The British Cleaning Council and members write monthly columns for both Cleaning and Maintenance and Tomorrow’s Cleaning. You can read recent columns below.
Industry comes together to progress APPG findings
By Jim Melvin, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC). (This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in February).
I took part in an important and very productive meeting in London last month with a wide range of key colleagues from the cleaning and hygiene industry and the public health sector.
The roundtable meeting was to discuss the findings of the recent ‘Embedding Effective Hygiene for a Resilient UK’ report from The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry, and the recommendations arising from it.
There were 20 of us in total, and I was delighted that such a wide group of industry experts and senior stakeholders were keen to lend their support to this event.
As well as myself and BCC colleagues, we were joined by Dr Jyotsna Vohra of the Royal Society for Public Health and Chair of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene Professor Sally Bloomfield, leaders in applied behavioural science the Behavioural Insights Team, and high-level colleagues from the Cleaning and Support Services Association, the British Institute of Cleaning Science, the British Toilet Association, the Cleaning and Hygiene Suppliers Association, SC Johnson Professional UK, Reckitt and Wightman & Parrish amongst others.
For the voice of the industry to be heard, it is vital that we work together collectively and so seeing this group come together to discuss such an important topic was hugely encouraging.
The APPG inquiry made 11 recommendations designed to increase disease resilience to current common infections and help inform the UK’s response to any similar future public health emergency.
The roundtable reviewed the recommendations and looked at what the industry needed to do to take them forward.
APPG Chairman Nigel Mills MP provided a recorded introduction to the meeting in which he noted the huge role of the cleaning and hygiene industry during the pandemic, but said that the situation was drifting back to how it was with flu and Covid cases on the rise. We need to build on the lessons of the pandemic, not forget them, he said.
A full report is due to be written and published in due course which will summarise and feature the key recommendations from the meeting so I won’t go into full detail here but there are a few points which I will pick out.
During the wide-ranging and detailed debate, we heard that a major cultural and behavioural change was needed nationwide, so hygienic practices are widely adopted as normal and daily behaviour.
I spoke about how cleaning staff need to be held in high esteem. The need for recognition for the vital work of cleaning staff in keeping people safe, healthy and well is a point I am always determined to make.
The importance of training, education and development for staff was highlighted, on which I couldn’t agree more.
We have been frustrated with the slow progress since the foundation of the APPG. I think the demands of the Covid-19 pandemic on Government and the recurring political crises of recent years have preoccupied the political class.
In the meantime, we have been looking at and planning positive solutions, so it is now surely time for this Government or future governments to actually review them and listen.
As an example we discussed the differences between the approach in South Korea to that in the UK and where the results and process were significantly different.
But we are now moving forward on our agenda and the roundtable is another step in the right direction. We remain absolutely determined to make sure the voice of the industry is heard and I’m optimistic that we will achieve results.
The next stage is to discuss the group’s feedback at the upcoming APPG meeting. And watch out for the publication of the roundtable report in February.
Window cleaners warned about overhead powerlines
By Andrew Lee, Chairman and Safety Officer, Federation of Window Cleaners.
(This article was first published by Cleaning and Maintenance online).
Every year, people are killed or seriously injured when they come into contact with high voltage electricity.
This risk is a particular concern for window cleaners who use either water-fed or telescopic poles, and indeed in some cases aluminium portable ladders because of the danger of these coming into contact with overhead powerlines while working.
A life can be lost within seconds if this happens, there are rarely second chances.
During 2021, there were two fatalities in the window cleaning sector after colleagues working on domestic properties and using water-fed poles came into contact with live electric cables.
I urge my colleagues in the industry to be aware of the dangers, familiarise themselves with the issue and get into the habit of following some safety measures.
Overhead power lines run across the countryside, supplying local communities with power.
Depending on the voltage the wires will be at different heights above the ground. Live equipment can be on poles equipment fitted as low as 4.3 metres (14 feet). Powerlines are often uninsulated.
Powerlines can carry up to 400,000 volts but even the 230 volts in domestic supply lines can be fatal or injure.
An overhead line does not have to be touched to cause serious injury or death as electricity can jump, or arc, across small gaps, so just going close to a live overhead line can result in a flashover that may kill.
Never assume that wooden poles only carry telephone wires, they can also carry electricity wires too.
Electricity can bypass wood, plastic or rubber, if it is damp or dirty, and cause fatal shocks. Don’t rely on gloves or rubber boots to protect you.
A momentary distraction, perhaps being tired from working long hours or just rushing to get the job done can all easily result in a serious accident, causing a fatality, life-changing or serious injury leaving you out of work and with no income for the long-term and leaving your family devastated.
Taking time to plan, being prepared and focusing on the way you work can help keep you safe. You should:
• Always look up and look out for the presence of overhead lines first. Watch out for yellow ‘Danger of death’ warning signs.
• Before setting up any water-fed poles consider and plan the safe height clearance of your equipment.
• Identify where the overhead lines are. If there are overhead power lines present, you may want to consider the use of electrically tested insulated poles.
• Attention must be given to safe height clearance throughout your time on site, including whenever you reposition your equipment, through to the dismantling and removal at the end of the day.
• Make sure all employees on site can identify where the overhead power lines are and that they fully understand the risks and the appropriate emergency procedure.
• Is your water-fed pole in danger of touching or getting too close to overhead lines? Keep observing as you proceed with your work.
• Be aware too of any obstacles that may present trip hazards such as plant pots, uneven floor levels, varying levels of ground, kerbs etc that are located in the work area.
If there is an accident:
• Stop work immediately.
• Notify the distribution network operator which runs your local power network.
• Call the emergency services if anyone is injured or there is a fire.
• Never go near or touch any broken or fallen powerlines or any equipment still in contact with an overhead power line.
I encourage window cleaners to read some of the safety information available, including leaflets on the FWC, Health and Safety Executive and UK Power Networks websites.
Please consider signing up for one of the safety courses we run, which are accredited by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, and cover these issues and much more. Find out more on our website
Above all, stay safe!