The D-Teams keeping Austrian workplaces clean during COVID-19

COVID-19 threatened workplaces like nothing before. As decontamination experts, we responded rapidly, deploying specialists to make sure transport systems, supply chains and workplaces were safe – including our Austrian D-Teams and Hygiene Stewards.

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At ISS, we have extensive experience in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, including SARS, Ebola and Swine Flu, particularly at high-risk locations such as airports and healthcare facilities. So, when COVID-19 hit, we already had proven protocols and access to tools, products and personal protective equipment in place.

This led our colleagues in Austria to establish so-called D-Teams: specialist cleaning experts who decontaminate or disinfect buildings if our customers were concerned about an outbreak. Decontamination and disinfection play a key role in preventing the virus spreading as well as ensuring critical services, like transport and supply chains, remain operational.

“We’ve been offering decontamination services at Vienna Airport for several years, including during the Ebola epidemic,” explains Bernd Steinreiber, Cleaning Excellence Manager and co-ordinator of the Austrian D-Teams. “This expertise meant we were able to react quickly to the rapid spread of the coronavirus and prepare for possible Austria-wide decontamination operations.”

Balancing response time, budgets and safety

“We got calls from worried customers, new as well as existing, who wanted our teams on site as quickly as possible to secure their buildings,” explains Bernd. “We worked hard to bring our response time down to 24-hours; at the same time, we also had to ensure the safety of our teams and the quality of our services.”

The supply chain was the first challenge. Cleaning and protection equipment were in high demand and prices were sky rocketing, which meant Bernd and his teams were up against budget constraints and a ticking clock.

Moreover, with new customers, the D-teams were going into buildings they’d never seen. “This brought new challenges, because we didn’t know what we’d need,” says Bernd. “So we had to consider everything we’d expect to encounter, based on our experience, and packed extra equipment to make sure every eventuality was covered.

Boosting teams

When the coronavirus hit the country, ISS Austria had 20 people in their D-Teams. This number quickly increased to 100, thanks to the flexibility of our colleagues and their team spirit.

New D-Team members went through a two-day intensive training programme. Half a day dedicated to cleaning protocols and products; the remaining time was hands-on, taking new colleagues through everything they needed to know do their jobs safely. D-Team members are provided with ongoing refreshers to ensure they are well-equipped to do their jobs.

Stewards of safety

In addition to our D-Team offering in Austria, we have created a new global service: Hygiene Stewards.

As their title suggests, our Hygiene Stewards are ambassadors for workplace and personal hygiene. You may meet them in receptions where they’ll advise on personal hygiene such as regular hand washing. And you’ll see them throughout the building, carrying out inspections and cleaning touchpoints like door handles, desks and printers several times a day.

“Normally, nobody wants to see or hear cleaners in their offices,” reflects Bernd. “We go in early so that we’re gone by the time people start working or go in after they leave. But now it's totally different. Everyone loves seeing our Hygiene Stewards because they know they’re our frontline workers, helping them feel safe and secure at all times.”

Everyone loves seeing our Hygiene Stewards because they know they’re our frontline workers, helping them feel safe and secure at all times.

Bernd Steinreiber, Cleaning Excellence Manager and coordinator of the Austrian D-Teams

Personal hygiene comes first

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many facility managers are considering how to maintain building hygiene and ramp up the frequency of their cleaning to prevent contamination issues and keep their facilities hygienic and safe. We’re doing our outmost to provide the services they need to do so.

However, as Bernd points out, it doesn’t matter how frequently facilities are cleaned if people ignore personal hygiene.

“Every cleaning plan needs to consider how to encourage people to wash their hands regularly and take other personal hygiene precautions. This is something our Hygiene Stewards will continue to support, by sharing knowledge and reminding people what to do to help them feel safer at work.”

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