Conducting thorough cleaning risk assessments is vital to ensure the safety of employees and members of the public.
An effective risk assessment involves taking a systematic approach to identify and evaluate potential cleaning hazards, then taking steps to remove or reduce the risk of accidents.
Those responsible for running a cleaning business need to consider a number of risks in their assessment.
From being aware of the risk of harm from cleaning chemicals to slips, trips, and falls – there are many cleaning hazards that must be mitigated.
What is a Risk Assessment for Cleaning Procedures?
A cleaning risk assessment will identify and review potential hazards on the site to be cleaned. To be safe in the workplace, proper procedures must be written down and followed.
The assessment is a guide to follow to ensure everyone understands the potential hazards associated with the job. In the cleaning industry, this can include cleaning products, slippery floors and wearing appropriate PPE.
The assessment should be made available to anyone it concerns and be reviewed regularly. New employees should always be given an induction, including reading policies and risk assessments.
Each cleaning risk assessment is usually written up and added to the staff handbook by management or the designated health and safety leader. When cleaners are employed, they will be given specific instructions to follow and how to stay safe.
Self employed cleaners will already have risk assessments in place. Any employee who is responsible for cleaning should have access to risk assessments at all times.
Common Cleaning Hazards
Often, the hazard will depend on the environment the cleaners are working in. Some places will throw up different risks from others so it is important to have the appropriate assessments in place for each work environment.
Cleaning hazards need to be appropriately identified to ensure cleaners and anyone else in the vicinity are kept safe at all times.
Once they have been identified, they need to be assessed in terms of severity and what can be done to reduce the risks.
COSHH & Cleaning
COSHH refers to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. This set of regulations allows employers to identify all the risks involved with cleaning substances.
Once they have been identified, they should include ways to stay safe and how to reduce the risks as much as possible. COSHH also involves setting out procedures in the event of an incident or accident in the workplace.
Within the COSHH cleaning guidelines will also be information on the correct protective clothing to wear when handling hazardous substances. This can include gloves, aprons, appropriate footwear and eye protection.
Cleaning products can be dangerous and will often have very specific instructions on them. A risk assessment should point out the importance of following product instructions.
When diluting substances with water, risk assessments should remind workers to refer to the product label. In the event of an accident involving cleaning products, such as accidental eye contact, the product should be handed to the paramedics. This means they know exactly what ingredients are in the chemical which will help them choose the best treatment.
Risk assessments should also point out the occurrence of certain skin conditions that can present themselves. Such conditions include rashes, dermatitis, urticaria and possible allergic reactions. This is why protective clothing is essential to help minimise the risks.
A big risk factor in the cleaning industry is the potential for cross contamination to occur. It is paramount that everyone who cleans understands the protocols for minimising the risk of this occurring.
Most professional cleaning businesses opt for a colour coded system for cleaning equipment used for the job. This means there are separate cleaning supplies and equipment for all the different areas that require cleaning. This can be personalised for your particular business or you can use the universal system which was introduced by BICSc.
The risk assessment should detail the colours and what they mean and this should remain consistent. It also should be visible to all staff and made known to temporary or agency staff too. The assessment should underline the importance of preventing cross contamination.
Sometimes it might be necessary for cleaners to come into contact with potentially dangerous machinery or equipment.
A risk assessment should point out any such risks and advise staff how to remain safe while doing their job. The guidance should also detail any equipment deemed dangerous and how to clean it safely. This will need to be updated regularly if new machinery is added to the workplace being cleaned.
Any risks should be kept to an absolute minimum by checking machinery is off, nothing is faulty and that the correct PPE is worn.
It is hard to avoid electrical equipment in this day and age. Even modest office spaces will have electrical sources present.
Cleaners should be made aware of the dangers involved in working around such appliances. Mopping the floors will involve buckets of water which is an instant hazard when it comes to anything electrical. The risk assessment should state how to keep risks to a minimum such as keeping the water well away from electricity and checking sockets are off.
It is also imperative to know where the fire extinguishers are in the event of a fire. Each workplace should have the fire equipment signposted.
Mopping floors can cause falls so the appropriate steps should be taken to reduce such hazards. The same goes for any other trip hazards that present themselves in the workplace.
When floors are being cleaned there should always be wet floors sign in obvious places. Failure to have this in place can result in someone falling and hurting themselves. There will be other trip hazards while cleaners are working too.
Cables from hoovers, equipment piled up and other spillages will all need to be carefully handled.
Cleaning is a very physically demanding job. There is a great deal of bending, moving and lifting involved. This in itself can produce several risks which should be minimised.
Some courses can help to minimise the risks of getting hurt by incorrect manual handling procedures. Cleaners also need to be able to move equipment around the building which can involve stairs and lifts.
Trollies should be stacked safely and not be a struggle to push along. If staff struggle with getting heavy equipment such as hoovers from one area to another then this should be addressed.
Back injuries can put a cleaner out of work for weeks and employers have a duty of care to protect employees.
Cleaners are often the last people in the building at the end of the work day and in small environments, there may only be the need for a single cleaner. There needs to be safety protocols in place for dealing with lone workers.
A risk assessment should highlight the risks of working alone and how any dangers to lone workers can be kept to a minimum. This can involve regular check ins via the phone, having access to CCTV during the cleaning session or other effective methods. Lone workers should always have access to a telephone and have a list of emergency contacts.
Risk assessments, together with the appropriate cleaning insurance policy, are the most efficient way of keeping all the staff safe.
How to Conduct a Cleaning Risk Assessment
How you choose to conduct your cleaning risk assessment is a personal choice but should be relevant to the settings that are cleaned. The person conducting the risk assessment should have a sound knowledge of the risks involved.
It is important to decide how often to review any risk assessments. Ideally, when a new member of staff arrives, they should be given a copy. There may also need to be specific risks for particular members of staff. For example, anyone with asthma will need one based on any hazardous chemicals they will be in contact with.
If the cleaning business visits multiple settings then it might be necessary to have one for each environment. For example, you could have a domestic, commercial and industrial risk assessment to cover the different locations.
There are 5 key areas to focus on when it comes to organising and writing up a risk assessment for cleaners.
We have listed these below in line with guidance provided by the the UK Health & Safety Exective:-
- Identify the hazards. During the risk assessment write up be sure and think of all the main hazards involved with cleaning.
- Identify who might be harmed and how this might occur. Within each risk listed, it is important to identify who is at risk. For some of the hazards, it might be the public who are at risk, for others the staff themselves.
- What can be put in place to minimise the risks? This is where you need to put into place measures to deal with the risks. For every risk, there should be a clear plan to keep everyone as safe as possible. It may even be possible to eliminate the risk completely.
- Have an effective method for recording findings. All businesses should partake in risk assessments and this means recording the results too. This can help determine any patterns that emerge which may suggest something needs to change.
- Review any risk assessments frequently. A risk assessment can become almost ineffective if it is not reviewed regularly. Any new work that is added to the cleaning company should be risk assessed. When new staff are employed it might be necessary to edit them to suit their particular needs. Risk assessment should be viewed as an evolving document that is never finished.
Why Risk Assessments Are Essential
Risk assessments are essential for even the smallest of cleaning businesses. For businesses with over 5 members of staff, they are an actual legal requirement.
Cleaners will also need a specific COSHH risk assessment which identifies all the hazardous substances. It should specify how incidents will be dealt with and any steps to minimise the potential risks.
All employers have a duty of care to their employees. The most effective way of demonstrating this is by conducting a risk assessment. If you clean other businesses then they will ask to see your risk assessment before taking you on. It is often a term of the insurance policy to make sure risk assessments are in place.
As long as you are reviewing your cleaning risk assessments at least annually then this is acceptable. However, they may need to be updated when new staff start or when any new procedures are put in place.
The risk of injury in the workplace is much higher with no risk assessment in place. It also makes working with hazardous substances much more dangerous.
The employer is in charge of conducting the risk assessment for the cleaning business. This forms part of their duty of care policy.