The key role of cleaning staff in keeping public buildings hygienically clean

Jim Melvin, chairman of the British Cleaning Council, on the role of cleaning and hygiene staff in keeping buildings clean


The role of cleaning and hygiene staff in keeping buildings hygienically clean has clearly never been more important than in the years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The cleaning, hygiene and waste sector – which is one of the ten biggest industries in the UK, worth nearly £59 billion – has always played an unequivocally vital role in keeping people safe, healthy and well.
There can be no argument that during the Covid-19 pandemic, cleaning teams were frontline in getting buildings hygienically ready for key workers. That must not and will not be forgotten.  
The outbreak of the pandemic brought a new awareness among the public of the importance of hygiene.
Survey after survey has revealed the public’s need to see visible cleaning to a high standard in buildings they use in order to feel confident and reassured.
The result has been a new emphasis on high standards of hygiene in factories, workplaces, supermarkets, public transport hubs, hotels and hospitals – in fact, in every public building.
In many venues, new cleaning regimes, procedures and innovations have been brought in to meet the heightened expectations of building owners and contract cleaning clients.
One common approach has been to introduce more frequent cleaning for touchpoints such as door handles, bannisters and countertops.
Elsewhere, extra training in infection control has been introduced for cleaning staff along with new chemicals and products.
We have also seen technology being widely introduced to allow staff to work more smartly.
This includes sensors that monitor footfall and radio frequency ID tags linked to handheld devices to ensure areas are given the right amount of cleaning, while demand has taken off for cobots and robots to support the work of cleaning staff.
The sector’s proud and professional staff have responded by adapting quickly to the new requirements and often working more intensively.
Cleaning and hygiene have risen to the top of the agenda bringing considerable investment and I don’t see that changing in the near future.
The importance of keeping public buildings cleaned to a high standard to control infections will remain a priority, especially with the threat of flu or Coronavirus cases this winter, while Mpox remains a menace.
But the cleaning and hygiene sector’s ability to maintain these high standards is being hampered by the severe staff shortages we have been experiencing over recent months.
The British Cleaning Council is calling for the Government to help with this major recruitment crisis and recognise the frontline role of cleaning staff. As part of this, we recently launched the ‘We Clean, We Care’ campaign to highlight the pride that staff have in their vital role.
The Government have now unquestionably seen the effects of Covid-19 and there can never be any claim in the future that we were unaware or caught by surprise.
We need to work together with Government without further delay to ensure we have a collective UK hygiene plan and that, together, we are ready to change both cultural and social attitudes to cleaning and hygiene as well as recognising the professional skill of those who work in the industry.
We no longer accept the narrative that industry staff are “low skilled”, which has been traditionally rolled out by those who have little or no idea of what is involved. I certainly don’t recall too many people saying that over the last two or three years and it is simply untrue.
It’s time for a cultural change which we look forward to driving with full Government help and support.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

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