Make the Frontline Shine

Categories: Innovations, Trends & Technology

By Will Reed | April 7, 2015 << Back to Articles Make the Frontline Shine

I attend a lot of trade shows. As an ISSA employee, I spend a good amount of time representing the industry and speaking with our members at events such as NFMT, BOMA, APPA, and IFMA—and the list goes on. One of the questions I hear most often is, “How can help train frontline cleaning professionals?”

The safety of facility occupants is among the chief concerns of building service contractors and in-house service providers. Many employees are operating large equipment or using chemicals that can be dangerous if not used properly. Even something as basic as replacing paper towels can pose a risk. Take, for example, a 5-foot-1-inch employee who cannot reach the top of a dispenser and chooses to stand on a bucket (on the just-washed floor) to reach the lock at the top of the dispenser. Our frontline staffs are put in potentially dangerous situations on a daily basis and without proper training; this can pose a liability to an employee’s health as well as to their employer.

Let’s be frank. Frontline cleaning professionals are the core of our industry; they are the people responsible for cleaning our schools, universities, hospitals, long-term care facilities, businesses, restaurants, and entertainment venues. If these professionals do not receive proper training, we cannot expect to have healthy environments. The demand is there for a reason, but how can we keep workers educated when we are battling monsters such as low budgets and high worker turnover rates? How can we ensure that our cleaning professionals are not only trained on general safety and hazard communications, but also on the job they were hired to do, whether it’s cleaning restrooms, classrooms, or hospital patient rooms?

Industrywide Input
After attending trade show after trade show and hearing from the community, we at ISSA wanted to address this need for truly effective training. To determine the best course of action, I met with three separate committees of industry experts from building service contractors, in-house service providers, and distributors. We all recognized that there are many existing training programs out there, but many are likely trying to sell you a product rather than actually train your staff.

Working with the committees, ISSA determined the best course of action was to develop the Cleaning Industry Training Standard (CITS), a tool that measures the quality of existing training programs and verifies the programs that adhere to a strict set of standards. A complete list of verified training programs is available at After completing one of these courses, cleaning staffs will receive certifications in various categories (e.g., general safety, hazard communication, hard floor care, restroom care, etc.).

In addition, ISSA developed CITS Cleaning 101, which serves as a prerequisite for the Advanced Pro courses described above. The Cleaning 101 Study Guide covers the core principles of the cleaning industry that everyone in the industry should know, such as the importance of personal protective equipment, ground rules while on the job, and the typical day of a cleaning professional. Available in English, Spanish, French, and Polish, the guide is intended to prepare industry professionals for an online exam that results in a certification upon successful completion. Once certified, the employee receives a certificate and a wallet-sized card that can be shown to clients at any time. Perhaps the best part is that the study guide is free with your ISSA membership. The exam itself costs US$5 per student, and discounts are available for exams purchased in bulk.

Certified Trainers
ISSA’s third-party verifiers have already verified training programs in 10 different categories. These courses are taught by Accredited Certification Trainers to ensure that each cleaning professional has a trainer that is well-versed in adult learning principles and the latest in instructional methods. In the future, CITS will even be able to verify training centers―physical spaces dedicated to the training of cleaning professionals.

ISSA has heard your demand for verified training sources and we are certain that the Cleaning Industry Training Standard will not only help keep your staff well-trained and safe, but also pave the way to transform custodial work from simply a job into a truly respected profession.

About the Author.

Will Reed is ISSA's Education and Training Manager. He can be reached at [email protected].