirm that the cleaning technique used by the provider is effective in removing INVISIBLE SOIL FROM THE SURFACES. This is proof that your service provider is cleaning for health.
What is the added value? The benefits of clean places go far beyond the sense of well-being and safety they provide. A clean environment directly affects your health and the effects on absenteeism and infection control are found right there: where our eyes cannot see. In fact, it is the confirmation that the sanitary maintenance techniques used remove soils rather than moving, rearranging, or scattering them. An ATP audit assures you that the surface is invisibly clean, that germs no longer have food to multiply!
To summarize, here is what to remember about the three levels of audits:
Visual inspection to measure the quality of the appearance of cleanliness.
Fluorescence audits to ensure systematic cleaning of surfaces.
ATP audits to confirm the quality of your service provider's sanitation techniques.
Audits and quality controls are often mistakenly viewed as a staff evaluation tool, with some people even fearing disciplinary action. When quality management is an integral part of your facility's culture, audits allow for continuous improvement and engage your workforce in achieving well-defined goals.
When you conduct audits on a regular basis, you also demonstrate the importance given to the role of your housekeeping teams and this represents an opportunity for you to highlight or recognize their efforts.
Dare to raise the bar a little higher, for your health and that of your employees, and add ATP audits to your quality control program. Once again, ValkarTech's team of accredited professional auditors can help.
Learn more about Valkartech's audit services: https://www.valkartech.com/audit
 Service provider is used here to refer to either the sanitation maintenance company or your in-house maintenance staff.