The right thing

Jeff Hilton, Head of Quality, Health, Environment (QHSE) and Sustainability at ABM UK, highlights how health and safety regimes have evolved to keep up with technology and new innovations.

The perception that health and safety is exclusively about ‘ticking boxes’ is a far cry from the reality of the industry today.

Changing attitudes

At ABM, health and safety values are integrated at the heart of all areas of the business, from HVAC and energy services to critical solutions and cleaning operations. These values are changing as a result of a collaborative ‘one team’ approach to getting the job done. Instead of health and safety being an obstacle to business operations, it allows ABM to take care of its customer’s people, places and spaces, in the safest and most efficient way possible.

When we think of health and safety as a state of mind, we are all more aware of how we can improve our practices every day and keep everyone safe. In response to a new challenge, a common response for an health and safety team 10 years ago was ‘no, this won’t work’. Today, this attitude has evolved into the much more positive response: ‘how can we make this happen?’

What you don’t see

Similar to the cleaning industry, it’s important to reduce the burden on operations and reduce touchpoints to ensure all teams are working efficiently. These operations contribute to the wider society, so standards must be kept high. In public spaces, the aim is that the consumer or client sees as little of the cleaning and health and safety teams as possible – this is the ultimate goal.

Behind the scenes, health and safety and cleaning teams are working seamlessly to ensure sites are cleaned to the best condition and all risks are calculated and managed. For this to run smoothly, collaboration is key. Understanding the needs of the client by having regular planning meetings is paramount in delivering a high-quality service.


New products and technology in the cleaning industry have made the role of health and safety a lot more

straightforward in many instances. For example, cleaning products are not just about a heady mix of water and chemicals – some buildings can now use light technology to kill certain bacteria.

Equipment has also changed over the years with smaller, cordless and compact equipment that can be strapped to a person’s back, reducing the risk of injury to the operative as well as those around them. The benefits of these new innovations – for example a vacuum adapted to make less noise – allows cleaners to work almost invisibly during office hours, reducing interruption to office workers and making daytime cleaning more attractive to the client.

Environmental focus

In the last decade, sustainability has been introduced to core operations and implemented in all areas of businesses. In order for sustainability initiatives to be delivered successfully, health and safety teams need to be aware of the targets and practices in place. By understanding how they can work in compliance with sustainability initiatives, they can also communicate this knowledge through their work to customers and other team members to increase adoption.

Although ABM has introduced the GreenCare customised environmental management programme for buildings, one of the business’ aims will be to focus on ways in which the company can become carbon neutral, and health and safety will be a part of achieving this.

Not only are we doing things right, by the book, we're doing the right thing by adapting to client needs and helping protect the environment – all the while keeping our people safe.

In five years’ time, I’d like to see a positive shift in perceptions of the health and safety industry continue and an even more integrated approach to how it is used in the workplace.


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