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Washrooms and cleaning challenges

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With scores of arriving and departing passengers keen to use the nearest washroom at the same time, housekeeping in airport washrooms is a daily challenge. Raghav Kapur, Vice-President, SILA shares his expert insights on this and more.

Each site has its own set of challenges which deserve their own set of SOPs. These challenges are assessed and SOPs are developed during the one-or-two week transition period after we are given charge of the site, when we are setting up.

Survey at the site

Prior to applying for the housekeeping tender of a major Indian airport, we conducted a survey for the FM requirements of the land-side of the facility (as opposed to the air-side). This included all external sections of the airport, their total area, the frequency of cleaning required, the type of machines that would be needed, the manpower needed to operate them as well as the required skill set of the manpower in each area.

We did a time and motion study to track trends and footfall. After the morning’s peak footfall at airports, there is a slight dip between 11.30 am and 4 pm, when cleaning becomes easier; we can also plan an overlap between shifts.

Apart from this, we also had to consider the pick-up and drop-off points of all employees in our staff buses, and how to serve them lunch while they were on the job.

Airport washroom maintenance

Washroom maintenance in India tends to be manual and overwhelming reactive. By using IoT sensors to detect when soap dispensers need to be refilled, for example, proactive maintenance can be done. Technology such as this has enabled washrooms in certain international airports to be unmanned.

In India, we do use odour meters in airport washrooms to detect when odour levels cross acceptable levels, and footfall counters to indicate the number of people who have used the washroom. In terms of equipment, we use steam cleaners, wet and dry vacuums and biodegradable chemicals.

Physical checklists vs digital checklists

Conventional paper checklists need to be filled in every hour; ‘blind’ ticking tends to happen. A supervisor may tick off multiple checks in one go. There is no way to verify physical checklists, and if the washroom was cleaned in the specified interval. If a complaint is raised later, there is no way to check the cleanliness status of the washroom at that point in time.

We use technology to get live updates. In digital checklists, pictures of the site need to be uploaded, which have a time-stamp. One can go back in time to see how a washroom looked at a particular moment; monitoring becomes easy and reliable.

Tech to optimise cleaning

In the early days of the pandemic, everyone had a list of high-touch points inside and outside washrooms, which needed to be sanitised constantly. Now, there are anti-viral coatings available, with efficacy guaranteed for 365 days, that eliminate the need for constant sanitisation.

Air-side cleaning

The air-side area of an airport is much more vast than the land-side area. Since this area witnesses movements of aircraft and ground vehicles, there are restrictions on where and where not to work, and when. Our staff are trained for this; we use ride-on sweepers, scrubbers and jet sprays to clean this part of the airport.

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