Ralph Williams, a carpenter with the Allegheny County Airport Authority, applies an antimicrobial microfilm to poles in the people mover at Pittsburgh International Airport recently. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Safer Travels: PIT Receives International Accreditation for Cleanliness

Pittsburgh International Airport has been recognized by an international trade association for its commitment to increasing public health and safety.

On March 22, the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) awarded PIT its STAR Facility accreditation, the “gold standard” for cleaning and disease prevention in public facilities. GBAC is a division of ISSA, the leading trade association for the cleaning industry worldwide.

The accreditation complements PIT’s comprehensive Safe Travels program, which was introduced in May 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Safe Travels enhanced existing health and safety measures at the airport while increasing confidence in air travel.

“We are proud of the ongoing dedication of our team and partners in implementing industry best practices and innovations that enhance the cleanliness, safety and efficiency of our facilities,” said Kevin Gurchak, the airport’s Director of Environmental and Workplace Safety. “PIT is already a leader in our commitment to improving public health, and that’s why we wanted to pursue this accreditation.”

Rose Reed of cleaning service ISS disinfects escalator handrails, a high-touchpoint surface, at Pittsburgh International Airport. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

‘Gold standard’ of facility preparation

Hundreds of facilities around the world have been GBAC STAR-accredited, including professional sports stadiums, convention centers, resorts and concert venues. About 40 airports have received certification from GBAC, including PIT.

GBAC grants STAR accreditation when a facility has established and maintained a rigorous cleaning and disease prevention program that reduces the spread of infectious agents, such as COVID-19. Facilities that are STAR-approved demonstrate work practices, procedures and systems to prepare, respond and recover from outbreaks and pandemics.

STAR accreditation also relies on training provided by GBAC, including proper cleaning and disinfection techniques that eliminate viruses.

To receive approval for STAR, a facility must go through an extensive certification process in which procedures for cleanliness and disinfection are established and aligned with local, state and federal health requirements. A timeline details when each objective is to be met.

Employees receive proper training on disease prevention practices, such as frequent disinfection of common-touch surfaces. Emergency procedures are established to prepare staff and ensure proper response techniques to health crises.

A total of 20 specific criteria must be met for a facility to receive STAR accreditation.

Once certified, a facility is continuously monitored to ensure it is adhering to all guidelines necessary to keep its GBAC STAR status. Documented inspections take place on a weekly and monthly basis.

PIT isn’t resting on its accredited laurels, however. Efforts continue to find innovative methods that make the facilities safer, such as an anti-microbial film being installed in several locations that reduces the spread of infection by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew, and other contaminants.

A dedicated team will ensure that all objectives for GBAC STAR continue to be met, said Gurchak.

“This is an endeavor that requires ongoing commitment by our team,” he said. “We are pleased to receive this initial accreditation, as it confirms that our practices and procedures are in line with the best in the industry. We look forward to continuous improvement throughout our facilities.”

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