The British Institute of Cleaning Science Founded 1961 with over 10,000 members Largest independent body within the cleaning industry

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Stan Atkins FBICSc Comments on Protecting the Operative - Education, Membership and training within the cleaning industry | BICSc

Protecting The Operative

The Management of the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require an employer to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees and to other persons not in their employment, who may be affected by the activities of his/her undertaking.  Employers must implement preventative and protective measures.

These measures include:                                     

  • - Avoiding the risk
  • - Evaluate the risk which cannot be avoided
  • - Combat the risk at source
  • - Replace the dangerous by the non-dangerous
  • - Issuing PPE

Health and Safety is generally assessed by incidents and accidents, however Occupational Health often relates to contact and exposure/use over time. The effects of the working environment are not always readily apparent.

Initial studies carried out in Scandinavia linked an increased risk of breast cancer for nursing staff who work long term night shift patterns. This information is now available on the NHS website which references Canadian studies that show a 50% increased risk in staff who work long term

night shifts. No studies have yet been undertaken regarding atomised chemicals for cleaning operatives who clean mainly on nights when the air conditioning is frequently not operating in the building they are cleaning. 

Industrial Dermatis is a possible risk. This is not necessarily through the use of chemicals it can be caused by an allergy to the particular type of gloves being worn by the cleaning operative.  An obvious area for concern with regard to cleaning operatives is muscular sk

eletal disorders, based on the use of non ergonomic equipment. One example is the fact that broom handles are a standard length and are not normally adjusted to account for the height of the operative using them.  More and more mop handles are being manufactured with the capability of being adjusted to suit the operative’s height.   This however does not overcome the situation where an operative has to constantly bend to rinse or compress the mop head. 

One of the greatest innovations in recent years has been the move to central bins within offices. This has not only prompted office workers to consider more carefully which bin refuse is deposited in, it has also benefits the cleaning operatives as they no longer have to empty a bin under each desk. This allows operatives to remove waste faster and with less physical strain.

However as previously stated there is a potential for medical conditions arising from the nature of a cleaning operatives work.  It is therefore crucial that the industry effectively monitor the workforce so that problems can be indentified and effectively corrected before they reach unacceptable levels.  To achieve this employers and managers need to monitor absences correctly by recording them.  Also examining the role to identify where the workplace may have an affect on an operatives role.  Back to work interviews must be conducted to ensure the operative’s perspective is reflected in any findings.  By collating this information data trends could be effectively indentified and investigated before long-term issues are allowed to develop.   

As an industry we have a responsibility to protect our workforce from work related health issues, and as the saying goes prevention is better than the cure!  BICSc Mission statement point 1 states Protecting the Operative. 

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