How many articles start with this phrase, but COVID has changed the world – including shining a light on the importance of cleaning and hygiene relating to safety. But what is that light reflecting? Is it perfect standards, measurable results, scientific proof and utmost confidence? Or is it do more, blind trust and hope for the best?
Unfortunately, my experience is that in many (far from all) cases, it’s closer to the latter.
In response, the purchasers of cleaning (i.e. every single business) and the cleaning industry itself have three specific problems to grapple with.
First, there’s a huge lack of appreciation about the value of cleaning. This is a vicious circle: a cost driven tender, huge competition and somebody always being willing to do it cheaper means we get cheap submissions. That means, poor standards; therefore a loss of confidence. And that leads to yet another cost driven tender. We need to break that cycle. In-house cleaning teams and external contractors alike aren’t set up for sustained daily success due to a lack of resources, knowledge, and processes. So, with the current market structure of how cleaning of buildings is delivered, it’s simply not possible to achieve building safety.
Second, you may have heard of greenwashing, which is companies claiming that their products are environmentally friendly, when often they are not. Well, I think we’re now into cleanwashing: companies, claiming their buildings are clean and safe when they’re not. Just to be clear, I don’t think this is a deliberate strategy – it’s being done through a lack of knowledge. There’s a lack of understanding on what cleaning truly is. There’s a fear factor being preyed upon. And I think it’s fair to say there’s some snake oil selling going on, too. We’re cleaning like never before. But is that cleaning effective, and is it leaving buildings, safe? Does voluminous cleaning equal “enhanced cleaning”. The evidence suggests not. Channel 4 Dispatchers (I reviewed this TV show on my podcast here) swab tested leading high street brands and found 50% of surfaces were not clean enough so as to be safe. Doing more ineffective cleaning will not make surfaces safe, and we haven’t yet understood this.
Lastly, insurers expect a tsunami of COVID insurance claims coming, and we won’t be able to defend them. Seven out of 10 claims companies are now seeing claims starting. 25% of these are about having contracted COVID or the perceived risk of contracting it in buildings. What would make you feel more confident standing in the dock?
1) “My cleaners deal with that” or “they say it lasts for 30 days”
2) “We have X product and the process proven to do Y, we have Z testing. We have this maintenance plan and here is the proof of it being done and the scientific testing to back it up. And here is all the documentation independently verified.”
Unfortunately, the vast, vast majority of buildings are in space #1.
In the UK, being able to defend a claim comes down to proving whether you’ve done what’s reasonable and practicable to mitigate risk. Given all buildings are cleaning more than ever before, I find it impossible to believe that it’s unreasonable for this cleaning to be evidence-based. If you believe a judge would disagree with me, perhaps you should stop reading here 😊
As hard as that sounds, I believe there is a solution.
First, we must change perceptions through taking a stand and having grown up conversations: walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Proof, not promises. Buildings need to budget properly. Contractors need to stop quoting too cheap and instead deliver proven, quality services. The “frontline heroes” conversation will be a total waste if we go back to the same vicious circle. Cleaning isn’t just about cleaning. It’s about protecting staff and buildings; creating a high-performance environment; driving sales and retention through better user experience; increasing employee engagement and motivation; and yes, it’s about safety. Seen through that prism, this is a business-critical, high-value service. Not “just cleaning”.
To do this we need evidence-based cleaning. This, I’m afraid, will be uncomfortable for many businesses, contractors and suppliers because that’s not how the industry is currently set up. But we can’t rely on “it looks okay”, or unsubstantiated claims.
- Take COVID killing products: so many businesses have been relied these, yet the evidence of efficacy is very thin on the ground. For example, virus levels not increasing in a sterile lab environment over weeks / months. But, unlike bacteria, viruses do not multiply in a sterile environment. This is blatant pulling of wool over the eyes and it must stop.
- Or how about the countless companies offering fogging sanitisation without physical pre-cleaning, which in many ways created creates more risk, not less. You can’t disinfect a surfaces without it being clean first.
- Never mind the flood of fogging and electrostatic machines that were sold to end user businesses in the first wave, which government advice has now rendered almost useless in a practical sense
We’ve got to move past being “ok” and into being “great and proven”.
This evidence needs to be robust in its nature and properly collated. Poorly captured evidence will simply not stand up in court. There’s a ticking time bomb here, which we can address. But we need to do so quickly. We need proper, scientific testing and court-ready documentation. We need cleaning methods to be proven – test before and after, but also regularly to ensure recleaning frequency is based on need; and disinfectants to be proven, too.
We’ve developed a model to achieve these three outcomes, in conjunction with our lawyer and insurer partners, which we call The CLEANER Method.
This gives building owners confidence that they are truly clean, safe and protected in the event of any claims. And it gives in-house or externally contracted cleaning teams the support they need to be able to deliver a high standard of cleaning on a daily basis.
There are two key reasons I’m hugely passionate about this topic. Firstly, my youngest son has severe asthma, so we’ve all been shielding for the last year. As such, I’m doing all I can to keep him, and others like him safe. And to do that we must do things differently, we must be better. Second, I’ve suffered a serious injury after an accident. So I know how devastating it can be for something unexpected, that wasn’t your fault, to happen. It really can change your life. We owe it to our team, our customers and our supply chain to do all we can to protect them. We must vaccinate our buildings, not just out arms.
So, if these points resonate with you, and you’d like to achieve a level of certainty, we’d be very happy to partner up with you. We can work alongside any cleaning team to embed our CLEANER Model into your facility. Straight away, you’ll have the confidence that you’re going above and beyond to safeguard people, and therefore will be able to sleep soundly at night. In the long-run, you’ll be protecting yourself against claims but maybe even more importantly, building within your business 4 P’s:
Protection of your biggest assets (your buildings and staff)
Performance from those assets, driving…
Profit. All of which gives you the
Power to do more meaningful things in the world (hire, expand, social or charitable impact)
To find out more, reach out and I’d be happy to jump on a complimentary 15-minute Zoom call with you to
- Really understand and unpack what you’re currently doing when it comes to keeping your building clean and safe
- Explain more about how The CLEANER Model works
- See whether there’s any alignment between the two
In summary, then, if you think this is about “just” about cleaning, then you’ve missed the point. I’m known for really caring about an issue most people don’t want to think about: simply put, our work leaves people feeling safer. And that’s really, I believe, what we all want right now in the world: to feel safer.
If you personally would like to feel safer around this topic, because you have complete knowledge and control, so you can be certain and prove you’re doing the right thing… And in turn, make your team and customers feel safer too… let speak.
Book in a time to suit you www.slipsafety.co.uk/call