BCC and member columns

The British Cleaning Council and members write monthly columns for both Cleaning and Maintenance and Tomorrow’s Cleaning magazines. You can read recent columns below.

To read the columns as they originally appeared, please visit https://cleaningmag.com/issues and https://www.tomorrowscleaning.com/back-issues

September brings major developments for the industry

By Jim Melvin, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC) (This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in September)

September is a busy month for the cleaning and hygiene industry with lots going on in the sector, for the BCC and our members.

One of the key things to look out for this month will be the opening of submissions for the Cleaning Support and Services Association’s (CSSA) Innovation Showcase.

Innovation has always been hugely important in our industry and the pace of change is speeding up.

The Innovation Showcase, which is sponsored by BCC member the Cleaning and Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA), celebrates the cleaning and hygiene industry’s most innovative products, services and initiatives; particularly better solutions to social, political and environmental requirements, and existing market issues.

It also helps support and encourage innovation in the sector by giving exposure to ground-breaking and original entries.

The event is the perfect opportunity to increase productivity, improve quality, boost profitability and meet demands for a better environment.

Entrants from sector companies and organisations are first assessed by a panel of leading industry experts in a Dragon’s Den style event, where entries are reviewed and interviews held.

The finalists will go on to be exhibited at the prestigious Cleaning Show 2023 in London, and potentially exposed to a huge new audience of sector stakeholders.

I strongly encourage sector companies and organisations to keep an eye open for the launch of the showcase this month and consider entering your innovative product, service or initiative.

Find out more at the CSSA’s website here: https://www.cssa-uk.co.uk/innovation-showcase-1

In another major development this month, we should see start of an important and wide-ranging inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry.

The BCC, as the secretariat for the APPG, are fully supporting the establishment of the inquiry, which will consider the role of cleaning and hygiene during the Covid-19 pandemic, and what lessons can be learnt, with the aim of producing recommendations to feed into the national pandemic enquiry.

This is hugely important in so many ways. It will not only seek to help inform the Government and MPs about the incredible and critical work of the cleaning and hygiene sector and its staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also ensure the industry continues to play a major role in being prepared for, and helping to stop any future variant or pandemic, for the benefit of the whole nation.

We are being joined in this venture by a number of the industry supply chain, SC Johnson and The Royal Society for Public Health, which will also bring a significant kudos to the process.

Finally, I’m delighted to say that the final proposal for the Cleaning Hygiene Operative apprenticeship is literally on the verge of being submitted to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education for consideration.

As I write this column, the industry group we established is working on the final details and it may have been submitted by the time this column is published!

I can’t overstate how vital this initiative is for the industry. The sector has been crying out for an Apprenticeship Levy funded industry-wide training programme and apprenticeship.

There is currently no global industry apprenticeship scheme which provides the training in technical skills needed by cleaning and hygiene staff working outside healthcare.

If we get the go-ahead, it will mean that millions of pounds in Apprenticeship Levy payments currently lost to the cleaning and hygiene industry annually in what is, effectively, a stealth tax, can be fully invested in training sector staff.

This will also help improve recognition for the existing skills that industry workers have, as well as banishing the generic, frankly ridiculous and uneducated narrative about the industry being ‘low skilled’ that we hear from some typically ill-informed quarters.

We are hopeful that the institute will give the greenlight later this year and we look forward to letting you know.

What impact will the Glue Traps (Offences) Act have?

Ian Andrew, chief executive of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), discusses rodent control and the impact this new law could have on public health and businesses. (This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in September)

Glue traps are trays coated with sticky adhesive and used to catch pests. Having been at the forefront of the battle to keep glue traps for professional use, BPCA has heard all the arguments for and against them.

It’s fair to say most glue trap misuse comes from amateur users and not professionals, so we agree that stopping amateur use of rodent glue traps can only be a good thing.

But as public health professionals we had to consider the implications a total ban would have.

Pest professionals use glue traps for the rapid control of infestations on sensitive sites, like hospital wards and care homes.

These are often sites with extremely vulnerable people, who are more at risk from diseases carried by pests, such as Salmonella and Listeria.

This is why we lobbied for a licensing system to keep these tools in the kits of professional pest technicians.

Our concern was that if you remove a fast and effective tool from the toolkit, we might end up with more rodent activity in those sensitive sites, particularly around food. No one wants an extra helping of rat poop in their porridge!

Skip to April this year and the Bill became law, after receiving Royal Assent.

But our lobbying was successful and glue traps will still be available to professionals under a licensing scheme in England.

We are still in conversation with the devolved nations. Government ministers in Scotland and Wales are calling for an outright ban. No ban is being considered in Northern Ireland currently.

The Glue Traps (Offences) Act will ensure licences to use them are only issued to professional pest controllers on “an exceptional basis”.

Anyone found to have used a trap without a licence could face up to six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine. The ban will come into force by April 2024.

Currently glue traps are still on the shelves, with a lead-in period of two years set by the Government, giving them time to create the licensing system and take glue traps off sale for the public.

However, there are still some concerns that we share with our members.

The details of the licensing scheme have yet to be decided and we have a considerable interest in making sure that the system is workable.

What do we mean by that?

As mentioned, glue traps are used in situations where rapid control is needed, before infestations get out of control.

For example, one breeding pair of rats has, on average, around eight kittens per litter, two litters in two months and within a year, with no control measures in place and the kittens now breeding, you’re looking at over 1000 rats.

You can see why time is of the essence, and if licences are issued on a case-by-case basis, this could render glue traps useless. You’ve now got an established infestation that’s going to take much longer to control and people’s health will be at risk.

We’ve always understood the concerns of animal welfare groups on the subject of glue traps, but professional pest controllers need to have the tools to protect public health and that has to be our priority.

They’re right; in the wrong hands, these can be nasty tools with potentially disastrous consequences for non-target and target species.

But a licensing scheme that works is now critical in order for our industry to continue to protect the health of the general public.

Could your organisation lend support to BPCA? We’re on the lookout for allies to put up their hands and support the continued use of glue traps for professionals.

Please reach out to me to start an informal and confidential conversation.


BCC members play a key role in promoting sustainability

By Jim Melvin, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC) (This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in August)

Over the past few years, the cleaning and hygiene industry has made significant strides in terms of sustainability.

As one of the ten biggest industries in the UK, worth £58.9m to the nation’s economy, the cleaning, hygiene and waste industry clearly has the potential to help the UK achieve its climate change and environmental goals.

The industry is developing a huge range of sustainable initiatives, innovations and best practice such as developing cleaning chemicals that don’t damage the environment, less chemical usage in general and working on removing single use plastics in products.

But there is more we can do. Across the industry, initiatives such as committing to zero waste to landfill, cutting back emissions from vehicles and ensuring environmental awareness is a top priority throughout all need to be mainstreamed.

The truth is that sustainability remains one of the biggest and most complicated issues facing our sector. It can be hard for businesses to make the right choices for the environment while there are immediate, pressing concerns such as commercial considerations or significant staff shortages.

BCC members are playing an important role in moving the industry and the country forward in this area.

Our colleagues at the Cleaning and Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA) recently launched the Roadmap to Sustainability to give members and the wider industry practical help and the insights and information needed to move in the right direction.

The roadmap offers value by:

  • informing and educating members on the sustainability agenda and associated issues
  • providing members with a strategic way forward for developing their approach to sustainability
  • helping the membership align on sustainability and so drive the industry forward.

It has been built on the five key pillars of product, packaging, transportation, social values and corporate and environmental impact.

The CHSA launched the roadmap with a webinar on the issue at the end of June. It has compiled a directory of useful contacts and is producing a number of fact sheets. Find out more at the CHSA’s website.

Our colleagues at Keep Britain Tidy do a huge amount of work to protect the environment, through initiatives such as the Great British Spring Clean, as part of which participants pledged to collect nearly half a million bags of litter this year.

The Textile Services Association (TSA) is putting together a Sustainability Pact that’s designed to support commercial laundries in their drive to deliver a more sustainable future.

Another BCC member, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) is the leading professional membership organisation for individuals in the sustainability, resources and waste management sector. It is dedicated to moving the world beyond waste.

Altogether, it is clear that BCC members are having a major impact in this area.

On another and repetitive note, I wanted to update you on our requests for a meeting with Government to discuss the Sue Gray report, which highlighted the lack of respect and poor treatment of cleaning staff at Number Ten during ‘partygate’.

We twice asked to meet Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to review the allegations with Government and discuss the steps that have been taken to deal with them.

We wanted to be sure that this disgraceful scandal had been properly resolved and we need reassurances that the culture around cleaning staff in Government has been reset and will be correct in the future.

But we have received no substantial response.  We can only assume that the ministerial statements and apologies over the way cleaning staff were treated were merely unworthy PR rhetoric. We are extremely frustrated and disappointed by the lack of action from this government.

But as always, we are determined to continue to try to engage with them on behalf of the industry and we won’t stop until they finally hear what we have to say.

Forty years within the cleaning industry

By Peter Gurney, a founding member of the Association of Building Cleaning Direct Service Providers (ABCD). (This article was published in Cleaning and Maintenance magazine in August). 

In September 1980 I applied for a job at Rochdale Council as a cleaning operative and 41 years later, I am now looking forward to retirement, leaving as Head of the Cleaning/Catering service.

To say the cleaning industry has changed dramatically over the 40 years is an understatement, and a recent visit to the Cleaning Show in Manchester summed this up when watching computer programmed, battery operated cleaning machines doing the work that I used to do with a mop and bucket.

In 1980 I was sent to a school, as a relief cleaner with no training, no PPE, no experience. I was shown the cleaning cupboard which contained a galvanised mop bucket, a pretty filthy mop, a cloth, a five-litre bottle of bleach and a bottle of neutral detergent.

The caretaker on site was clear with his instructions: ‘Just wash and wipe everything’. In simple terms I used the same mop for all the floors (there were no carpets in schools in those days) including the toilets, and was then told to wipe the desktops with the same mop.

I don’t think the term cross contamination had been heard of. Cleaning toilets was easy, just get a cloth put some bleach on it and wipe everything down, sinks, urinals, toilets, walls using the same cloth as ‘bleach kills everything’.

As the years went on the industry progressed and new cleaning machinery was made available. ‘Buffing machines’ were all the rage. Being able to use a 200 rpm or 400 rpm for cleaning moved the industry forward, however training some staff to use a machine was a challenge and I personally had to untangle two staff who tied themselves up when the buffer went AWOL.

The old ultra-high speed machines were also an improvement but staff keeping the machines running when ‘having a chat’ did result in a number of claims for new floor coverings!

Training for cleaning staff became the norm, working to a specification, along with having pride in the work that cleaning staff were doing.

Logoed PPE/ID badges being worn and support from the British Cleaning Council, the ABCD and other organisations showed that the cleaning industry was vital for all companies and having a professional image within any organisation would only be of benefit.

It has not all been good news. As the industry grew and machinery became the norm, managers realised the service could be speeded up and the areas covered by cleaning staff were enlarged resulting in major job losses.

Schools being given delegated budgets allowed them to take the cleaning ‘in house’ or use an external provider which had a major effect on local authorities. The introduction of academies has further weakened the cleaning industry within local authorities and this is likely to worsen with the news that all schools must be in a multi academy trust by 2030.

In recent years the pandemic has probably had one of the biggest impacts on the cleaning industry. I believe that the pandemic has shown the critical role the cleaning industry has in all aspects of life, from hospitals, to schools, council buildings and even in your own home.

It is evident that without a cleaning industry the impact of Covid would have been worse. Seeing millions of people disinfecting surfaces and seeing empty shelves in supermarkets where cleaning products were held, just highlighted people’s concerns. The cleaning industry should be proud of its efforts during this time.

I will leave you with a quote from a headteacher: ‘My school can operate with teachers, but without cleaners I would close down in 24 hours’. All cleaning staff should hold their head up high and be proud to say ‘I am a cleaner’.


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