Dressed to protect

31 May 2017

Maureen Kelso, head of standards & verification at the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc), looks at the importance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the cleaning industry.

Cleaning is increasingly becoming more specialised, with the use of dangerous chemicals and specialist equipment requiring advanced training to operate. Protecting our cleaning operatives has never been so important, and organisations that fail to recognise this are not only putting their employees at risk but their customers too.

During a recent site visit, I was surprised to see a laid-back attitude concerning the welfare of cleaning staff. I was shocked to hear comments like ‘why do our operatives need PPE?’ and ‘they have always used this type of equipment, why do we need to change it now?’.

Protecting your workers is both a legal and moral obligation, so there is no excuse for not providing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), especially when you can find an extensive range available for a low cost.

In today’s industry, there is also a wide range of equipment available which can help improve the health and safety of our cleaning operatives. Examples of this include equipment designed to reduce manual handling or increase productivity by ensuring the right choice of materials is made subject to the size of the area being cleaned, the surface type and the environment it is being used in. The equipment used should also aim to reduce risks for the user and others in the vicinity. By selecting the most appropriate machinery for the task, you can ensure the work is done as safely as possible and the area is left clean on completion.

Choosing the right materials is always a major consideration for facilities managers given the differences in cost. However, the cheapest is not always the best option as they may put additional pressure on the operative such as carrying heavy, unstable work related items, which may lead to injuries caused by lifting or twisting.

Materials that are poor in quality inevitably require replacing more often and produce poor results which in turn reduces productivity as the work may have to be redone. Poor choices in PPE could lead to injury to the operative, which would affect the rest of the workforce by having to cover additional work areas in their absence.

Selecting and using the appropriate PPE for your cleaning operation is, therefore, vital and must be considered for every aspect of the cleaning process, from product selection to the final result. Safety does not come about by chance, and most accidents I have seen happen could have easily been prevented had the correct PPE been in place.