In the middle of a pandemic, the best thing you can probably do is to maintain the highest levels of cleaning and sanitation. However, in a facility as crowded as a shopping mall, this is easier said than done. Eng. Mohammed Rashid Al Hilaly, Senior Operations Manager, Dalma Mall, Abu Dhabi, talks about maintaining mall hygiene in such trying times.
Dalma Mall is the one of the most popular malls in the city of Abu Dhabi, with thousands of customers visiting the mall daily. Ensuring the disinfection of so many areas is critical to ensure the mall remains clean to eliminate the possibility of the spread of COVID-19.
General cleaning actions
Dalma Mall was one of the first malls that executed an extensive cleaning method as soon as the pandemic began being aired on the news around the globe. All areas of the mall have undergone a comprehensive cleaning, with a focus on those areas that come into contact with customers, including elevators, door handles, escalators, etc.
We are making sure all areas of the mall are thoroughly deep cleaned and disinfected during closing hours and make it fully ready and safe to welcome our visitors next day. During trading hours, our focus is primarily on disinfection of all touch points and to carry out spot cleaning while also ensuring it won’t be inconvenient for or disrupt our visitors. Our disinfection drive during mall trading hours starts right from the entrances itself where the customers pass through the germ killing gateway or tunnel.
Peak hour cleaning
In addition to this, our disinfection crew members are constantly on the move across all common areas during trading hours, ensuring that all potential touch points are repeatedly disinfected. This is done by observing customer movements to avoid inconvenience and to keep safe distance while performing the disinfection job.
Shopping trolleys are being disinfected and kept ready at the collection points to avoid a gathering of waiting customers. Also, all touch points are cleaned even when no customer is present (lifts, ATMs, digital directories, customer service counters, toilet etc).
In case of high traffic at a particular location where the disinfection frequency is due, our operations team makes necessary diversions without affecting the traffic flow to allow the cleaning team to perform the disinfection job quickly.
Dalma Mall is proud to say that has put in place multiple precautionary measures, including steps above and beyond those required by the authorities, to ensure that our staff and customers have the best chance of remaining healthy and safe.
These steps include:
• The installation of thermal cameras at all mall entrances.
• Allowing multi-point entry into the mall, using five out of fifteen entrances to avoid
• Congestion at any one point while ensuring all visitors are screened by thermal cameras.
• All entrances of the mall have fully operational germ killing gateways that disinfect customers in 5 seconds using a special misting spray.
• Over 200 hand sanitizers have been placed around the mall at critical points, including inside & outside the mall elevator, customer service desks, common areas, food courts, etc.
• Permanent distance stickers have been placed throughout the mall common areas to remind our customers to maintain social distancing. We also have stickers in the elevators to ensure they don’t become overcrowded.
• All housekeeping staff go through a hygiene and health check daily, including temperature checks. They are also required to wear PPE such as mask and gloves at all times.
• The housekeeping team always ensures that it sanitizes the entire mall, especially at contact points like lift buttons, door handles, etc.
These are the major steps taken, but there are many others as well.
The new challenges
The challenges we are currently facing in disinfecting the entire mall can be summarized in the following points:
• Sourcing of materials
As we are ensuring the chemicals and other hygiene materials being used in the mall are ones that meet local and international standards, their sourcing is proving to be quite a challenge. Due to the worldwide logistics delays during the pandemic situation, the suppliers may be unable to deliver the materials on time.
Prior to the effect of COVID-19 in the market, we foresaw this logistical crisis and multiplied our inventory from the available stocks in the market. This arrangement boosted cost effectiveness and gave us ample time to plan materials orders for the months ahead.
• Maintaining germ free environment
As the current situation demands extra measures to make the mall environment fully safe to welcome our visitors, we have introduced stringent housekeeping activities with revised cleaning and sanitization schedules which covers with multilayer methodologies and use of high quality disinfectant chemicals.
• Proper application
It is the first time situation we have seen challenges in specialized cleaning applications and proper use of chemicals. To overcome this, we arranged various training sessions for the housekeeping team for specialized cleaning & disinfection and revised the SOPs.
• Instilling confidence in customers
By going the extra mile to make the mall environment fully safe and secure, we instill confidence in our valuable customers. For this, we demonstrate the best practices in the industry and make sure our visitors can visually experience the extra measures are being taken by the mall such as germs killing tunnels, hand sanitizer dispensers installed across all common areas, frequent spot cleaning and disinfection of all touch points and hygiene areas by a specialized team, public awareness screens and messages, sanitizing shopping trolleys, issuing safety protocols to the retailers and ensuring strict adherence, providing PPEs to the visitors etc.
It is very important to educate all the retailers and making sure they are following safety measures in accordance with mall requirements. We have developed safety protocols and Do’s and Don’ts for the retailers. Our operations inspectors check their compliance on a daily basis.
New technologies in place
Dalma Mall is always looking for new technologies that will help improve the cleaning and sanitation of the mall. One recent technology we have implemented is the Escalator Handrail Sanitization System that continuously sanitizes the handrail of the escalator. It is environmentally friendly, kills 99.99% of all germs and has helped keep the handrails safe for our customers.
• Checking every visitor for signs and symptoms of flu.
• Disinfecting every hotspot after regular intervals.
• Maintaining in-store hygiene.
• Promoting awareness among visitors for the new measures in place.
About the Author:
Eng. Mohamed Al Hilaly is an experienced Operations & FM Senior manager who has demonstrated strong business development skills in his history of working in the Operations & Facilities management industry. The 11 years he has spent in the industry was spent working between the UK & UAE. After working in Etisalat for several years, he moved to Dalma Mall in Abu Dhabi in the capacity of a Sr. Operations Manager where he is responsible for personnel development, coordination, and overseeing the execution of tasks and projects in all aspects of operations. This would include housekeeping, security, hard service and all other services throughout the mall. He is also a member of a number of professional associations including IWFM (Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management), IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) both in the UK & IFMA (International Facility Management Association) in the US.