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It’s easy to criticize an industry while standing outside it looking in; many aspects of facilities management can fall prey to reputations without


an understanding of the context we operate in, and by focussing on offenders rather than judging the industry as a whole. The cleaning sector is subject to a large amount of health and safety legislation from both the European Union and domestic policies. It’s changeable and complex, and for the most part,


entirely necessary – our industry takes health and safety seriously, especially its role in reducing risk in general. The HSE do a fantastic job of providing free and easy-to-read guides on all aspects of health and safety procedure, produced in liaison with the industry to ensure it remains practical and pragmatic.


There are a number of health and safety accreditations provided by the industry’s associations to keep risk at bay, and a wide variety of training on offer. In a recent poll run by an industry blog site, 79% of respondents answered that healthcare cleaners should be qualifi ed, and I agree; health risks aren’t just restricted to healthcare facilities, I would extend this out to the majority of cleaners – clean schools, offi ces and high streets are just as important in preventing the spread of infection. The Building Futures Group, the new merged entity combining Asset Skills, the CSSA and the FMA, will be reviewing and updating its consolidated training offer to ensure that the industry continues to be served well in this regard.


The cleaning industry is a vital player in the prevention of accidents. According to the HSE, most major


it comes to health and safety, example, or an offender?


This is a tough subject to approach, not only because there has been a shift in recent years with health and


safety, but purely because of the contentious nature. I would say that the focus over the last few years has really changed; before, the concern was mainly around working at height and working with machines – other than that, there was no big focus on training and many companies probably fell on the offender’s side purely because it wasn’t seen as a dangerous industry, and there was not much attention paid to the activities around cleaning either.


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I think that this has defi nitely changed now. We are being led by our clients, and that ensures that in many cases we go over and above the requirements in order to get the business, i.e. we are Safe Contractor and CHAS approved due to requirements. The ISO 18001 standard is another recent accreditation focusing on health and safety and that has made companies look at their processes and procedures.


As an industry full of incredibly passionate people, I think the biggest challenge is calming down the ‘can do’ attitude that many of the staff have where they just want to do the work and please their clients and managers. Perhaps this is a cultural thing, which emanates from the amount of foreign workers employed


accidents in the workplace in Great Britain are caused by slips and trips, and in some cases, with high fi nancial costs – one health authority is reported to have lost £92,000 in one year alone. By choosing cleaning contractors who train staff and invest in initiatives like the living wage, rather than awarding contracts based on cost, companies and government departments can end up saving a healthy sum – scrimping on cleaning services, however, can lead to fi nancial and human cost.


Sometimes, however hard you ensure that legislation is followed to create a safe workplace full of well trained operatives, there will always be those who take it upon themselves to work dangerously. We need only look at the Federation of Window Cleaners’ “Idiots On Ladders” competition to see that people will do some outrageous things to cut corners, despite everything you do to stop it from happening!


Sarah Bentley, Chief Executive of Asset Skills


www.assetskills.org


in the industry – perhaps from countries where there isn’t such a big focus on health and safety.


One thing is certain, however, we are certainly a sector who lead by example, with good systems in place, good practices engrained into the minds of our staff, and a constantly evolving set of training programmes which endeavour to keep this to a high standard. Indeed, the risks are far too high to let it drop! Health and safety will always be a consideration, but it isn’t as cut and dry as ‘offender’ or ‘example’ – you have to work at it.


Douglas Cooke, Co-Founder of Principle Cleaning Services


www.principlecleaning.com


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