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Catherine Hackett

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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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Is your training fit for the future?   08/11/2016

As the nights draw in, the clocks go back and we head towards the end of 2016, it's a good time for businesses and organisations to reflect back on the year and review their processes and procedures. Training of the cleaning workforce is key to this and requires regular reassessment to ensure that supervisory and front-line staff continue to play their part in fulfilling your business or organisation's objectives. 

As previously reported, far-reaching change is on the horizon in training across all sectors and businesses in the UK, with the new Apprenticeship Levy due to come into force in April 2017. The Government aims to have three million apprentices in place by 2020. So how is the cleaning industry responding?

Lorraine Larman from LCC Support Services provides the latest updates on cleaning apprenticeships here, including the development of a new level 2 cleaning operative apprenticeship. Over the coming months, Lorraine will continue to report on the progress being made and how you can get involved.

Training is not only being shaped by the Government but is being dragged into the future by Industry 4.0. "We are about to witness a new industrial revolution, fuelled by the advancement of digital technologies," ISSA's Dianna Steinbach explains in her regular column here

"It is no longer about how we make things, it is about how they communicate with one another and share information,” she adds. “The benefits to our industry are boiled down to three main areas: the ability for cleaning operations to better understand themselves through the data their machines provide, for cleaning operations to utilise the data provided by smart buildings in which they operate, and the ability for cleaning operations to use both to help facility decision makers better understand needs and better meet them through more targeted services."

One consequence of this, she continues, is that "new training will be required for operations management and supervisors to understand how to digest and harness the data now at their disposal onsite".

With the industry moving forward at a greater pace than ever, businesses can't afford to stand still, least of all when it comes to investing in its people by implementing effective training. 

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Lifting the lid on terrible toilets   14/09/2016

For those who have only been able to enjoy the Olympics and Glastonbury Festival from the comfort of their living rooms this summer, they can at least take comfort in the fact they’ve managed to avoid the toilet horror stories that plague such events.

Let’s start with the Olympics. Only days before the Games were due to open, it was reported that extra maintenance staff and more than 1,000 cleaners had been brought in to help fix problems and clean the Olympic Village in Rio. The Australian team of athletes had raised concerns over blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring, and refused to move into the complex of 31 buildings until the problems had been resolved. 

Mike Tancred, the spokesman for the Australia team, said: “We’re having plumbing problems, we’ve got leaking pipes. We’ve got electrical problems. We’ve got cleaning problems. We’ve got lighting problems in some of the stairwells. We did a stress test on Saturday, turned on the taps and flushed the toilets, and water came flooding down the walls.”

Thankfully all was resolved for the start of the Games but that hasn't stopped toilets hitting the headlines since for more bizarre reasons, after an athlete used her Instagram account to post a photo of a sign depicting various banned practices while using the toilets at the Olympic Village. Apart from the usual requests for users not to throw paper down the bowl, there is also a complete ban on fishing in the toilet!

Outdoor music festival Glastonbury is almost as famous for its nightmarish toilets as its live music acts. The majority of the loos are metallic green boxes, known as "long-drops" because you excrete into a large underground opening, often already filled to the brim with human waste.

But festival goers had a better deal this summer as the plastic portable toilets were replaced by 1,300 organic composting toilets. According to organisers, the smell is reduced as each user covers their waste in sawdust, which they take into the loo with them. The loos are also said to last longer — as they don't fill up so quickly — and are better for the environment as the waste is used to fertilise nearby fields.

Some toilet anecdotes should rightly be sniffed at, but others remind us that cleaning is only noticed when it isn't done properly and hygiene when it isn't up to scratch.

Jane Healy, Glastonbury’s sanitation manager, enlightens us: "No one ever talks about toilets in everyone’s day-to-day life, but as soon as they get to a festival that’s all they want to talk about."

For the cleaning industry, though, it's just business as usual.

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How will Britain leaving the EU affect you? 05/08/2016

On Friday 24th June it was announced that Britain had voted to leave the EU. As predicted, the results were close: Leave with 51.9% and Remain with 48.1%. Within hours of the result, there was a plunge in the pound and in shares, and David Cameron announced he was to step down as Prime Minister. Among such uncertainty, business owners will be looking to the Government and the Bank of England to manage the transition as smoothly as possible.

Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: "The weeks and months ahead are going to be a nervy time for business leaders, so they need to know that the government is focused on maintaining stability while a new relationship with the EU is established."

In the professional cleaning industry, manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of cleaning equipment and products will be keenly watching whether Britain's new deal will retain tariff-free access to the EU market for goods and services and ensure regulatory stability.

Whether negotiations will continue to address the UK skills gap will be another point of interest, particularly for our sector, as a new report from the British Cleaning Council shows that the UK cleaning industry relies on migrant labour more heavily than other economic sectors, with 24% of workers having a non-UK nationality compared to the average of 18% across other industries. 

Regarding the impact of the 'leave' vote on the cleaning industry, Dianna Steinbach, director EMEA Services at ISSA, told Cleaning Matters: “Our industry is global and necessarily it has found ways to weather many economic situations in the past. It will prevail in this one as well, once the dust settles and the impact has been made clear. The business leaders I have met so far in the UK are smart, savvy and entrepreneurial. I trust they will put that to good use in the years to come to continue to grow their businesses and lead the market.”
 
The British Cleaning Council (BCC) also released a statement in which it said that “whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, Europe remains a very important market for the UK cleaning industry, and every effort should be made to make the transition to a non EU state as smooth as possible”.

It added: "There are many EU nationals working in the UK cleaning industry and their hard work and commitment is extremely important for the buoyancy of the industry. The UK cleaning industry also has strong links to partners in Europe, and we are determined to keep those links strong.”

We'll bring you more news on Brexit at www.cleaning-matters.co.uk as the situation develops.

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Science fiction meets simplicity  01/07/2016

ISSA/INTERCLEAN Amsterdam may be over for another two years but the multitude of innovations launched at the global exhibition for cleaning professionals will have a big impact on the industry for a long time to come.

The Amsterdam Innovation Award 2016 provided a fascinating insight into where the market is now and where it's heading. The Internet of Things (IoT) – essentially a network of devices connected to the Internet that can capture and exchange data – is really taking off in the cleaning industry. More businesses are realising that it can help them to work proactively rather than reactively, thereby improving efficiency, performance and reducing costs at the same time. 

To find out more about the very latest 'smart' technologies introduced to the market from robots to augmented reality, please click here.

Of course, you don't have to use 'smart' technology to work smarter. Cleaning is still a labour-intensive sector and the development of more user-friendly manual methods remains vital. It's often true that the simplest ideas are the best. Take the Quick & Easy System from Werner & Mertz Professional, which won the category for 'Equipment/tools for cleaning, care and safety' at the Innovation Award: The operator wears the system on a belt and can move from room to room with five different chemicals, changing between them quickly and easily. There is no need for installation and the operative does not come into direct contact with the chemical, making it completely safe. 

As if the products and services on show at ISSA/INTERCLEAN hadn't given us enough food for thought, facilities management firm Mitie announced on 1st June that it was launching a new drone service.

The company said the drones will enable it to inspect properties and use thermal sensors to find out whether there are pests, such as seagulls, in buildings up to 400ft without the need for specialist equipment. Data from the drone can be processed by a smartphone or tablet, reducing the need to send people to investigate. 

Mitie also has plans to use drones for looking at whether buildings need cleaning, for general building damage inspections, security, and to carry out aerial mapping for its landscaping service.

With a number of technologies previously thought to be 'science fiction' now becoming a reality in professional cleaning, it's certainly an exciting time to be involved in the industry. These new products and ways of working are great in helping us overcome ongoing challenges – from the downward pressure on margins in cleaning to the upward pressure on wage costs. But beyond that, they can also elevate the cleaning experience, taking quality to a new level and bringing greater pride and prestige to our industry and its workers.

 

 

 

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Will the new wage bring real change? 13/06/2016

On 1st April, the UK Government introduced a compulsory minimum wage premium for all staff over 25 years of age, and referred to it as the ‘national living wage’. It means that eligible workers will see their minimum rate of pay increased by 50p to £7.20. 

According to the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, this change, which aims to help Britain’s lowest-paid workers improve their standard of living, will affect over one million workers and could result in some taking home an additional £900 a year. A government survey also revealed that 59% of workers impacted “will feel more motivated at work as a result of the increase in their pay packets”.

On the other side of the coin, the Regulatory Policy Committee estimates the rise will cost companies £804.4 million in extra wages and staff costs. Despite this, 70% of businesses are supportive of the new national living wage, according to the latest results from the Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey that gauges sentiment from management from around the UK and Ireland.

However, the same findings showed that 50% of business owners and managers do not believe the scheme will bring about a measurable increase in productivity, making them less optimistic than workers.

In a special feature, Jamie Wright, MD at Incentive QAS, offers one suggestion as to why. He says that the new wage is unfair to under 25s and is "likely to have an impact on morale amongst younger team members and deter others from joining the industry".

Critics have also argued that the change is nothing more than a tweak to the minimum wage regulations. By comparison, the Living Wage Foundation (LWF), an independent body, has set its national living wage at the higher rate of £8.25 per hour nationally and at £9.40 for the London area. These figures are based on the public perception of the minimum income required and on detailed budgets. Employers who choose to pay the LWF’s wage to all their employees can apply for accreditation.

But Jacqueline Kendal, head of employment law at RK LLP, says: "Perhaps the real success story of the Government's policy is the raised awareness of what constitutes a living wage and this is reflected in the fact that last year alone, 429 employers obtained accreditation from the LWF."

However, Kendal also believes this new legislation is just a starting point. She says: "As women still make up the majority of the part-time workforce, the pay discrepancy between part-time and full-time workers is likely to be reconsidered in the future, as part of the gender pay gap work by Government."

Whether this comes to pass or not, it is unlikely that the issue of pay will recede as we all try to strike a balance between preventing employee exploitation and maintaining viable businesses.

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In deep water 21/03/2016

Flooding has wreaked terrible damage across the UK this winter with people forced to abandon their homes and businesses.

According to figures released by the Association of British Insurers for the month to 3 January 2016 insurers dealt with 20,000 flood claims which included over 5,000 property claims by business customers. During the same period £15m in emergency payments were made to businesses of all sizes.

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI, said: "The impact of flooding will be felt for many months to come in affected areas. Cleaning, drying out and repairing flood-damaged properties is a major undertaking. Insurers and their expert teams will be there for the long haul to help communities rebuild and repair."

If your commercial premises haven't been affected by flooding but you wish to take precautions against possible future damage, it's worth reading this article from Darwin Clayton. The insurance broker looks at the factors to consider when assessing how much insurance is needed so businesses can be confident that they're covered should the worst happen.

"Underinsurance can have significant consequences, from the inconvenience of unexpected bills affecting cash flow to the extreme of businesses having to close," James Shaw from Darwin Clayton warns. 

With flooding across the UK now becoming an almost annual occurrence, The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has issued an advice leaflet to remind employers that they have a legal duty to ensure that the health and safety of all their employees is protected. 

"It is not," the TUC says, "in anyone’s interests to ask workers to risk their lives or health either during the floods themselves or in the aftermath."

The leaflet can be viewed online at https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/HEALTH%20AND%20SAFETY%20ISSUES%20IN%20FLOODED%20AREAS%20pdf.pdf.

The guidance makes clear that, in extreme cases, the structure of the building will need to be checked before anyone is allowed in. If any staff are involved in the clean-up, there should be a risk assessment and they should be provided with proper personal protective equipment.

 

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