Are your cleaning operatives professionally trained?

CleaningThe health and safety of patients should be of the utmost importance for any healthcare establishment. Having professionally trained cleaning operatives is crucial to improving hygiene and cleaning standards and reducing hospital acquired infections (HAI). However, cleanliness in healthcare establishments is much more than just having a surface clean. Of course it is essential for the premises to look aesthetically pleasing, but cleaning is also vital for the safety of both the patients and staff.

Stan Atkins, chief executive of the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc), advises there is great potential in improving cleanliness in the healthcare sector by ensuring that staff are correctly trained in all aspects of cleaning.

Raising standards

BICSc is the largest independent professional and educational body in the cleaning industry. They have been established for many years now, and will be celebrating 50 years of operation next year. They have approximately 5,000 members, both corporate and individual, and they have now reached international status. Their mission is (and has always been) to raise the status and standards of the cleaning industry through education.

“BICSc has dedicated over four decades to improving the industries knowledge of cleaning science,” says Stan Atkins. “We are an independent body with members in all areas of the cleaning industry, including local authorities, contract cleaners, manufacturers, suppliers, trainers and by no means least, cleaning operatives themselves.”

With budgets tightening, training cleaning operatives seems to be one of the areas where cuts are being made. This can be counterproductive however, and it is very important that training is maintained to a high standard. BICSc strive to reinforce this message.

“We are working with the government more, to raise the profile of the cleaning sector, with particular regards to training,” Stan says. “We need to educate the government of the important role cleaning plays in preventing infection outbreaks. For the immediate future we need to raise the awareness of the value of training in all sectors. Training and industry standards are vital to the profile of cleaning being recognised as a valuable service in healthcare and should not be seen as just an added cost. Training is a vital element of any contract. It is how the service is provided.”

Fully trained cleaners will be aware of the dangers that an unclean and unhygienic healthcare establishment can cause. There are many threats to patients and to staff in hospitals and if your facilities are not being cleaned correctly the consequences can be dire.

Infection control

An outbreak of infection could potentially be disastrous. Your patients are vulnerable to viruses and therefore it is vital to protect them by making sure your facilities are professionally cleaned.

Having trained cleaning operatives should be an important part of the infection control process in hospitals and healthcare premises. An untrained cleaning operative will not be aware of the correct cleaning techniques required to stamp out infection. Infection control is complicated and requires many methods of cleaning to prevent the spread of different germs, and not just traditional cleaning methods.

A trained cleaning operative will be able to combine periodic deep cleans with their day to day cleaning regime. A deep clean will kill viruses and is an important tool in preventing the spread of infection. A trained cleaning operative will also be aware of virus hot spots in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, which an untrained cleaning operative might not necessarily know to target. It is likely that floors and surfaces will be cleaned effectively by an untrained cleaning operative but other areas, which often actually pose much more of a threat, may possibly be neglected. A trained cleaning operative will be able to target these areas to ensure that the germs are prevented from spreading. These virus hot spots include bed rails, bed linen, tables, taps, buzzers, monitors, lockers, curtains, light switches and door handles.

The ever present threat of MRSA
MRSA can be a dangerous bacterium and can cause serious illness and sadly, in some cases, even death. According to the Office for National Statistics1: “On 19 per cent of death certificates which mentioned MRSA in 2009, this infection was recorded as the underlying cause of death. This figure varied between 17 per cent and 36 per cent over the 1993-2009 period.”

It would appear that the elderly are the most vulnerable. The office for National Statistics also states: “Most of the deaths involving MRSA occur among older people. For the combined 2005-2009 period, age-specific rates were highest in those aged 85 years and over, at 622 per million for males and 307 per million for females. The lowest rates for deaths mentioning MRSA were among people aged under 45 years with one death per million for both sexes.”

This emphasises just how important it is to reduce the spread of infection through effective cleaning, especially when caring for older patients.

An MRSA infection can spread quickly via commonly touched surfaces, skin to skin contact and shared equipment which has not been properly cleaned. This highlights the importance of using properly trained cleaning operatives to reduce the risk to patients and to staff. A trained cleaning operative will be able to use the right amount of disinfectant and other cleaning compounds to safely remove MRSA from hospital wards, reception areas, washrooms, surfaces, and other commonly touched items and objects.

The Norovirus

The Norovirus can easily spread and an infection outbreak can be uncontrollable. In the past a few NHS hospitals across England had to close some of their wards to new admissions in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading. This is disruptive to the patients and can cost the hospital greatly.

It is essential to maintain extremely high hygiene standards in healthcare establishments to reduce the chances of an outbreak. Outbreaks are often caused in hospitals and nursing homes as the people are grouped together in an enclosed environment for an extended period of stay. A trained cleaning operative will be conscious of the need for good hygiene practices and will be able to properly disinfect contaminated areas to reduce the spread of the virus. Combining good cleaning methods with the right equipment will improve the level of cleanliness and thus reduce the risk of an outbreak of infection.

Clostridium Difficile

Clostridium Difficile (c. diff) is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea in hospitals.
Specialist cleaning techniques are often required to remove spores of the c. diff bug. Traditional cleaning methods will not necessarily kill the microorganism as it is very resistant. It is believed that traditional cleaning methods can in fact make c. diff form spores, which can spread the infection when breathed through the mouth or swallowed. This is another reason why it is so important to use trained cleaning operatives in a healthcare environment. A trained cleaning operative should be fully aware of the required specialist techniques required to remove this infection.

The recent enquiry into an outbreak of c. diff between June 2007 and August 2008 in Antrim Area Hospital has led to an increased awareness of the importance of training in the cleaning industry. As a result of the outbreak, cleaning staff at the hospital now take part in a training scheme accredited by the British Institute of Cleaning Science.

Accredited operators
Some cleaning firms and cleaning operatives promote themselves as being fully trained and accredited to an independent body. However, this is actually not always the case. For example, some say that they are BICSc accredited or that they are BICSc accredited training centres, when in fact they are not. They may be trained or train to BICSc standards but have not actually received certification.

To protect yourself from being misled it is important to make sure your cleaning operatives are actually fully trained and qualified. Always check their credentials and references.

Protecting patients and staff
There are two simple options to ensure your cleaning operatives are fully trained to work in a healthcare environment:

Option One – employ cleaning operatives who have obtained certification and qualifications in cleaning and cleaning in healthcare establishments.

Option Two – book your current cleaning operatives onto industry recognised courses to teach them the correct processes of cleaning in healthcare establishments.

Benefits of trained operatives

The benefits of using a fully trained cleaning operative in your healthcare establishment include:
• reduction of cross-infections    
• improved hygiene standards    
• patient and staff safety reinforced                


For more information:

For further information on BICSc qualifications available please visit