The corona conundrum

Commercial Design|May 2020

The corona conundrum
FM operators and suppliers weigh in on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic

We are all in the midst of a global pandemic. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations.

Such an event is unprecedented. At the outset of the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak, the UAE began the process of disinfection, starting with schools.

Dr Naseem Mohammed Rafee, head of Dubai Municipality’s Public Health and Safety Department stated that a comprehensive sterilisation programme is being implemented in private schools across Dubai to ensure the health and safety of over 300,000 students as well as staff.

In addition, authorities set up a dedicated team to disinfect and sanitise Dubai’s public areas as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19.

In the aviation sector too cleaning regimens were in place; for instance, Emirates airline confirmed that it was stepping up its aircraft cleaning. “The safety and health of our customers and employees is taken very seriously and we are continuously liaising with international and local health organizations to ensure we are following the most up-to-date medical guidelines and directives,” said Adel Al Redha, chief operating officer, Emirates Airline.

During times of the COVID-19 crises where hygiene is of paramount importance, the FM sector is quite naturally on the frontlines and should bear as custodians of tackling this predicament so as to curb the ongoing menace.

Demand

During such times, there certainly has been an increase in demand for soft FM services, says Darko Macura, CEO at Al-Futtaim Engineering and Technologies. He says: “There has been an increase in demand not just for normal cleaning but for sanitation of premises. We all learned that this new type of virus is able to survive on material surfaces for a day or two and maybe even for a week, and therefore, it’s very important that we minimise the spread of the virus. Companies want to know about new cleaning solutions in the market. So there is definitely an impact for the cleaning sector.”

FM firm Emrill too has observed an increase in demand. Sarah Rodgers, head of soft services at Emrill, explains that there are two main factors driving the demand. She says: “Firstly, our clients are becoming far more aware of the importance of top-quality cleaning services and are more actively seeking out information on how they can prevent the spread of infection within their facilities. Secondly, as a soft FM services provider, Emrill is working with clients to educate them on what further precautions and services can be provided to prevent outbreaks.”

Some of Emrill’s clients have requested additional human resources at their sites so they can dedicate extra cleaning personnel to high-traffic areas. However, the firm states that the majority of its clients will remain at the same level of resources, and so its challenge is to ensure it is smarter with workload management, enabling it to deliver expanded frequent services using the same number of staff.

She adds: “Onsite, we have seen a significant increase in how much soap is being used. Therefore, we are working to ensure there is always an adequate supply of soap and hand sanitiser within facilities.

“We share all of our recommendations and guidelines with our clients and the communities we serve. We have had a very positive experience with our customers; they want to work with us to ensure their facilities offer the safest environment possible, and they are willing to implement our recommendations. For example, we have replaced some of our traditional cleaning products with disinfectants capable of killing the coronavirus. We have done this at no cost to the client, but we are appreciative that our clients have supported our decisions and are taking steps to become as aware as they can.”

Julie Lee, head of Soft Services at Khansaheb FM, says that as a result of the current situation, there will be a need for specialised training for operatives, supervisors and managers. In addition, the rates of hospital grade cleaning agents, hazmat suits (in the event of an outbreak) and basic personal protective equipment may also skyrocket due to limited supply and high demand.

Ahmad Abublan, MENA general manager Middle East at Kimberly-Clark Professional (KCP), adds that there has been a surge in demand for sanitisers. He says: “All suppliers are facing this unprecedented increase in the demand [for hand sanitizers]. KCP recommends that everyone follow the guidelines recommended by the WHO and the US CDC on the best practices of hand hygiene.”

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May 2020