A Look at GBAC and Its Rising Cachet
You’ve likely seen the GBAC acronym for years now and have seen it much more often during the last year as the cleaning industry and world struggle to contain an infectious disease. However, you might not know much about the association—what it does, why it is important, and how it can help your company.
The Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC)™, a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, helps industry professionals prepare for, respond to, and recover from biorisk situations. To help us understand GBAC better, we met with Patricia Olinger and Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, executive director and director of GBAC, respectively, and asked some questions being asked by the global cleaning industry.
Who is behind the Global Biorisk Advisory Council?
We are a group of passionate people who realize it takes a team to help anyone—be it an organization or a business of any size—to be prepared for, respond to, and recover from biological threats, biohazard situations, and real-time crises.
We offer response management, education, training, certification, and crisis consulting for situations involving biological hazards and infectious diseases where environments require a much higher level of cleaning, disinfection, and restoration.
The two of us lead GBAC, along with Jeff Jones, who is known throughout the industry as the founder of forensic restoration, and we are backed by a scientific advisory board made up of experts from across the spectrum of biorisk cleaning specialties.
Why is the team’s mission so important?
Increases in population growth and mobility have enhanced infectious disease transmission and intensified the difficulty of interrupting disease spread. Control of viral disease spread requires a clear understanding of how viruses are transmitted in the environment.
For centuries, people assumed infectious diseases were spread primarily by the airborne route or through direct patient contact and that the surrounding environment played little or no role in disease transmission. Until 1987, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Hospital Association focused on patient diagnosis due to the belief that hospital-acquired infections were not related to microbial contamination of surfaces.
Over the years, studies have changed the perspective on viral transmission. Viruses are the most common cause of infectious disease acquired indoors. The rapid spread of viral disease in crowded indoor establishments, including schools, daycare facilities, nursing homes, offices, and hospitals consistently facilitates disease infection, illness, and death. Yet, fundamental knowledge concerning the role of surfaces and objects in viral disease transmission is lacking, let alone knowledge of all microbial disease transmission. Further investigation, therefore, is needed.
How is GBAC helping make spaces safe from infectious diseases like COVID-19?
We understand that infectious diseases involve actual loss and threat of significant harm to innocent communities where people get sick, lose income, and suffer emotionally. Our team works with industry organizations to prioritize a high quality of work and a compassionate recovery approach to ensure a comprehensive cleaning, disinfection, and infection-prevention process:
Prepare: We help organizations prepare and provide staff with education and training for infectious disease prevention and containment.
Respond: We provide education and training on how to conduct risk assessments and contain, monitor, and eradicate infectious disease agents to protect a facility’s customers, visitors, employees, and the community at large.
Recover: We help develop and implement recovery plans to get facilities reopened confidently and safely, with particular attention paid to preventing future crises.
How does GBAC help the industry?
Supporting the cleaning industry is our highest priority. We’re here to help fill gaps in knowledge and training. Right now, we are doing this through three programs.
Most important to the restoration industry is the GBAC STAR Service Accreditation. This program certifies cleaning service providers’ preparedness for helping their customers as highly informed cleaning professionals. We ensure providers are trained for combating infectious diseases using appropriate cleaning protocols, disinfection techniques, and work practices.
The GBAC Academy provides education, training, and certification for professionals—from front-line workers to managers, directors, and executives—to implement infection and contamination control measures for infectious disease outbreaks such as COVID-19, flu, norovirus, hepatitis, rhinovirus, adenovirus, astrovirus, rotavirus, etc.
We also offer GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation, which certifies a facility staff has established and is implementing and maintaining the industry’s highest standards for cleaning and disinfection of infectious disease agents and are empowered to do their jobs safely and effectively. Some notable GBAC STAR accredited facilities include Hyatt hotels, the Kentucky International Convention Center, and the Tucson Airport.
How does GBAC STAR affect the cleaning industry?
GBAC is a qualified network of experts and partners who are prepared to respond to any event involving an infectious disease crisis. The council is composed of international leaders in the fields of:
- Pandemic and infectious disease outbreaks
- Biorisk management
- Biosafety and biosecurity
- Crime and trauma scenes
- Hoarding conditions and unsanitary dwellings
- Unattended deaths
- Bioterrorism and the deliberate release of bacteria, viruses, insects, fungi, or toxins that can kill or disable people, animals, and crops
- Mass casualty incidents that include active shooter situations, terrorist acts, explosions, natural disasters, vehicle accidents, and mass transit mishaps (planes, trains, ships, buses).
What is the primary goal for 2021?
We like to refer to this as a BHAG, or “big hairy audacious goal.” Google it—this is a real term.
Our aim in 2021 is to offer the entire cleaning industry resources to ensure buildings are clean and safe from infectious diseases. The GBAC team is looking to achieve this by empowering essential front-line cleaning staff; building partnerships with businesses that provide cleaning, disinfection, and restoration services to residential and commercial markets; and leveraging the resources for education and training from manufacturers of cleaning products and cleaning equipment.
Infection prevention through cleaning and disinfection is a requirement now and will remain critical in ensuring our buildings are healthy and safe for all. GBAC can help the cleaning industry—and your company—do just that, now and into the future.
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February 21, 2023