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The need for sensible and proportionate training

01 December 2017

Have you ever thought about what kind of health and safety training your staff might need? What would happen if something went wrong due to a lack of training - where would that leave your business? What are the benefits of investing in timely and relevant training? Questions like these need to be answered if your business is to avoid being damaged by high rates of sickness and injury, or by enforcement action argues Andrew Ashford from Griffin Safety Training

The cleaning industry employs huge numbers of people of all ages and abilities across all sectors, from abattoirs to zoos. Cleaning operatives may work on multiple sites at all hours; they may work in teams, or alone. Even so, employers are still required to ensure that their workers are kept reasonably safe while at work. Keeping an eye on all staff all the time is impossible, so worker competence developed through effective training programmes is key.

But how much training is enough? Too much may be cost-prohibitive or irrelevant; too little and workers are unprepared to deal with risks or use equipment safely.

Striking the right balance

Employers need to think about the hazards associated with the work and workplace. They then need to provide sensible and proportionate training to help workers control risks.

Training courses needn’t be endless boring slideshows. A short demonstration may be all that is needed for simple tasks, whereas more in-depth training might be appropriate where machinery is involved. Most important is that the worker understands the risks and the precautions they need to take. Information must be easily understood by all, especially for those whose first language isn’t English.

One way to start is to list all the tasks that a worker performs. Are they competent to do them all? Are there gaps in their knowledge? Workers can be asked for their views about the training they need. 

A ‘training matrix’ may be helpful. This lists all the job roles and identifies specific training needs for each person, thereby helping to ensure that everyone is kept up to date.

When to train

Training new starters ensures that safety procedures are made clear from the start. This is especially important for young workers, who can then be paired with more experienced colleagues so they can be supervised effectively.

Employers must ensure that cleaning operatives receive a site induction, usually from the host company. Topics like signing in and out, ‘no-go’ areas, site hazards, and emergency actions should be included. Training such as IOSH ‘Managing Safely’ is beneficial when people change role or take on new responsibilities.

Cleaning operatives may also benefit from training in some or all of the following:

  • Recognising electrical faults - simple, practical training on spotting obvious electrical faults can be a real life saver.
  • Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome - workers learn to recognise symptoms and understand the importance of limiting usage time of equipment such as floor polishers.
  • CoSHH - cleaning operatives need to appreciate how to mix and apply cleaning chemicals and will need to understand the consequences of getting this wrong. Problems like excessively slippery floors, skin burns, dermatitis or creation of toxic fumes can all then be avoided. 
  • Manual handling - poor lifting technique can cause significant injury, which will result in the worker being unable to perform their duties and, probably, suffering reduced earnings. Simple kinetic handling training should be provided for all so as to help reduce this risk.

Risk assessment, first aid and, of course, refresher training, should also be considered. Topics can be delivered by themselves, or combined with others to make a half day or longer course.

The right training pays dividends. Companies that invest in training see reduced losses and can be more attractive to prospective clients. Staff may be happier and better motivated, leading to greater productivity and lower staff turnover. Invest in training now for a more prosperous and healthier future for your business.