Health and Safety Guidance for Employers of Cleaners Part Two

The first part of this article considered the situation where English was not the first language, this follow on article looks at supervision, training, personal safety and equipment, and your responsibilities with regard to all these.

Are you supervising your employees enough? This is not simply a matter of showing your face every so often, but ensuring that you meet with them regularly to discuss any issues that may be occurring concerning their work. Often, when Cleaning Companies staff out jobs, it is the cleaners themselves who know more about what is going on in the contracts than the managers themselves. Employees should be encouraged to come to you with any problems they may be having with any of the techniques, equipment, language, or the client. It may be that after discussions with your cleaning staff you decide to review these aspects of the contract, or it may be that everything is running smoothly and no action is required. Either way, the opinions of your employees matter, and these meeting times can provide a simple and effective way of dealing with problems before they begin.

It is your responsibility as an employer to provide all of your staff with the correct Personal Protective Equipment. Cleaning staff are not responsible for providing their own PPE. It is essential that you make you employees aware of the reasons that they need PPE, the correct use of such items and procedures for replacing and/or repairing items. Communication should be encouraged, and you should always respond promptly to any issues that your employees raise concerning PPE. Items of PPE must be suitable for the task and must be a correct fit for the individual. It is your responsibility to do your research into the properties and correct use of PPE to determine suitability, for instance, the resistance of certain gloves to particular chemicals. Because PPE is a last resort after other methods have been deemed unsuitable, it is essential that it is treated with great importance.

It is your responsibility to ensure that all equipment and materials provided for use by your employees are well maintained. Do not rely on your cleaning staff reporting issues back to you. Electric equipment should be out to date with PAT assessments, chemicals should not be allowed to go beyond their shelf life and should be disposed of according to manufacturers instructions, and broken and/or faulty equipment should be removed from premises as soon as it happens. These are not the responsibilities of cleaning staff, and procedures such as disposal of chemicals and the repair of equipment should only ever be carried out by a competent, trained and authorised person.

In cases where cleaning companies have placed staff in specific places of work, employers should be aware that a common problem is that the customer themselves ask the cleaners, not yourselves, to carry out certain tasks beyond the realms of their normal cleaning schedule. It happens frequently in cleaning contracts, and may seem to be a small point, but could prove to be a major Health and safety concern. Cleaning staff commonly feel obliged to meet your customers requests, but if a task is beyond their usual cleaning schedule, it is likely that it requires different materials, equipment and even certain training and/or supervision, it may even require a risk assessment and resulting risk control systems. You should ensure that the customer always contacts you, the employer, to arrange any alterations or additions to the cleaning schedule.