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Putting principles into practice

13 April 2015

Principle Cleaning Services provides insight into how contract cleaners can implement effective health & safety measures and management systems

Principle Cleaning Services remains one of the few independently owned companies in the industry. The company was formed in 1989 by the chief executive, Doug Cooke, and incorporated Principle Window Cleaning into its portfolio in 2013. Today, the company has 1360 employees and a turnover of £25 million.


During 2014, Principle Cleaning continued to win cleaning contracts throughout London, including global charitable foundation The Wellcome Trust, with Broadgate at Paddington Central and with Land Securities at 20 Fenchurch Street. In all client buildings, staff are expected to take reasonable care of the health, safety and welfare of themselves, fellow personnel and anyone else who may be affected by their acts which in Principle Cleaning’s case, is the general public. This can only be done through good health & safety measures and management systems.


Setting the standards

Principle Cleaning has invested in health, safety and training with certification to both BS.EN.ISO 9001 and SafeContractor but most importantly it is accredited to OHSAS 18001, which carries its own registered health & safety system and policy with the attention of all employees drawn to their responsibilities under the Health & Safety at Work Act of 1974.


Health and safety guidance is put into practice for new and existing employees through induction training and thereafter on a daily basis. Managers and supervisors undertake safety reviews such as Risk Assessments, Method Statements, Manual Handling and COSHH assessments for chemicals. An adequate supply of suitable protective clothing and equipment are maintained and made available to all employees and inspections of these regularly take place. Employees must observe safety regulations at all time and any accidents and procedures must be recorded and documented ensuring that they carry out their work in accordance with all requirements.


The height of safety

Principle Window Cleaning Services recently celebrated its first anniversary having won some prestigious contracts since it launched. With this comes an even higher level of safety with Working at Height Regulations which brought in a ‘hierarchy of risk’ where potential for human error is minimised. Hence abseil must now be used as a last resort by law. If a cradle is installed there must be good reason not to use it and this must be reflected in the risk assessment which is proof of the employer reducing the risk to the lowest level possible. Risk assessments are reviewed periodically depending on the level of risk – e.g. abseiling might generally be reviewed on every visit and working methods and documentation altered. 

Cradle work might be reviewed every six months – Principle Cleaning decides but must be ‘competent’ to make the assessment. Competence is dictated by training and experience. Staff working at height need to know how to get down if there’s a fire on the roof  or if there is illness, such as a heart attack and this is all included as part of Principle Window Cleaning’s risk assessment pack.

A Permit to Work system is used when working in hazardous situations, limiting the task and the method and the people able to carry out the task and the time span available work – i.e. controlling the task even more.

Spot checking and dealing with shortfalls is an integral part of safety management and the disciplinary process can be and is used for this. Copies of all health & safety documentation and policies are kept on site in staff offices and on larger sites a pack of all live documentation from insurance to training to emergency contact details is kept.

All in all, it is fair to say that both Principle Cleaning and Window Cleaning make it a priority to adhere to all the legislation which is required of them. Working safely is a legal requirement which creates a safe system of work for all employees in all of the activities they carry out for the company. Training on use, checking, maintenance of PPE and equipment, together with chemicals is a normal part of Principle Cleaning’s working day to ensure the safety message gets through and becomes part of the company’s working culture.