Floor cleaning – a hidden gem?

Despite what many people think there is a science behind the art of cleaning floors. The right process, the right product and the right approach can result in significant financial gain for a business, yet many still embrace a mop and bucket approach in a bid to chip away pennies from already restricted cleaning budgets.

Each year companies pay out millions in accident claims that can be reduced and avoided by simply adopting the right approach to floor cleaning. Slips and trips remain the most common causes of major accidents at work – with over 90 per cent resulting in broken bones. Indeed, the cost to UK businesses is around £500 million a year and he average slip claim in the UK, according insurers, is £14,000.

Even for a large business with multiple sites the actual cost of cleaning is comparatively little when measured against accident claims caused by slips and trips. In most cases, changes to the cleaning process and/or chemicals will be cost neutral. Even when there are additional costs, these are usually covered many times over by the savings in claim costs and reduction in insurance premiums.

Furthermore, recent legislative changes increase the onus on businesses and cleaning contractors to get floor care and cleaning right. Previously companies could be faced with fines around £10,000 if they were found guilty over health and safety breaches. Today, fines have the potential to be as much as 100% of annual profits for transgressions.

So what can businesses and cleaning contractors do?

There’s no one easy answer to this question, because the root causes of non-compliance are many and varied. Leaving floor specification and installation aside, there are however a number of common themes.

Get the basics right. These include making sure that cleaning products are right for the environment – a commercial kitchen for instance will have far greasier contaminants than a retail space – the cleaning products need to be correct for the floor in question and also take into account who uses it.

Wet and dry environments should be taken into consideration. The performance of cleaning products will vary according to how wet the surface is. It pays to be wary of profiled surfaces, as they will require a different level of cleaning to smooth floors. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Correct training and supervision of cleaning teams is also essential. Again, it’s a question of back-to-basics ensuring that staff read and act upon the manufacturer’s instructions, particularly in relation to getting the concentration of products correct. Having the right equipment and being able to use it correctly and safely, is also vital, as is correct supervision and reviews of cleaning regimes.

In time-pressured environment, such as hotels, it pays to train staff to do things in the correct order. We’ve come across numerous examples of housekeeping staff applying and rinsing off cleaning products in an illogical sequence – meaning that the cleaning agent doesn’t have time to work properly.

Clearly, businesses need to make sure that they have a robust system of checks, inspections and accessible records in place. Businesses should also be aware that the only method approved by the HSE for testing slip resistance is the Pendulum test (PTV) and that any pendulum tests should always be carried out in the wet.

We see best results in organisations where facilities management, health and safety, and finance managers meet to discuss investment in cleaning and the hidden financial benefit of doing it properly. Not only do the costs for claims decrease, so do insurance premiums. Many companies self-insure or have high excesses on their liability policies, so any claims payouts hit their bottom line.  By reducing claims payouts, the company will enjoy tangible benefits

Cleaning science has improved from the traditional mop and bucket. With correct application of the right chemicals, better and safer standards are available to all building owners and cleaning service providers. If businesses don’t have the expertise in-house, they should seek advice and not plump for the cheapest option.

In our experience, companies that are reluctant to invest in a proper cleaning and maintenance programme are missing an opportunity to make significant savings for their business, and to minimise the risk of fines.

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