Health & Safety Training for Cleaners

health and safety for cleaners

Health and Safety for Cleaners Training

The type of tasks that cleaners undertake in their work presents a wide range of hazards. Cleaners often work with corrosive chemicals, conduct manual handling tasks, and operate electrical equipment and machinery. Cleaners are also often lone workers and are exposed to work at height and slips and trips.

When cleaners fail to use safe practices, it also exposes clients and the public to accidents and ill health. Due to the nature of their work, cleaners commonly work their entire shifts on public or private premises.

Failure to provide cleaning staff with adequate tools and training to do their jobs safely can lead to fines and penalties for employers, costly claims from members of the public or clients, and sickness absence for the employee.

It is essential that anyone employing cleaning staff ensure that all employees are competent and have the right resources to minimise the risks of cleaning work.

Cleaning Courses Offered by Human Focus

Human Focus offers a wide range of online training courses that aim to equip cleaners with the knowledge they need to carry out their role safely. Programmes included:

Nature of the Hazard

Accidents and ill-health caused by cleaning tasks can have potentially life long adverse effects. Each year there are over 3,000 serious accidents reported to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) that involve cleaners. In both domestic and commercial settings cleaners are more likely to suffer accidents than those that use and work in the environment.

Conventional cleaning tasks include: wiping, mopping, dusting, buffering, vacuuming, sweeping, and rubbish clearing. Covid-19 has meant that sanitising is now a very frequent task for cleaners, sometimes having to be performed a number of times an hour.

The risks associated with cleaning these activities include:

Legislation Related to Cleaners

There is a variety of legislation that applies to those employing cleaners and conducting cleaning work:

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to provide cleaning staff with adequate training to ensure safe working practices are understood and followed. They must also provide cleaners with a safe working environment, as well as all of the tools and information necessary to do their work in a healthy and safe way.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 adds further detail to the 1974 act. The main requirement is for employers to risk assess the hazards that any of their cleaning staff or anyone who else may be exposed to.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations require employers to control substances that are hazardous to their health. This means that employers must take steps to protect cleaners from hazardous substances such as the cleaning agents they use and any sharps they may come into contact with.

There is a variety of other legislation that will apply based on the type of work that your employees undertake, such as:

Under all of this legislation, the tasks that cleaning staff complete must be included in the appropriate internal policies and procedures. This could include a specific cleaning health and safety policy, for example, or a task-based assessment of the use of hazardous substances.

Employer Requirements

Those who employ and contract cleaners to work on their premises must understand the risks they are exposed to. This can be achieved by carrying out a risk assessment and implementing the necessary control measures.

Where a cleaner is directly employed, their employer must provide them with adequate training such as health and safety awareness, and COSHH, and manual handling training. Specific training may be required when specialist cleaning equipment is used like buffers and floor waxers. For contracted cleaners, risk assessments and training records must be requested from their employer.

Employee Requirements

Employees play a role in keeping workplaces clean too. By taking care of themselves they also help to take care of others. For example, if they were to spill something on a slippery surface and do not have the necessary equipment to clean up the spill themselves, letting the cleaning staff know immediately will prevent others from slipping. Circulating an office cleanliness memo may aid in getting this message across.

Risk Assessments for Cleaning Activities

A risk assessment for cleaning staff should cover the range of cleaning activities that take place in your business. Depending on the type of business, cleaning activities will vary, for example, a risk assessment for an office will not need the depth of one for cleaning a factory.

The risk assessment would need to consider those who carry out the cleaning as well as the environment and any equipment and substances they use. How old are they? Do they have any pre-existing conditions such as asthma? Do they require specific items of personal protective equipment?

Those who manage cleaners may benefit from using a health and safety checklist for cleaners. The checklist include prompts to look at:

  • Equipment servicing – when was the last service of a specific piece of cleaning equipment?
  • Training – has the cleaner completed Safe Assembly of Cleaning Equipment or COSHH Awareness training?
  • Hazardous substances – are there material safety data sheets available for each hazardous product used.

Involving the cleaners who carry out the work, and are exposed to the specific risks that come with cleaning premises is the best way to ensure that everything is captured. They are able to inform the process in ways that someone who does not clean for a living cannot. It is a great way to demonstrate that they are seen as an integral part of the business. Often cleaners can feel unseen and unaccounted for in the workplace.

Members of the Facilities Management team and health and safety specialists should be included as well, they can add vital input.

Health and safety guidelines for cleaners can be found on the HSE’s website, as can a sample risk assessment for cleaning activities.

Cleaning & COVID-19

The global pandemic has brought the importance of cleaning to the forefront. Employers must do what they can to keep workers safe and this includes those that clean domestic and commercial premises. Cleaners are potentially at higher risk of contracting coronavirus due to the sheer nature of their job. Cleaning can still go ahead but with precautions.

The government guidelines for domestic cleaners and those that clean commercial premises such as offices, supermarkets, and public transport, are in place to help employers put together control measures that will keep their cleaning staff safe.

It is important to consider the mental well-being of cleaners at this time. Being more likely to come into contact with the virus due to their work may well have a negative effect on their mental health. Talking to them about how they are feeling and providing them with support can help to put them at ease.

Providing Adequate Training for Cleaning Staff

Employers are duty-bound to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of all employees and must ensure that they work in safe environments. Training helps to achieve this. With the range of hazards that cleaners deal with through their work, it is crucial that they are well informed and trained on how to prevent harm to themselves and others who may be harmed by their actions. This is where specific health and safety training for cleaners really makes a difference.

An online health and safety course for cleaners is a good option for cleaners who don’t have a fixed workplace or may work unsociable hours. It is worth considering providers that offer health and safety for cleaners training in a range of languages. This is because it is estimated that 23 percent of cleaning professionals in the UK are from overseas, according to a Labour Force Survey carried out in 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can cleaners work during the current lockdown?

Yes, domestic and commercial cleaners can still work during periods of national lockdown, provided they keep to government guidelines such as social distancing and wearing an appropriate face covering. More information on this can be found in the Working Safely Under National Lockdown: A Closer Look document by the Department of Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy.

Always, follow the latest government Coronavirus advice and guidance.

What sectors do cleaners operate in?

The cleaning sector operates in every industry and in both residential and commercial properties. Consumer cleaners focus on residential premises, while commercial cleaners assist businesses and corporations. The most common services include cleaning home and office interiors, windows, floorings, and furniture.

Office cleaning will typically involve cleaning common areas, work areas, restrooms, cubicles, kitchens, and reception areas. It will require tasks such as dusting, polishing, mopping, sanitising, and removing waste.

Some types of cleaning will be very specialised to the industry and must be handled by a professional cleaning company. For instance, industrial cleaning is performed in manufacturing, industrial, and warehouse-type facilities.

Whichever type of cleaning undertaken, it is essential to conduct a thorough risk assessment and establish controls for all of the specific site and task hazards for the job.

How big is the cleaning industry?

Cleaning is big business. It provides a vital service for the nation, ensuring that workplaces, hospitals, hotels, public places are clean and pleasant to use. The industry contributes over £54 billion to the UK economy, according to the British Cleaning Council. This shows just how important cleaning staff is and highlights why their health and safety need to be taken seriously.

Why a clean area is usually a safe work area?

Below are some of the reasons that show why a clean workplace is a safe workplace:

  • Good air quality helps enhance employee’s performance at work
  • A clean and dry floor lowers the chance of work-related accidents such as slips, trips, and falls
  • Lowers the chances of employee’s exposure to hazardous substances
  • Appropriate use of disinfectants helps prevent the spread of germs and illnesses
  • Proper disposal of waste materials keeps the workspace clutter-free

Is working with cleaning chemicals dangerous?

Each type of cleaning chemical or agent that is used in cleaning will have different health risks associated with it. While some of the chemicals used will only pose a mild risk, others can cause significant harm, or even be fatal, if used or handled inappropriately.

Chemical agents may cause:

  • Irritation in the eyes or throat
  • Headaches
  • Dermatitis
  • Toxic gasses

It is essential that cleaning agents are only used for their intended purpose and in the correct manner. Always, read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow their guidelines exactly. Risk assessments, COSHH assessments, and method statements will also give you guidance on how to use your chemicals and what personal protective equipment is required.

Never mix chemicals unless you have been specifically instructed to do so. Do not store acidic or basic chemicals near each other, as this will cause a chemical reaction.

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