The pandemic has shown how important the cleaning sector is, but creating Covid-secure environments is a responsibility shared between buildings operators and the public, according to industry experts.
Participants at the first All Party Parliamentary Group meeting for the UK Cleaning and Hygiene industry discussed the vital role of the cleaning industry in making workplaces Covid-secure and creating public confidence in returning to work.
Creating Covid-secure environments can not be achieved solely by building owners, operators and the service providers, but also require building users to do their part, according to the panellists.
Jason Towse, managing director of business services at Mitie, said that the public had a huge part to play. “We can apply a multi-layered approach to any environment whether it be disinfecting or air quality. Sometimes it’s the way the visitors behave, and there is a huge responsibility on the people visiting these environments.”
Towse added that the sector should not make apologies for rigorously communicating the public’s responsibility for keeping places clean.
John Hines, director of research and development at SC Johnson Professional, also said that the message of shared responsibility between facility owners, managers and users should be communicated.
“It’s important that people understand that when they go to a facility, the facility can make itself as safe as possible, but they still have a job to do in terms of making sure to look after hand hygiene [and] making sure they identify the likely moments of risk – where it’s important to wash their hands or sanitise their hands,” Hines said.
The panellists reiterated the importance of the cleaning sector in helping fight the Covid-19 pandemic and discussed how this was supported by advice from the British Medical Council (BMC).
Jim Melvin, deputy chairman of the British Cleaning Council, director at Cleaning & Support Services Association (CSSA), and chief executive of Exclusive Contract Services, said that the BMC report made the importance of cleaning surfaces clear and any suggestion to the contrary was contrary to NHS processes and government advice.
“The issue also is, of course, air quality, water and ventilation – and all of these have got to be looked at as well,” he said. “The BMC said heed the signs, focus the efforts on airborne transmission, but also ensure that touch points are clean."
The pandemic had highlighted the importance of the cleaning sector as a whole and it has instigated changes to working and behaviour that were likely to remain, the panel agreed.
Towse said that the cleaning industry was a sector, a service and a group of people that was essential. “This is not a moment in time, this is a change in culture of how people are going to work in the future, how they’re going to travel, and how they’re going to behave. So a lot of what we’ve done recently is going to change the way we do things in the future.”