When it comes to safety and compliance, who should be setting the standard? Paul Thrupp considers the complex web of accreditation schemes which prevail in the cleaning sector.

In case you weren’t aware, the British Cleaning Council (BCC) was established in 1982 and today our membership consists of over 20 trade and membership associations which are all linked to the cleaning and hygiene professions.

Our Council members cover services from contract cleaning to waste management, pest control to housekeeping, training providers to machine manufacturers, chemical suppliers to wheelie-bin washers – and as the BCC, we are keen that best practice and quality assurance is evident across all our membership.

That is why promoting cleaning standards and high-quality accreditation schemes are important aspects of what we do, and why we do it. As a guarantee of service, it is essential that a base requirement and minimum standards are set.

As an example, any cleaning contract should be designed around a contract specification, schedule and frequency of works, and agreed levels of cleanliness.

Currently within the industry we have a number of standards including the NHS guidelines which are strictly followed and enforced in the healthcare sector, whilst various local councils refer to Building Maintenance Schedules.

The ISSA has introduced CIMS, whilst generally in the commercial sector BICSc (a BCC member) has developed a suite of robust standards which are deployed and referred to extensively.

I personally would like to see all BCC members – and the wider cleaning industry – adopt the BICSc standards to ensure they become embedded across the sector. Such a move would give everyone a clear benchmark of what an effective cleaning regime looks like, and create a minimum set of guidelines which everyone can follow.

Sticking with the theme of compliance and standardisation, I am also continually amazed at


"As a guarantee of service, it is essential that a

base requirement and minimum

standards are set."

the dizzying number of health and safety schemes that our industry is required to embrace.

These vary greatly in terms of complexity, rigour and cost, yet at the end of the day they appear generally the same in terms of being independent accreditation schemes which ensure compliance with often fairly basic health and safety, environmental and quality standards.

As many organisations undertake a variety of cleaning, hygiene and FM tasks, they can find themselves required to be compliant with numerous different schemes. This can be both costly and labour intensive, taking up a significant amount of time in applications, assessments, audits and renewals.

Going forward I would like to see more flexibility regarding accreditation, and where credible schemes are, in effect, very similar to each other that holding one is sufficient to be deemed compliant with the other.

Another way to reduce the number of accredited schemes a supplier is tied to is through changes to procurement practices. As an example, the FWC (Federation of Window Cleaners) – which I also represent – has been in a dialogue with another BCC member BACHE (British Association for Cleaning in Higher Education) to highlight the specific window cleaning standards which make up the FWC’s Safety Accreditation Scheme (SAM).

This is with the expectation that BACHE members will see the benefits in making the SAM scheme a standard requirement in any window cleaning tendering process, making the need for compliance with other additional, more generic safety accreditation schemes redundant.

I believe both the SAM and BICSc schemes demonstrate how credible, focused and industry-led accreditation schemes, developed by suppliers in partnership with industry, is the way forward for our sector, and that a suite of ‘gold standard’ schemes designed to meet client needs would both improve levels of service, safety and efficiency for clients.

It would also save those of us delivering the services substantial amounts of time and money, meaning we can invest more resources on developing our staff and improving our services.

The BCC is well placed to help promote this direction of travel, but it will also need the buy-in of contractors and suppliers to make it happen.

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