The British Cleaning Council and members write monthly columns for both Cleaning and Maintenance and Tomorrow’s Cleaning magazines. You can read the most recent columns below.
To read the columns as the originally appeared, please visit https://cleaningmag.com/issues and https://www.tomorrowscleaning.com/back-issues-2020
Technology to be topical at this month’s virtual event
By Jim Melvin, Deputy Chairman, British Cleaning Council
(This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in October)
The role of innovation in producing advanced cleaning and hygiene technology to assist in protecting people from Coronavirus is sure to be one of the most interesting topics at the virtual conference and exhibition which sadly replaced the Manchester Cleaning Show, and which takes place this month.
The continuation of, and concerns from, Coronavirus are significantly increasing the demand for cleaning robots and co-bots, which are designed to work with humans.
This pandemic has put the spotlight on cleanliness and hygiene in a way I’ve rarely seen within my career in the business.
Higher standards, visibility and transparency within cleaning are being implemented across the world in order to reassure people that it is safe to go about their daily lives.
Cleaning robots and co-bots are playing an important role in achieving that with a few examples that spring to mind:
- Luton Airport has introduced innovative robotic cleaning and sanitising equipment into its daily cleaning operations
- Walmart, America’s biggest retailer, is using robots to clean floors
- A Danish firm making ultraviolet-light-disinfection robots has shipped hundreds of its machines to hospitals around the globe
Rather than replacing people, robots are often being used in addition to the human workforce to help reach the standards required. The collaboration can work in a number of ways:
- Floor-cleaning robots free up cleaning operatives to concentrate on touch points
- In hospitals, UV rays produced by robots are making certain that places cleaned by human workers are as germ-free as possible
- Robots are being used to help provide highly visible daytime cleaning
Whilst there will continue to be a place for cleaning and hygiene operatives as people always like to deal with other people, we could finally be seeing the rise of the robots which has been predicted for years.
The pandemic could prove to be a tipping point after which cleaning robots and co-bots become commonplace, working alongside their human colleagues.
The role of technology is one of the subjects covered in the recorded presentations which are part of the package this month’s virtual conference and exhibition offers.
The presentations feature expert industry figures and high-profile business leaders discussing a wide range of topics which are relevant to everyone from within the cleaning and hygiene sector.
National and international exhibitors will include some of the world’s biggest and most innovative cleaning and hygiene suppliers.
The event will showcase the vital work our sector has played in tackling Coronavirus and highlight how the industry can continue to support the economy to reopen safely.
All told, it should be a fascinating, unmissable occasion for anyone working in or connected to the cleaning and hygiene industry.
Of course, we would have preferred to have been able to go-ahead with the physical event and everyone withing the British Cleaning Council was sad to have to postpone the Manchester Cleaning Show until September 2021 but it was undoubtedly the right course of action.
We had hoped the local lockdown in Manchester might have been lifted this month. Instead, and understandably, the Government introduced new restrictions in response to the alarming increase in infections. In those circumstances, the health and well-being of attendees and staff will always be number one.
I have to apologise to anyone who has been inconvenienced by this decision but I’m sure they will agree that this was the only sensible thing to do.
Let’s get together – virtually
By Paul Thrupp, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC)
(This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in October)
When you read this column, it will only be a week or two until the dates that this year’s Manchester Cleaning Show should have taken place.
It was with immense regret that the British Cleaning Council’s Exhibitions Board decided to postpone the event until next September but it was clearly the right course of action.
We have always put the health and safety of our exhibitors and visitors first and will continue to do so.
With the local lockdown still in place in Manchester and the Government introducing the ‘rule of six’ as it tightened the national lockdown, we felt we had little choice. One of the key attractions of the show is people being able to meet in person and talk face-to-face, but that is also a risk factor for the virus.
Of course, we had already postponed the show earlier this year – it should originally have taken place in March.
This demonstrates the huge upheaval and uncertainty that the pandemic has brought – with trade and business events being only one of the many sectors that are facing unprecedented challenges.
We have to hope that by September 2021 we will be able to operate freely, without the threat of Coronavirus hanging over us. It will be wonderful to mingle and mix normally at a physical event, like we used to in previous years, without having to worry about social distancing.
I have to thank all the exhibitors, visitors and speakers who were expecting to take part in the Manchester Cleaning Show this month for their continued support and patience during these exceptional events.
In the meantime, I am asking everyone in the cleaning and hygiene sector to support the virtual conference and exhibition which is being run instead of this year’s Manchester Cleaning Show.
This is an event for all of us in the industry and it will have so much to offer that it should be unmissable for exhibitors and for anyone connected in any way to the cleaning industry.
It will showcase the vital role our sector has played in tackling Coronavirus and highlight how the industry can continue to support the economy to reopen safely. This is a chance to celebrate that contribution and say thanks to the dedicated and brave operatives who were at the heart of it.
There are some big names taking part, including national and international exhibitors and a fantastic, free selection of recorded talks.
The exhibitors will include some of the world’s biggest and most innovative cleaning and hygiene firms.
The programme of recorded presentations will feature expert industry figures and high-profile business leaders offering insights into a wide range of cleaning and hygiene topics, so there is plenty on offer to interest anyone from the cleaning and hygiene sector and you can access all this in one place.
The impact of Covid-19 will be a key focus for the event, with topics such as how technology can be used to protect from the virus and what lessons can be learned from a cleaning contractor point of view.
But the wide-ranging seminars include all sorts of informative topics relevant to colleagues working in the cleaning and hygiene sector, from hiring equipment to training and assessment.
The technology being used to stage this virtual event is exciting and innovative. Exhibitors will have a virtual booth which you will be able to visit, you’ll be able to interact with them and watch the recorded seminars, so it will be as close to a physical event as you could possibly get while sitting at your computer.
So I am inviting readers to attend this fantastic virtual exhibition and conference and encouraging exhibitors to take part.
We must hope that by September 2021, when the show returns, the threat of Coronavirus will be behind us. It will be a pleasure to meet people in person, catch up on news and discuss business face-to-face, all of which are such an integral part of the Manchester Cleaning Show.
Cleaning contractor industry and staff rise to the challenge of Coronavirus
By Jim Melvin, Deputy Chairman, British Cleaning Council (BCC) and Group CEO, Exclusive Contract Services
(This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in September)
Like the rest of the UK’s economy, cleaning contractors and staff have been understandably rocked by the impact of Coronavirus and in my own opinion, reacted extremely well.
Our cleaning and hygiene operatives have faced an unbelievably difficult and fearful time responding both bravely and magnificently.
As a people industry, the priority across the sector during this unprecedented pandemic has been to support, train and protect our teams in order to be in a position to successfully assist our clients.
In very difficult circumstances for our supply chain, staff have generally received the correct levels of PPE throughout the crisis and companies have ensured teams followed the correct procedures throughout, whilst both advice and instructions changed frequently.
Good internal communications have been key throughout and have been deployed by cleaning companies across the sector.
At Exclusive, for example, we introduced Zoom coffee breaks and daily team catch ups, quizzes, racing and photography events, virtual wine tasting sessions, staff thank you videos, special awards and other initiatives to support morale.
Cleaning operatives throughout the sector are being asked to focus on new tasks while needing to be satisfied that their safety and wellbeing is protected which demands information, advice and training as the morale and wellbeing of operatives remains a fundamental consideration. It is primary in my view to be able to demonstrate staff help and assistance quickly where required.
Concerns raised by colleagues included being stopped by the police on their way to work early/late at night. In response, we issued letters from the company and clients to show officers if required, which they were.
Regular weekly and monthly communication with staff has resulted in furloughed colleagues being more informed and willing to return to work when asked, though some have been understandably nervous.
Another significant challenge cleaning contractors have faced has been being agile to meet the changing needs of clients. Clients want to do the best they can, accepting they have the same financial and people issues. We are seeing clients revise, change and improve specifications for cleaning operatives to complete additional or focused tasks, such as ensuring touch points are clean, employing additional numbers or day staff and, in certain sectors, providing 24-hour cleaning.
A significant number of clients have also committed to incumbent suppliers for an extended contract period which I hope is recognition of the excellent job contractors and staff have done.
Nevertheless, the future is uncertain with the economy in severe difficulty. Whilst clients and companies will have contingency plans, many workplaces are closed or have a reduced workforce within buildings which obviously impacts on the demand for our services.
Many staff in the sector are furloughed until the end of October and it remains to be seen what happens when the Job Retention Scheme ends. I sadly don’t believe that the new £1k Retention Bonus will make the difference that we had hoped.
However, I do think in the longer term, the future for the cleaning and hygiene sector will be positive. As a result of this horrible, indiscriminate pandemic, more people openly recognise how important professional cleaning and hygiene is.
In tragic circumstances, the industry has never had a better opportunity to showcase that it is well-managed, well-operated with cleaning operatives who care about their work. Staff have evidenced this every day during the crisis, with operatives having been praised by the Prime Minister, Leader of The Opposition and other politicians and celebrities. It has been both deserved and welcomed as a start point.
Through associations such as the Cleaning and Support Services Association (CSSA) and the BCC, the industry continues to seek recognition from Government and to drive the further development and knowledge of cleaning operatives. This will be vital as the economy recovers.
I sincerely hope that the demand for cleaning and hygiene services will strengthen as I genuinely believe that people will remember how we behaved throughout this crisis.
Time to strike back against the litter louts
By Paul Thrupp, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC)
(This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in September)
I’m not sure if you noticed but I certainly saw a great reduction in the amount of rubbish littering our streets and parks during the initial phases of lockdown. The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and the UK was looking at its very best.
However, since the easing of the Coronavirus lockdown, things have changed for the worse, and a different kind of epidemic has hit our streets, beaches, and beauty spots.
There has been a huge increase in anti-social littering and rubbish left by visitors at tourist destinations across the UK, which has shocked and appalled many. The crowds which have flocked outdoors to enjoy sunny weather have often left a total mess behind them, which in some places has even included bodily fluids and personal items. As an example, the trash left behind at Bournemouth and Durdle Door in Dorset in June were disgusting.
The same appalling situation happened during the August heatwave, with cans, plastic bags, and overflowing bins from Brighton to Cleethorpes.
Councils urged tourists to take their rubbish home without much success and, after collecting more refuse in a single day than ever before, Brighton Council threated that anyone who left litter on the beach would be served an on-the-spot fine – quite right!
It is not just beaches – litter and rubbish has also spoiled parks and the countryside too. Local people have complained about the trash left behind by tourists in the Lake District, at Loch Lomond and in the Trossachs.
Littering causes so many problems. It is a horrible eyesore and costs a small fortune to clear up. It also poses a massive threat to wildlife and the environment, and birds and other animals can mistakenly eat discarded cigarette butts or get tangled up in plastic bags, and rubbish, of course, also pollutes the sea.
Litter has also caused several wildfires. A glass bottle dumped in the sunlight caused a fire which destroyed 14,000 square metres of forest in Norfolk.
A new form of litter is carelessly discarded PPE, which is making matters worse. There have been numerous reports of PPE being discarded and in a one hour-long litter-pick in Cornwall, 171 items of PPE including face masks and gloves were collected.
These items are there to protect us and others and discarding them in this way puts everyone at risk.
Such selfish and careless behaviour is infuriating and depressing. Contrast it then with the selfless and community-spirited actions of the masses of volunteers who give up their free time to pick up rubbish and litter in their local areas during the year.
There are an estimated 2,000 litter-picking groups in the UK, covering beaches, parks, canals, and countryside. By one estimate, 100,000 volunteers litter-pick across the UK in the course of a week.
We will see a huge number of these public-spirited people in action during Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British September Clean, which takes place from 11 – 27 September. This event replaced the regular spring clean, which was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
More than 680,000 volunteers promised to take part in the spring event. It is hoped that similar numbers sign up for the rescheduled clean up.
It is easy to take part. You can organise a litter pick with a few others (subject to social-distancing guidelines) or do it on your own, perhaps while walking the dog or going to school. You can give up as little as 15 minutes – it all makes a difference.
Pledge your support or find out if any picks are happening in your local area at keepbritaintidy.org. You can keep up to date with the campaign on Twitter at #litterheroes
So, if you can spare a few minutes, join in with the Great British September Clean. Let us help the litter heroes defeat the litter louts.
New guide aims to clear the fog around cleaning and hygiene terms
By Paul Thrupp, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC)
(This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in August)
The Coronavirus pandemic has sparked a huge demand for cleaning and hygiene services and products and the public’s interest is at the highest level I’ve seen in over 40 years in the industry with everyone is looking for the product or service which will stop Coronavirus in its tracks.
Many new entities have sprung up, all aiming to capitalise on the public’s fears by offering cleaning products and services and, as an example, these include a lot of new businesses offering deep cleaning services which have appeared since the outbreak began.
In a similar way, a lot of businesses all over the world have started making hand-sanitiser to meet public demand, with even some distilleries and breweries bidding for a share of the hand-sanitiser market which is reportedly set to soar in value to $3.65bn by 2025.
In last month’s column, I also warned that you should be careful that you do not engage some of the underhand profiteers who are offering products that don’t do what they claim.
These unscrupulous people try to take advantage of a certain level of confusion outside the cleaning and hygiene industry about what is really needed in terms of cleaning and disinfecting to ensure people stay safe and well during this pandemic.
People are being bombarded by stories and adverts on social media and the web generally, in newspapers, radio and TV and through all sorts of marketing, all aimed at getting them to buy cleaning and hygiene services and products.
Some of these are promoting products like ‘fogging’, ‘misting’, ‘spraying’, ‘fumigation’ and even ‘bug-bombing’, terms which people outside the sector don’t always understand, with the result that they waste their money or get an ineffective result.
Sometimes even those buying cleaning services in commercial environments aren’t sure what to require in terms of chemicals, materials or equipment, and as a result, many businesses, organisation and individuals have contacted us about cleaning applications, processes and procedures, wanting advice on how to reopen premises or design cleaning regimes that will ensure staff, visitors are protected from the virus.
So we have consulted all our member associations, drawing on their expertise from all across the sector, and have compiled and published an industry-agreed guide to cleaning terms.
This myth-busting guide describes and explains a wide range of terms such as ‘decontamination’, ‘deep cleaning’ and ‘fumigation’ and goes into details about how they are used.
The guide strongly advises that robust risk assessments are needed when cleaning regimes are being designed and highlights the importance of cleaning to remove soil prior to any process of sanitisation or disinfecting.
The guide also advises that when engaging external providers to for cleaning activities it is important to review their credentials in terms of:
- reputation and credibility
- operator training
- credibility of the product intended for use – it should have undergone efficacy testing and have a unique EN number
- clarity about the way the outcome is measured.
We are sure that this guide will help people buying cleaning and hygiene products and services to make informed decisions and assist in raising the standards of cleaning and hygiene across the UK.
Where there is evidence of profiteering or false claims about cleaning and hygiene products, I am asking readers to share the evidence with us at the BCC by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
On another note, I wanted to tell you about our recent, virtual meeting with the Director of Labour Market Enforcement, Matthew Taylor, which we held as part of our programme of lobbying to ensure the voice of the cleaning sector is heard at the highest levels.
I am pleased to say Mr Taylor has agreed to hold a workshop for the industry to look at how to stamp out exploitation of workers in the industry. I will let you have further information in due course.
A new deal for the cleaning and hygiene supply chain
By Lorcan Mekitarian, Chair of the Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA)
(This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in August)
The coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on the cleaning industry. Essential for keeping spaces including hospitals, care homes, food retailers, public transport and now offices clean and safe, the sector and the cleaning operatives who work in it are getting the recognition and respect they deserve.
To do their job they need the high-quality cleaning and hygiene products provided by the UK’s manufacturers and distributors. Faced with extraordinary demand for key products, the fragility of the ‘just-in-time’ supply chain has been exposed. A new approach is needed for the future.
Over recent decades there has been an unremitting downward pressure on price. Understandably determined to get exceptional value for money, buyers of cleaning and hygiene products have demanded lower and lower prices. The industry responded in the only way possible – outsourcing manufacture to lower cost-base economies.
Vital products including gloves and disposable polythene aprons are currently very scarce.
Outsourcing is a huge contributor to these supply side shortages. Recognising these products are a relatively small contributor to the overall cost of providing cleaning services, the CHSA is arguing the time has come to focus on product availability and establish manufacture in the UK and Europe. It’s time for a new deal for the supply and hygiene supply chain.
Manufacturing in China was hit by a perfect storm. China re-directed product scheduled for export to its own use or to the highest bidder.
Production then dropped off, as normal during the Chinese New Year and remained low as China’s own lockdown continued. The result was severely limited supply at exactly the moment we needed to ramp up.
For some products including gloves, gowns and aprons, as early as January, when the beginning of a dip in supply was noticed and before demand here started to rocket, UK businesses turned to other Far East countries to source product.
These factories were also soon hit by a lockdown and while they have now opened up, their order books are full to Q3 2021. Unsurprisingly, some factories are first serving their own countries. Less altruistically, others are keeping back capacity to capitalise on the inflated prices being caused by the huge imbalance between supply and demand.
UK companies are working hard to develop manufacturing capacity in the UK and Europe, but it can’t be achieved overnight. Resilient production is not expected to be on stream until Q1 2021 at the earliest.
In the meantime, unscrupulous profiteers, primarily selling online and often little more than shell companies, are making all sorts of claims about product. These products generally have an exceptionally high mark-up and there is no guarantee they meet industry standards.
A vaccine remains the only certain way out of the coronavirus pandemic. Until it is widely available, demand for cleaning and hygiene products will remain high.
Looking further into the future, another pandemic is very possible and will almost certainly continue to be one of the biggest risks facing the human population. Against this backdrop and learning from our experience of recent months, increasing the resilience of our supply chain is essential.
Manufacturers are already developing production capacity in the UK and Europe, meaning product will be able to flow through the distributor network to the contract cleaning and facilities management companies who need it so badly.
An inevitable consequence will be a rise in prices, but still nothing compared to the money being extorted by the profiteers capitalising on the extreme shortages.
In return, consistency of supply and quality can be guaranteed; contract cleaners and facilities managers will be certain they can get the products they need to do a good job, safely.
The cleaning sector’s essential role in the UK’s recovery from Coronavirus
By Paul Thrupp, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC)
(This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in July)
As we continue slowly along the road to recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic, a lot of thought is being put into how parts of the economy can reopen after lockdown and the cleaning industry will play an enormous role in this.
Our cleaning teams around the country have made a huge contribution during the pandemic, with many of the staff going above and beyond to keep essential industries, such as the health sector, schools and the food industry, functioning.
The role of the cleaning sector remains pivotal to the reopening of pretty much every part of the UK economy including pubs, restaurants, hotels, tourist and cultural venues, offices, factories and workplaces and other premises besides.
Everyone is concerned about Coronavirus contamination. Employees, visitors, and customers will all need their minds put at ease in respect of the cleanliness of any interior space before they are willing to step inside.
All buildings should have risk assessments carried out before they reopen. This will allow a tailored, regular, and comprehensive regime of cleaning operations to be designed that will ensure maximum standards of cleanliness and reduce risk to a minimum.
Deep cleans, sanitisation cleans and decontamination cleans can be deployed, not just before reopening but regularly, as appropriate, with touch points, such as door handles and light switches, coming in for special attention.
To fully reassure people within any environment, cleaning will also need to highly visible. People will expect to have access to handwash and sanitiser, and possibly gloves and wipes. They will also want to see visible proof of standards of hygiene, with labels, certificates and notices showing that areas have been maintained to a high standard.
But, most of all, the public will want to see cleaning operatives going about their work and they will expect them to have all the necessary PPE and equipment and be well-trained and qualified. It will be a total turnaround from the days of cleaning staff being an invisible workforce.
There will be some challenges in delivering the required high standards during the recovery period, with one of the biggest being the that some cleaning staff will struggle to get into work because they will be reluctant to travel on public transport, due to fear of putting themselves at risk.
We will also have to ensure we communicate well and provide the correct level of training for everyone within the cleaning industry.
Another challenge might be the impact of the coming serious recession on cleaning budgets in some organisations though, overall, everything points to more investment in cleaning services in long term as a result of health and cleanliness having gone right to the top of the agenda.
I believe that the businesses that set the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene will be the businesses that recover the quickest and attract the volumes of people and revenue to be successful.
One example of how the perception of cleaning has changed since the pandemic is the recent debate over the reopening of public toilets following lockdown. Raymond Martin, Managing Director of the British Toilet Association (BTA), which is a BCC member, has appeared repeatedly on national TV and radio and in the national papers, arguing the case for better provision of public toilets. Well done Raymond!
We at the BCC are delighted to see this well-deserved recognition of the work of our members and the cleaning sector more generally.
One of the BCC’s major aims has been to achieve improved recognition of the cleaning sector and we will continue to lobby Government and speak out in the press in order to ensure the voice of the industry is heard and that it stays at the top of the agenda.
Profiteering or entrepreneurialism?
By Darren Marston, British Cleaning Council (BCC) representative on the BCC (Exhibitions) board
(This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in July)
As the enormity of the Coronavirus crisis began to unfold earlier this year, we saw some instances of distressed and panicked behaviour among the public though, on the whole, people have been calmly displaying fortitude during the lockdown.
We have also seen some business practices which might well be more akin to those of the Wild West and can only be described as profiteering.
Our inboxes are bombarded by entities offering help and guidance, products and services such as personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitiser, fogging and spraying. All this is marketed using powerful and alarming language such as ‘Coronavirus’, ‘COVID-19’ and ‘ ‘pandemic’ and is often only available ‘whilst stocks last’.
Much of this spam comes from new entities which have been set up to capitalise on the public’s demand for cleaning and hygiene products and services to help them stay healthy and well. Largely selling online, these products often carry an exceptionally high mark-up and there is no guarantee they meet the correct standards or indeed are fit for purpose.
The honest and legitimate companies which make up the member organisations of the BCC would frown upon these kind of sharp practices. We are concerned that the public could be put at risk or left out of pocket by the actions of these profiteers.
Personally, I have seen and been involved in some excellent initiatives where businesses, some otherwise disassociated from the cleaning sector, look to engage with their clients who in turn are in distress and offer a relevant service or product.
One such example being a ship repair contractor where their niche market sector had been decimated, yet the specialist knowledge of the environment and challenges remained important.
By providing sound information and credible content together with quality products and training, my company ICE was able to facilitate a sound and professional proposition which allowed the business to continue to trade and provide a valuable resource to its customers.
Conversely, there have been numerous examples of the fast buck brigade, starting up virtually overnight and making inappropriate and inaccurate claims about how their product or service will kill the virus and redeem us all. Examples of profiteering which have concerned us include:
- Facemasks that purport to be UK-made but have labelling in Mandarin Chinese
- Facemasks that only cost around 2p to make being offered at vastly overinflated prices
- Inappropriate fogging and misting services offered as a silver bullet solution to all infection control when proper cleaning processes remain crucial.
BCC member The Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA) has been working to highlight the issue. It has urged the public to buy products from CHSA members and has written to the Competition and Markets Authority to call for an investigation.
CHSA members sign the association’s rigorous code of practice, which requires them to be ‘well established’ in the cleaning and hygiene industry and to maintain a high standard in the conduct of their business.
The CHSA also runs accreditation schemes for distributors and manufacturers of soft tissue, plastic refuse sacks and industrial cotton mops. So, if consumers see the CHSA logo and CHSA accreditation scheme stamp on cleaning and hygiene products, they should be reassured.
My personal view is that the businesses that have stayed true to their principles and leveraged their expertise and knowledge base have survived and will ultimately prosper. For a company like ICE, for example, which has been marketing itself as a leader in the equipment solution business for decades, to suddenly be offering chemical or hand sanitiser would lack credibility.
We are already seeing that these overnight experts, making wild claims, are falling by the wayside.
You cannot buy experience and credentials.
Recognition for the cleaning industry and our people
By Paul Thrupp, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC)
(This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in June)
After over 40 years in the industry, it’s really sad that it’s taken a terrible pandemic of Covid-19 to make people in authority sit up and realise what an important role cleaning staff play in keeping the country clean, hygienic and safe.
Before I joined BCC I thought that everyone realised the part the industry plays in the economic success of the nation, however it’s become clear to me that the opposite was true with those heads of authority seemingly unconcerned with the industry and the people within it.
Well, haven’t times changed, with even the Prime Minister, other party leaders and Government heads all realising the importance of effective cleaning and hygiene regimes and using the press to recognise the people who are working tirelessly and unselfishly to maintain clean environments.
However, we at the BCC along with all our members have had to work hard to get the industry and cleaning workforce recognised as key or critical workers.
We have lobbied key Government departments including the Cabinet Office and to date we have only had limited success. I cannot believe what it has taken to raise the profile at a time when cleaning and hygiene should have been top of everybody’s agenda.
At first cleaning staff were not even mentioned within the support personnel identified in key critical sectors. Then when this was corrected and while cleaning staff were identified as key staff in those critical sectors, they were still not confirmed as key or critical for every sector, which clearly they are.
To date we have lobbied extensively, and particularly to the Government and through the press and media and together the whole cleaning industry and beyond, we have raised the profile of this fantastic industry with many realising the role we will play in advancing the UK’s recovery.
No longer can our cleaning staff be seen as the ‘invisible workforce’. The industry must be embraced, and we must ensure that each and every individual within it gets the reward and recognition they deserve.
We must have support for industry-wide apprenticeship schemes to recognise the professional nature of the industry. We must have a voice in Government and a voice at every industry leader’s forum.
Going forward, the cleaning industry will have many challenges especially as businesses try to reduce costs to overcome the recession that we will be in. However, I hope and trust that we will not see those cuts being applied to cleaning with reduced schedules, specification and ultimately staff. In fact, I believe we will see the opposite as businesses invest more in cleaning and hygiene, to raise levels of hygiene across the UK and to protect their staff, their customers, and their business.
A clean and hygienic environment increases the well-being of people, reduces sickness and absence from work, improves customer satisfaction and ultimately helps growth and profits. More importantly now it will ensure that we are more protected and better placed from a future pandemic of this sort and will save lives.
And of course, we hope and pray that we see the back of this awful pandemic soon, and trust that the good practices we have now learned and particularly that of good hand hygiene is maintained. We train all our people on the importance of effective and frequent handwashing and hope the nation understands why.
The cleaning industry, and more importantly the cleaning staff all over the world, are vital in ensuring the world stays safe. I ask you all to thank your cleaning staff and ensure that their profile and that of the industry is raised and recognized throughout the UK.
The bin cleaning industry and Covid-19
By Daniel Coulon, Director, National Association of Wheeled Bin Washers
(This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in June)
It is unlikely that anyone is going to be forgetting the Spring of 2020 in a hurry. Coronavirus has infiltrated every part of both our personal and working lives. This has certainly been felt no less by the owners and staff of the bin cleaning industry.
Government guidelines have been grey, to say the least. ‘Stay at Home’ is the message relayed to us daily and our members trying to do the right thing have been confused, to say the least.
As an industry, we spend most days removing harmful germs and bacteria from customers bins but questions have arisen from our members including “Is cleaning bins a service more important now than ever, doing our bit to help prevent the spread of the virus or inadvertently are we contributing to the spread of the virus whilst putting ourselves and staff at risk?” “Are we essential, are we key workers, should we furlough our staff?” and “As Directors of small limited companies will we be able to claim anything like the self-employed if we do decide to close?”
The Government told us we could continue to work if we were essential, who decides who is essential? To confuse things further this was rapidly updated to you could travel to work if you could not work from home but what if like most cleaning services your business is mobile?
It was clearer for industries such as construction who were told no working inside people’s properties but what if you offer a service cleaning outside properties? Our members want to do the right thing during these difficult times but at the same time wanted to have a business to go back to when this was all over.
Times like this business turn to their industry associations for advice. After advice from Government, industry associations, chemical suppliers and health and safety whilst monitoring the hard work being done in the background by BICS and the British Cleaning Council lobbying Government to make cleaners key workers, especially those who subcontract to essential businesses like hospitals and care homes.
The National Association of Wheeled Bin Washers decided, that as most of our members are lone workers, working outside who already wear the correct PPE, they were able to continue trading as long as they adopted their procedures and cleaning practices to fall in line with social distancing.
This included the immediate suspension of all doorstep contact encouraging online payment instead of collecting cash. The suspension of using cloths and mops to help prevent cross-contamination and having operators work alone, even stagnating start and finishing times.
On top of this most companies have added to their cleaning process the spraying of industry strength germ-killing chemicals.
As we approach the spike of this virus, we as an association are confident that we made the right decision.
Demand for our services – both residential wheelie bins largely for vulnerable and elderly customers, as well as care homes, schools and hospitals – have increased.
This is largely thanks to local councils and waste contractors advising residents and businesses to clean lids and handles of their bins to help protect waste collection operatives who come in to contact with over 2,000 bins a day.
To confirm our decision, we were honoured to be invited to start conversations with the NHS who are putting a contingency plan together to provide onsite clinical waste bin cleaning at hospital sites across the UK in case there is a huge surge of clinical waste as the virus spikes and their current systems in place can’t cope with demand.
A special well done to all bin cleaning companies and other deep cleaning services who continue to make our streets a cleaner and safer place for the rest of us!
Coronavirus puts the focus on the cleaning sector
By Paul Thrupp, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC)
(This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in May)
The Coronavirus pandemic has been hugely traumatic for the nation, brought tragedy to many families and massive changes to everyone.
One of things I think is changing is the attitude of the country to cleaners and the cleaning sector generally.
For years, we at the British Cleaning Council (BCC), have campaigned to highlight the role of the ‘invisible workforce’ of cleaners whose huge contribution to the economy and vital role in maintaining health and safety often went unrecognised.
But over the past few months, high standards of hygiene in workplaces, public buildings and the home have become a key weapon in the fight against Coronavirus and that, in turn, has put the focus on the role of the cleaners in protecting people from the virus and keeping people fit and well more generally.
In the past many cleaning specifications have been reduced and frequency of cleaning and schedules lessened.
We are sure that the focus on hygiene caused by this awful pandemic will result in a larger investment in cleaning programmes throughout the UK with enhanced specifications and more frequent schedules. We trust that businesses will talk to their cleaning professionals and get their advice as to how hygiene levels can be raised and more importantly maintained.
Cleaners have paid a key part in helping keep critical industries going but nowhere has their contribution been more apparent than in the healthcare sector.
By preventing the spread of infection in hospitals and clinics up and down the land, cleaners have helped patients survive the virus and protected colleagues, often putting themselves at risk of catching it in the process.
People become cleaners in the healthcare sector to ‘do their bit’ to fight Coronavirus, such as the Syrian refugee, Hassan Akkad, whose decision to become a hospital cleaner was reported by the Daily Mail.
Increased media interest in the work of cleaners, such as the fantastic film by the Huff Post which we at the BCC helped set up, is another example of how the invisible workforce has stepped into the spotlight.
The cleaning industry will continue to be hugely important as the country recovers from Coronavirus, with the requirement for deep cleaning and sanitisation before workplaces are reoccupied.
It is not entirely clear that Government has received the message though. At the time of writing, it had not awarded Key Worker status to all cleaning and associated staff, chemical manufacturers, machine and equipment manufacturers and cleaning suppliers.
We have been calling for these colleagues to be given Key Worker status in light of their role supporting critical industries and keeping their workers safe and healthy.
Our recently published research showed that the sector employs 1.63m people and has a turnover of £54.4bn, making it one of the top ten UK industries. As we move forward, the BCC, as the voice of the industry, will continue to represent the interests of our industry to Government and work to gain recognition for its scale and importance.
So how else do we need to see the cleaning sector change after we emerge from the pandemic?
A key step forward would be the introduction of an industrywide cleaning apprenticeship along the lines of the Level 2 Healthcare Cleaning Operative apprenticeship standard announced earlier in the year.
The need for a standard entry-level qualification has long been recognised and a universal, paid cleaning apprenticeship with formal training would be the ideal first step into the industry for many new joiners.
Improved training, qualifications and professionalism are key for the future of our industry.
We want to see cleaning become a career of choice for young people after they’ve finished college or further education, so we have to follow the example of our colleagues in the UK Housekeepers Association and work with further and higher education to promote cleaning.
Public loos – could relief be in sight?
By Raymond Martin, Managing Director of the British Toilet Association (BTA)
(This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in May)
The provision of standalone public toilets has been decimated over the last ten years or so but, as I write this, it looks as if the tide could finally be turning.
During the years of austerity, local councils were forced to cut their discretionary spending on public loos and, as a result, we currently estimate around 50 per cent were closed, with an extremely adverse effect on the health and well-being of our residents and visitors.
The British Toilet Association (BTA) has spent years working with our corporate champions Healthmatic and Danfo UK and colleagues such as the MHCLG and NALC to lobby Ministers and Government departments about this vexing issue.
So, we were thrilled when all of that hard work appeared to have paid off in October 2018, when the Chancellor’s Budget Statement included new legislation, the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill 2019-21 to provide rates relief for all public toilets.
This additional funding would greatly benefit and support local authorities and suppliers to upgrade and provide additional support for these essential services and infrastructure.
Unfortunately, there was a major hiccup in September 2019 when the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament, resulting in the Bill being dropped.
However, with our continued lobbying and vitally in these emergency conditions, we have managed to get the Bill re-introduced and it’s now with the PM and the House of Commons getting another reading. Let’s hope it is law by the time you read this.
It could not be timelier, with the viral threat (Covid – 19) sweeping our country and the constant insistence of senior politicians and chief medical officers that we wash our hands in hot water and with soap.
Public washrooms have always been a significant piece of infrastructure in our fight for increased levels of hygiene. The simple fact is that it’s everyone’s human right to have access to sanitation, clean facilities and water.
The BTA continues to promote public toilets for every citizen’s health and well-being, social inclusion, equality rights and both public dignity and decency.
This country also has over 11 million persons on the Disability Register, all of whom require reasonable and immediate access to toilet facilities so they can function as part of their own communities.
Over ten million people in the UK, over the age of 55, suffer with severe or chronic bowel conditions that require them to visit a toilet, often at very short notice.
They are also instrumental in supporting commercial businesses in our local high streets and town centres by allowing us to travel further from home to visit cities, towns and villages and the wealth of historic and visitor attractions across the UK.
Everyone using our transport network – lorry drivers, bus and taxi drivers, sales representatives, caravaners, commuters, tourists – and even social drivers just like you and me – should be able to quickly and easily access a decent clean public toilet.
With the increasing fight against drugs and anti-social activities in public places, we at the BTA are working with providers and suppliers to make sure these units are kept clean and fit for purpose.
We’re not averse to exploring the introduction of paddle gates and CCTV and the charging of a modest fee to ensure the cleanest and safest facilities.
Ultimately, we want the Government to take a serious look at the lack of public places for us all to use and give local authorities and commercial providers the legal guidance and the funding to retain and hopefully reopen and upgrade these vital amenities.
Our mission is now to work with this government to tackle the problems faced because of the historic closures and to work closely with colleagues to formulate future planning on the provision of clean public washrooms and the ways we can improve our public hygiene and sanitary conditions.