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Eyes on the ground 

28 June 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.