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Catherine Hackett

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Collaboration is key to infection prevention 17/10/2018

Cleaning Matters recently attended the first ever Infection Prevention Show in Glasgow (30th September to 2nd October, SEC). It brought together infection prevention and control specialists from across the UK to discuss the increasing difficulties we face in a financially challenging time. It also provided a platform to showcase the latest innovations and technologies in infection prevention and control (IPC).  

The deadliest war being fought against infections is, of course, in the hospital and healthcare sector where antimicrobial resistance is causing standard treatments to become ineffective and infections to persist, which may spread to others.

But in his session, Infection Prevention Show host Dr Phil Hammond – an NHS doctor, BBC broadcaster and Private Eye journalist – focused on the IPC challenges we face, not just in healthcare, but in other partner organisations such as veterinary, pharmacy, hospitality, social care and education.

Dr Phil said that we need collaboration to help solve the complex problems facing us within these environments, as well as "a culture that allows us to speak up and challenge, knowing our concerns will be acted on".

This, he said, is defined brilliantly by Margaret Heffernan in her book A Bigger Prize:

"Innovative organisations thrive not because they breed superstars but because they cherish, nurture and support the vast range of talents, personalities and skills that true creativity requires. Collaboration is a habit of mind, solidified by routine and prepared on openness, generosity, rigour and patience. 

"It requires precise and fearless communication, without status, awe or intimidation. Everyone must bring their best. And failure is part of the deal, an inevitable part of the process to be greeted with support, encouragement and faith. The safest hospitals are those where it’s easiest to acknowledge an error. The biggest prizes grow as they are shared."

This call for greater collaboration is particularly worth bearing in mind as we head into the flu season, and that of the 'winter vomiting bug', norovirus.

While experts say that the flu season in 2018 will be difficult to predict, looking over the past four years of flu outbreaks, there is a clear trend in increasing infections, especially in care homes, according to reports from Public Health England (PHE). A lecturer in public health at Liverpool University has also warned that a summer outbreak of norovirus could be a sign of a mutated strain, which could lead to a greater number of cases this winter.

Proper cleaning and hygiene practices, along with open and honest communication and collaboration among cleaning staff and between cleaning teams and other staff, will be vital in helping to prevent the spread of such infections.

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Waste not, want not 07/09/2018

A new event focused on resource efficiency and waste management will be launched to run alongside next year's Cleaning Show on 19-21 March 2019 at London's ExCeL.

The Resource Management Show will offer waste and recycling suppliers the opportunity to meet the UK's leading contract cleaners, facilities managers, local authorities, and a wide range of other cleaning and FM-related businesses. The announcement of the show is timely, as the UK begins to feel the effects of China's recently-imposed restrictions on importing mixed recyclables.

According to Stephen Cameron, business development director at waste solutions company SWRnewstar, "The financial implications of the ban have predominantly been felt by local councils and waste management suppliers who are no longer able to obtain rebates on mixed recyclables that used to be shipped to China – and are instead being hit with higher disposal costs for the same materials.

"Conversely, commercial and industrial businesses have largely been insulated from the impact, with major waste management players prepared to take a hit on margin rather than pass all those costs onto their customers. It's an approach that's unsustainable. In the fullness of time, businesses will need to rethink their approach to managing waste as the true impact of China's ban finally shows its teeth."

The China issue is only one of several reasons cited by organisers for launching the Resource Management Show. Another key reason is, of course, Brexit, which is likely to require many companies to adapt their processes, particularly how waste management is handled in terms of trans-frontier shipments, exports and imports. 

Attempts are being made to get ahead of such issues: In April this year businesses that are responsible for over 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold through UK supermarkets signed up to a world-first pact, which aims to stimulate innovative new business models to reduce the total amount of plastic packaging. 

Around the same time, Costa announced it will become the first UK coffee chain to commit to recycling the same volume of cups it puts onto the market. The company has developed a scheme whereby waste management companies are financially incentivised to collect cups, which are a high-value material that can be recycled up to seven times.

Whether you're a manufacturer, supplier or end user, if your business is taking a proactive approach to reduce the amount of avoidable waste you produce we'd love to hear from you and to share your ideas with the wider professional cleaning community. Please email me at CHackett@western-bp.co.uk

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All's well that ends well 15/06/2018

These days, I'm pleased to say, worker well-being is increasingly – if indirectly – making the headlines. For instance, some news stories you may have read recently on www.cleaning-matters.co.uk include Enhance Office Cleaning winning a Living Wage Champion Award. It's in recognition of their consistent effort to promote the benefits of paying the voluntary Living Wage to their clients and to others, and therefore champion fair pay within a traditionally low pay industry.  

Tess Lanning, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “Employers like Enhance are leading the way in placing dignity and respect at the heart of their organisation."

Elsewhere, the importance of recognising and rewarding cleaning operatives is gaining traction in the industry as The Hill Club Annual Awards returns in July. 

The Washroom Cleaner of the Year Awards, launched in 2017 as part of the Loo of the Year Awards, will also be back in December to recognise the dedicated staff that look after the facilities, whether that be individual washroom cleaners, in-house cleaning teams or external cleaning/FM contractors.

Awards such as these play an important role in making staff feel valued, and they are just some of initiatives taking place in the cleaning sector to improve staff well-being and maintain morale. 

Some contract cleaning companies are running their own internal awards; offering more practical initiatives such as a free counselling service and investing in the future of individuals through training and development; or offering discretionary perks such as organising social events or offering staff an extra day off on their birthday.

The increasing investment in worker well-being is not completely altruistic. More and more companies are realising there's a business case for it. A study and survey – published in May 2018 by the manufacturers’ organisation EEF and Westfield Health and carried out by the Institute of Employment Studies – showed that the overall mental health and well-being of employees is inextricably linked to motivation, engagement and performance in the workplace.

By contrast, the study highlights that poor well-being can increase costs, reduce motivation and employee engagement and take up management time dealing with issues such as absence and occupational health costs.

Workplace-related stress and mental health issues are becoming a bigger concern than ever: In 2016/17, Health & Safety Executive (HSE) statistics revealed that 12.5 million of the 31.2 million working days lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal injuries were because of stress, anxiety and depression (40%). On average, each person suffering took 23.8 days off.

While there are lots of issues related to staff well-being, for those businesses who are only starting to address this and wish to create a better work environment, simply saying 'thank you' is a good place to start.

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There's no time to waste 25/04/2018

Sustainable practices are increasingly becoming our daily habits. This is particularly true when it comes to cutting down plastic waste – whether it's separating plastics from our general domestic waste for recycling or taking reusable shopping bags to the supermarket.  

Awareness has grown in recent years of the issues surrounding plastic waste with many initiatives being launched to help reduce it. 

A scheme is being proposed to encourage recycling and cut plastic waste, which would see customers in England pay more for drinks in the shops.

It was also recently announced that shops and businesses around London including Costa Coffee, Tate Modern, BFI Imax and Leon have joined a Thames Water scheme that offers people free tap water ‘refills’ as part of the Mayor of London’s plans to reduce single-use plastic bottles in the capital.

In Norway, 95% of all plastic bottles are now recycled, compared with England at the moment where the rate is 57%. About half of all the plastic bottles used in a year in England are water bottles.

Of course, more action must be taken to reduce the damage being done before it becomes irreversible. 

Plastic has toxic pollutants that damage the environment and cause land, water and air pollution. It can take hundreds or even thousands of years for plastic to break down, so the damage to the environment is long-lasting.

With more than eight million tonnes going into the oceans every year, it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish by 2050 and 99 per cent of all seabirds on the planet will have consumed some.

The cleaning and hygiene industry has a pivotal role to play in tackling this serious issue and, in doing so, to demonstrate its value to the world. 

There are already forward-thinking companies recycling and repurposing plastics from bin liners, chemical packaging and polybags, as well as finding ways to reduce the use of plastic altogether. There is even cleaning-product packaging created from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic which, by 'closing the loop' in the use of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic, is a significant step towards becoming a circular economy. 

But is there consumer demand for sustainable products and an acceptance of their importance? Among the readers of Cleaning Matters, it would appear so. According to our recent survey into the Future of Cleaning, 89 per cent of cleaning professionals surveyed at the end of 2017 thought environmental concerns would either be a significant or major driver within the cleaning industry in the years to come.

This prediction is already coming true: The Government published details in January of its 25-year Environmental Plan, with ministers vowing to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042, improve the natural environment and throw much more emphasis on innovation in plastics to keep it out of landfill and our oceans. 

The time is ripe for change so what are you waiting for? With a dumper truck's worth of plastic thrown into the ocean per minute, there really is no time like the present.

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Innovation on the march 26/03/2018

The March magazine of Cleaning Matters is unofficially known as the 'Events Issue'. You will soon see why once you start reading: it is crammed with news and previews of all the events happening over the next few months.

One of the most commendable qualities of our industry events is that they are continuously evolving to meet the customer and business needs of tomorrow and to drive innovation. For instance, the Kimberly-Clark Professional Golden Service Awards is back after a three-year hiatus and has been revamped to re-focus on core industry areas. The awards, which were presented on 8th March at The London Hilton Park Lane, provide the opportunity for contract cleaners and in-house cleaning teams to showcase excellence and set new high benchmarking standards in the cleaning industry.

Shows are also raising the bar particularly when it comes to the provision of high quality educational content. Aside from featuring a comprehensive exhibition, The Facilities Event has promised to deliver its strongest, most practical training and education offering on 10th to 12th April at the NEC Birmingham with a line-up of leading international specialists. Meanwhile, the overall theme of the Manchester Cleaning Show (11th to 12th April, Event City) will be looking at the challenges and opportunities facing the UK's cleaning, hygiene and waste management industries over the next five years.

Last but not least INTERCLEAN Amsterdam, which takes place at the RAI on 15th to 18th May, will be launching a healthcare cleaning forum which explores the importance of cleaning to prevent healthcare acquired infections (HCAIs). It will also be adding several new side events and segments – in particular a dedicated area for the On-Premise-Laundry (OPL) sector.

Find out more in our March issue.

Many of the latest trends illustrated by the innovative equipment and services on show at the exhibitions, and the themes highlighted in the seminar sessions, will be explored in our brand new special report: The Future of Cleaning.

The report analyses the results of a survey which invited Cleaning Matters readers to share their thoughts and opinions on what the future holds for the cleaning sector. 

It also includes comment from respected experts in their field and industry associations on the key issues that arose including Brexit, the growing skills gap, professional standards, health and safety at work, and increasing automation within the sector.

Click here to download the report.

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New year, new opportunities to have your say 03/01/2018

2018 is set to be an exciting year for Cleaning Matters (CM) as we launch new projects designed to provide even more insight into industry issues as part of our campaign to inform, educate and advise cleaning professionals.

CM will still give you updates on the latest news, features and products but we will be adding to our range of unique special reports, based around a survey of our readership and covering all aspects of professional cleaning and hygiene. 

The first will focus on what the future holds for the cleaning industry. At the end of 2017 we asked you, our readers, to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic in an online survey. 

And who better to predict where the cleaning industry will go next in terms of new technologies, new ways of working and best practice than those at the forefront of cleaning and hygiene provision day-in and day-out across the country and across all sectors? 

Your input is invaluable and we are delighted to say that the response to the survey has been phenomenal. A big thank you to everyone who took part. 

The results of the survey, along with analysis from thought leaders and key associations, will be published in a special report 'The Future of Cleaning' in March which can be viewed at www.cleaning-matters.com

Following on from its debut last year, a new edition of the 'Hospital & Healthcare Hygiene Special Report' will then come out in July. This time, however, we will also be inviting leading infection prevention and control experts to have their say on the biggest challenges in this field including antimicrobial resistance, NHS budget pressures and the potential impact of Brexit on staffing levels. 

In our final Special Report of 2018, we will explore the biggest cleaning and hygiene issues facing the food industry. Every day, food is served on premises across a vast range of different environments, and every year foodborne illnesses affect up to 5.5 million people in the UK, according to figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). In a culture where customer reviews on social media have the power to make or break a business, those responsible for food safety and hygiene can’t afford to get it wrong.

Available in November, the report will look at best practices and new technologies related to all aspects of food storage, preparation, service and disposal, as well as the cleaning and maintenance of facilities.

We hope you enjoy reading the new reports and find them useful. As always we welcome your thoughts and feedback. Please email me at CHackett@western-bp.co.uk if you'd like to get in touch.

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Inspire the next generation 02/11/2017

One of the challenges the cleaning industry faces is trying to attract young people to not only work in it but to see it as a career. And the stakes have never been higher: There will be far fewer migrant workers available post Brexit and, as labour gets more difficult to recruit and retain, wages will inevitably rise. 

Recruiting the best possible candidates, training them to develop and increase their skills and value, leading to higher staff retention levels, will therefore be crucial to the productivity of businesses and their bottom line. But how can the cleaning industry make a career in cleaning more attractive?

This was one of the key topics discussed by industry professionals and media at the launch of The Cleaning Executive Recruitment and Training Agency (CERATA) on 12th October in London.

Founded by former director of EMEA Services for ISSA Keith Baker, it has been set up to provide high-quality recruiting, talent retention and training services for the professional cleaning, hygiene and jansan sector.

One attendee suggested holding familiarisation days, where young people can get a feel for what a business does. But promoting it as a 'cleaning and FM event' and 'the chance to work for a contract cleaning business' for example was thought to be less appealing than describing it as 'an opportunity to work for a business going through international expansion, that provides services including cleaning and security to take away the day-to-day hassles for customers'.

Few 16-year-olds want to be a cleaning operative or a grounds maintenance person, but if we market our industry differently perhaps they will be encouraged to join it and work their way up. The opportunity to improve workplace wellbeing and productivity across a client's workplace, to work for a well-known brand that keeps people safe and healthy, that has a robust corporate social responsibility policy, in an industry that makes a sizeable contribution to the UK economy – that can appeal to people. 

We're good at discussing our achievements within the industry but not so good at explaining them to the wider world. Why not use statistics on infection control and show how new innovations are helping our industry to save the world from deadly diseases like MRSA? Use different social media platforms to reach out to the younger generation that are living their lives on these channels. 

Start today so that post-Brexit you aren't having to resort to just hiring a 'body' to fill a position, whom you expect to be gone within three months. For a people- and service-based industry such as cleaning, we need to be thinking about how we can offer our clients value in the long-term if we are not prepared to engage in a race to the bottom on prices. The answer is great staff who are reliable and motivated.

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Stepping up their game 05/09/2017

During the summer, events cleaning comes into its own as the sector plays a starring role in keeping some of the world's most high-profile music, sport and cultural events pristine, from Royal Ascot to Wimbledon to Glastonbury.

It's a high-pressure job, often involving sizeable cleaning teams working to quick turnaround times. Precision planning, attention to detail and the flexibility to adapt to each event's own individual requirements are vital. 

And, while it may be straightforward enough to plan how long it will take to clean the whole venue once, after vast numbers of visitors arrive, it can be a lot harder to work out how many times each area will need to be cleaned during the event. 

Now there is another challenge facing this specialist sector: as the UK remains on its highest state of alert, security and policing at large-scale events has been markedly tightened.

Security hoaxes and scares have significantly increased in public spaces, including big, crowded summer events in the UK, Europe and beyond, following the security incidents in Manchester and London earlier this year.  

Events cleaning companies are therefore being required to introduce a robust security policy specific to each venue in order to offer those contracting their services peace of mind.

"Multiple-ID procedures, background checks, working with local police, stringent transport and logistical protocols, staffing ID protocol and highly trained operations managers combine to make for a more rigorous event security policy before, during and after all events," explains Pat Ryan, CEO of events cleaning specialist Ryans Cleaning. You can read more about this here.

Events are adapting and evolving in other ways too, including taking an innovative approach to toilet facilities. 

This year, for the first time, information boards at Glastonbury Festival were powered by attendees' urine, provided via a 40-person urinal situated by the headline Pyramid stage. The technology, designed by scientists at the Bristol Bioenergy Centre (BBiC), can power lights and charge mobile phones.

More than 1,000 litres of urine was estimated to have flowed through the "Pee Power" system every day, with the scientist's microbial fuel cells generating energy from the fluid. The fuel cells house bacteria that literally eat human urine and create biochemical energy as a by-product, which can be converted into electricity.

The makers of Pee Power say it offers a chance to transform the lives of those living in less economically developed countries, where sanitation and electricity are off grid. The festival is therefore being used as a field trial in advance of planned trials in Africa and India.

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Eyes on the ground  28/06/2017

With four terrorist attacks in the UK in four months leaving 35 people dead and many more injured, national security became a major issue during the general election campaign.  

The number of police on our streets was at the heart of a row between the Conservatives and Labour over how to prevent acts of terrorism. Labour claimed that police cuts since 2010 have gone "too far" and the public cannot be protected on the cheap. While there is more to consider than the number of bobbies on the beat when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, we can all play our part by remaining vigilant.

Cleaning staff who work in public spaces where there is a high footfall are particularly well placed to provide additional eyes on the ground to look out for and report anything suspicious to security teams and help keep the public safe. 

In busy transport hubs for example, cleaning operatives are already undergoing specialist training to deploy the British Transport Police’s ‘HOT protocol’ – a system to identify potential threats, determine the level of risk and then report it based on three criteria. These are whether the item is hidden, whether the item is obvious, or whether it is typical of what one would expect to find in that environment.  

But it is not just in security that cleaning operatives are helping to alleviate pressure for companies. Operators are now recognising that cleaning teams can be quickly up-skilled to assist other disciplines across busy environments. Again, transport hubs are a great example of where there has been a significant increase in the number of passengers who use cleaning teams as their first port of call for information and assistance. 

Any person wearing high-visibility clothing is a natural target for lost or confused passengers, regardless of whether that person is an actual member of the customer service team. The transport operators have recognised this and are now providing cleaning operatives with transport-specific customer service training. This is designed to give them key skills and information such as how to respond to passenger enquiries and advice on conflict management. 

Those of us working in the cleaning industry recognise the valuable role that cleaning operatives play in the day-to-day running of buildings and in public safety and hygiene. But by up-skilling cleaning staff to take on multiple roles, they could be of even greater value. In the process, the investment being made to train them will make staff feel more appreciated and add variety and interest to their role, leading to better staff morale and retention.

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Your opinion on Brexit matters 09/01/2017

2016 will be remembered as the year when too many celebrated musicians, actors and entertainers passed away, including David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Victoria Wood and Gene Wilder. It will also be remembered as the year Donald Trump defied the odds to enter the White House, Pokémon Go became a global phenomenon and the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Of course, Brexit looks set to dominate 2017 with the UK Government's complex exit negotiations with Brussels expected to get underway in the first quarter of the year.

Whatever the outcome – and whether you're a supplier of cleaning equipment and services, a contract cleaner or a facilities manager – it is likely that Brexit will affect your business in some way, from the workforce to trade and more. 

There has been a lot of misinformation and scaremongering since the summer, leading to business uncertainty and knocked confidence. It is imperative, therefore, to gather accurate market intelligence so businesses can make investment and recruitment decisions based on what is actually happening. 

With this in mind, Cleaning Matters launched a survey at the end of 2016 to determine the impact of Brexit on the cleaning industry. Open to all our readers, the survey sought to identify the key issues within the sector following the success of the leave vote as well as the likely implications of Brexit. 

Your views and experiences are vital in helping to shape the future of our industry and how it responds to this important event. I'm therefore delighted to say that we had a phenomenal response to the survey! Thank you to everyone who took part and to our sponsor Vileda for sending all participants a PVAmicro microfibre cloth. 

According to Prime Minister Theresa May, ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and the UK is going to ‘make a success of it’. It is therefore up to our sector to help shape UK government policy and to identify the opportunities and solutions to the challenges ahead. 

The results of the survey will be presented and analysed in a special report, available at the end of February at www.cleaning-matters.com. This will be the first in a new series that we're excited to launch in 2017. The next one up will be a special report on the most important issues in hospital and healthcare hygiene – to be released in the summer.

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