housekeeping sector were taught the mantra: ‘Blue for the loo, pink for the sink, red for the bed and green for the screen’.

It’s certainly memorable, but again it’s also clearly at odds with both BICSc’s and the NHS’ protocols. Also, let’s not forget it was hotel cleaning which featured on Channel Four’s Dispatches earlier this year when an agency operative used a single, dirty towel to clean the entire bathroom – including the toilet – to save time.

This episode also brought the whole issue of cross- contamination through poor cleaning practices into the public consciousness, and again highlighted the inconsistency, confusion and importance of the issue.

In response the BCC recently formed an industry-wide working group to look specifically at the colour coding issue. Participants include the aforementioned UKHA and BICSc, alongside representatives from other BCC member associations including the CHSA, the DCA, the WCEC, the AHCP and the CIEH – all of which have a keen professional interest in this area of hygiene.

By gauging views and insights from such a diverse range of industry experts with different perspectives on the subject, the BCC is able to take a helicopter view of the issue and understand how it is more complex than just having a more rigid, universal system of some colour-coded kit matched to different environments.


Paul Thrupp outlines why the BCC is

working towards an official set of colour guidelines for the cleaning industry.

As BCC Chairman and BICSc CEO, Stan Atkins, pointed out at the Manchester Cleaning Show in April, it’s nearly a decade since BICSc refined their simple colour coding system for the cleaning industry which it hoped would be adopted by all.

And while many suppliers and cleaning firms do follow the BICSc guidelines – which nominates blue for general low- risk areas, green for use in food and beverage settings, yellow for clinical, red for general washrooms, white for site-specific, and red and white for sanitary appliances - there are still many variations to be found across the cleaning world.

The most striking example of this is where yellow is assigned for sinks and washrooms – totally at odds with both the BICSc system, and the approach taken by the NHS.

Further, as recently pointed out to the BCC by Council member Delia Cannings from the United Kingdom Housekeepers Association (UKHA), many who work in the hospitality and


For example, some colleagues felt that more pieces of equipment should be colour coded, extending beyond the usual list of mops, buckets, cloths, brushes and dustpans etc. to include plastic gloves and sponge scourers. Others raised the issue of introducing new colours, or additional striped patterns, for different facility-specific settings.

Whether spray bottles and chemicals should follow a parallel colour coding regime came up, as did the question of having coloured product containers and caps. Another hot topic was the trade-off between using disposable cloths and gloves in high-risk areas and the obvious environmental and financial impact this could potentially have.

All of this then brought us round to other questions regarding how we work with manufacturers to embed any such industry-wide code into to the whole supply chain, and how do we ensure everyone sticks to such new guidelines.

Then there was the issue of training, and the question of how do we go beyond glossy wallcharts and downloadable leaflets to get the message across to managers, supervisors and operatives. And how do we ensure everyone understands not only what the system is, but why it really matters?

There will be more to come on this, and the BCC will continue to update the sector on our progress. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your views on the issue and you can contact us with your thoughts, ideas and suggestions via our website.

Between all of us, I’m sure we can crack the colour code, so we look forward to hearing from you.

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