As essential workers in factories, offices, supermarkets, schools and hospitals, often unseen, cleaners are the unsung heroes of the workforce. Cleaner jobs involve a lot of physical activity, so it is important to make your own wellbeing a priority. We offer some tips and advice to give you the know-how and confidence to identify and report potential workplace hazards.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant many people in Cleaner jobs have experienced changes in their work environment. This could be new work practices with increased hygiene measures, or a change of workplace, such as from office to domestic, as more people switched to working from home. It is important that those in the cleaning industry understand their rights, whatever industry their Cleaner job is in.
All workers have rights, and they are the same for Cleaner jobs as they are for jobs in any other industry, regardless of whether you are in a temporary or permanent role.
As an employee there are certain things you are entitled to receive from your employer. This warehouse blog gives more details on your rights, which are the same for any job role. You should also be aware that there are things an employer must not do:
- Pay less than the agreed amount.
- Fail to pay for extra hours.
- Force you to work against your will.
- Make unfair or excessive deductions from pay, not previously agreed, for transport or uniforms.
- Discriminate against you.
- Allow you to be threatened, harassed or bullied.
- Dismiss you unfairly.
- Treat you less favourably for being in a trade union.
- Victimise you for raising a concern on the subject of poor treatment.
Your employer also has a responsibility to ensure your health and safety at work. This requires them carrying out a risk assessment to determine what could cause harm to people. This involves considering the type and scale of any risks in the workplace and taking reasonable steps to prevent anything happening.
Your employer must ensure the following:
- You are not at risk of injury or ill-health through your work.
- You have safe and healthy working conditions.
- You are listened to you when raising a concern.
Physical wellbeing: looking after yourself
To take care of your physical wellbeing it is necessary to have the right training for your cleaning job. Even if you have worked as a Cleaner before, it is important to be trained for the specific environment you are working in.
Lifting, carrying, reaching, pushing and pulling are inherent tasks for all Cleaner jobs. Though not always practical, employers should strive to avoid manual handling processes where possible. Regulations require that employers train all workers to be competent in carrying out manual handling tasks in as safe a manner as possible to reduce the risk of injury.
Working alone or without direct supervision means it is essential that risks to your health and safety are identified and managed. You should be made aware of these specific hazards and your employer should let you know the steps in place to control them.
For Cleaner jobs in a healthcare, food or animal environment, infection control and prevention have always been high priority. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 this has been the case for the majority of work environments where you are in close contact with people. It is important to understand how infections are transmitted and you should be fully trained in infection prevention procedures such as, hand washing, cleaning equipment and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is now commonplace in many work environments and public places. It includes face masks, visors, gloves, aprons and overalls. As a Cleaner, you should be fully trained in the correct use of PPE as needed for your job role and workplace. You need to know the steps to take before putting on PPE and how to safely dispose of it, as well as having an understanding of its importance and limitations.
As a Cleaner you will be working with various cleaning products, some of which may be classified as ‘hazardous’. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations, your employer must protect you from any risks associated with the use of products by assessing them according to the supplied Safety Data Sheet. You should be fully trained on how to use and store the product safely, so that any danger is minimised.
Accidents can happen in any job, but you always need to be aware of potential dangers. Whether it is something you identify as a hazard, or the need for training on a particular procedure. There are 4 routes you can take to report an issue:
- Your supervisor.
- Your health and safety representative.
- Your union representative.
- Through the hazard reporting procedures as provided by your employer.
It is important that you take control and consider your physical wellbeing a priority in your job.
How to report physical challenges or ailments that impact your role
You have the right to keep your medical information confidential and private. However, if there is a health condition that could impact your safety and that of those around you at work, it is strongly advised that you speak to your employer. This doesn’t have to be your direct supervisor, you may be more comfortable speaking to the Human Resources department, for example.
How much information you give is your personal decision. You can focus on just the issues that may affect your job without going into detail. You may find it easier to request a note from your doctor to help explain the situation. You should not have any concerns about discrimination as you are protected against unlawful disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Learn more about your rights in our diversity and inclusion blog.
You and your employer will need to consider any adjustments that might help you manage your work better. The adjustments you can request include:
- Changes to your working area.
- Changes to your hours.
- Taking time off work for medical appointments.
- Temporarily re-allocating tasks.
- Mentoring or training duties.
The adjustments should be reasonable for your employer to make, which may depend on the circumstances of each case. They will need to consider if the requested change is practicable and will enable you to continue to carry out your job. It can also depend on the size of the company and whether finances, internal resources or outside assistance are available to make the necessary changes.
In order to make appropriate accommodation for your health situation in the workplace, your employer can, if needed and with your consent, request access to relevant medical reports from your doctor.
Knowing how to approach your employer will help you feel more confident in your ability to identify and report anything you consider a hazard in your workplace.
Your impact as a cleaner
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of cleaning and the need for Cleaners in many different environments. In early 2020, an employment shift was seen as over 400 Cleaner jobs opened up at the NHS Nightingale Hospital in Manchester. Positions were filled by workers from other professions as they found they were unable to work during the pandemic. This has given many people a renewed appreciation of Cleaners and the amazing job they have done and continue to do, keeping workplaces clean and meeting the necessary hygiene standards.
For further help regarding your rights as a flexible worker, the following resources can offer advice and support:
- Working in the UK - a guide to your rights from the TUC.
- Employment advice from Acas. Phone: 0300 123 1100
- Workers' health and safety information from HSE.
- Equality and human rightsadvice from EASS. Phone: 0808 800 0082
- General questions answered at Citizens Advice.Phone: 03444 111 444
We have a range of tools to help you with your job search. Click here to find out how to get a job through Blue Arrow, and click here to view our latest Cleaner jobs. To get in touch with a Blue Arrow team near you click here.
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) - COSHH. 2021. Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) - COSHH. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/. [Accessed March 2021].
- GOV.UK. 2021. Equality Act 2010: guidance - GOV.UK . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance. [Accessed March 2021].