How To Perform A Cleaning Risk Assessment
Whether it's cleaning a busy hotel, restaurant, office, or school - cleaning workers face a number of hazards on a daily basis.
The risks in cleaning services range from exposure to harmful chemicals that can cause skin irritation and respiratory illnesses to the physical demands of the job, which can lead to musculoskeletal disorders.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) highlights the alarming rates of work-related accidents and injuries in the UK, with the cleaning sector being a significant contributor to these numbers.
Ensuring the safety and well-being of cleaning professionals is clearly important. And it's not just a moral obligation – it's a legal necessity.
Because of the risks associated with the profession, all cleaning tasks legally need to have a cleaning risk assessment completed - either by your business if you’re managing cleaning internally or by your cleaning company if you choose to contract your cleaning requirements.
This article provides a thorough overview of how to conduct a thorough cleaning risk assessment to help keep cleaning staff safe and ensure you're on the right side of legal compliance.
What is Risk Assessment?
Before we dive into how to perform a cleaning risk assessment, it’s essential to understand what it is and why it’s necessary.
A risk assessment is conducted to find out potential hazards in the workplace and identify areas that may be unsafe and harmful to workers.
It is also used to find ways to eliminate these hazards or to manage or minimise their risk.
Proper risk assessments keep your workers safe and protect your business from potential legal consequences.
Conducting risk assessments is legally binding for companies, being mandated across a number of pieces of UK health and safety legislation such as The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR), The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), and The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Who can conduct a risk assessment?
It’s important that any cleaning risk assessments in your business are conducted by someone with in-depth knowledge, training, and experience in health and safety management and cleaning practices.
While it is possible to delegate this task, you should remember the legal responsibility for ensuring the risk assessment is done correctly and that all safety measures are adequately implemented.
What is COSHH?
COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.
The legislation was introduced by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 1998 and helped to regulate how hazardous substances should be handled in the workplace.
Even eco-friendly cleaning companies using non-toxic cleaning products and methods are legally bound to conduct a COSHH risk assessment.
These regulations are in place to ensure the protection and well-being of workers when dealing with hazardous materials.
COSHH helps identify any potential hazards associated with the cleaning products that they are using, such as allergic reactions or skin irritation.
Is a COSHH assessment the same as a risk assessment?
There are similarities, as both are designed to lower or eliminate the risk of workplace injuries and enhance the safety of workers. However, COSHH assessments and cleaning risk assessments are two separate things.
A COSHH risk assessment is quite specific and is used to identify potentially hazardous substances in the workplace. A risk assessment is a little broader and identifies the source of all potential injuries that can occur and what you can do to help prevent these hazards.
A COSHH assessment should include the following health and safety information about any substance used in cleaning, such as:
- The substance/product/material
- The manufacturers/suppliers’ phone numbers and address
- Any hazardous ingredients
- Hazardous properties
- Where the product is used
- How the product is used
- Product hazard levels
- Health effects information
- Exposure limits
- Control measures
- Safe handling and storage of the substance
- Safe disposal of the substance
- Emergency and spillage procedures
Common hazards associated with cleaning
There are more risks in commercial cleaning services than you might think.
The following are some common hazards that cleaning companies typically face that should be included in any cleaning risk assessment.
Ergonomic risks from manual handling
Manual handling is one of the top hazards to be aware of when it comes to cleaning risk assessments, as it’s one of the primary causes of work-related injuries among cleaners.
Cleaning is physically demanding and labour-intensive, often requiring cleaners to work in uncomfortable positions for extended periods.
A study by UNISON and the Health & Safety Executive found that 20% of cleaners who operated floor-buffing machines, mops, and vacuum cleaners had to take time off work due to the pain and discomfort they were experiencing from prolonged use of this equipment
Additionally, a lot of cleaning tasks involve repetitive movements such as bending, twisting, and lifting. These actions, when repeated over time, can result in long-term physical issues.
Exposure to hazardous chemical products
As noted in the section discussing COSHH assessments, cleaners working with traditional cleaning products are often exposed to hazardous substances, which pose health risks to both users and those exposed to them.
Prolonged exposure to these hazardous chemicals can cause skin irritation issues such as occupational dermatitis and respiratory problems.
It’s common for commercial cleaning staff to operate various equipment and machinery, which can be dangerous if mishandled or not operated correctly.
For instance, if cleaners are using steam cleaning equipment, there is a risk of burns or scalding to the skin if they don’t follow the correct processes and take precautions.
Cleaning staff may also be exposed to electrical hazards such as electrocution from mains-powered cleaning machinery.
Commercial cleaning commonly uses water alongside electric equipment like steam cleaners and floor buffers.
This can provide a significant risk, especially if the equipment is not maintained correctly or there are faulty wires
Slips, trips, and falls
Slips, trips, and falls are common risks in the cleaning industry
Wet floors and trailing cables from cleaning equipment pose the greatest risk.
Poor lighting or cluttered work areas can also increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls.
Lone working is another hazard that you should consider when conducting a cleaning risk assessment.
Cleaning activities usually take place when most employees have gone home or early in the morning before the workplace is open.
This can leave the cleaner alone or with few workers in the building or area.
A cleaner working alone without supervision could have an accident, like a slip or fall, and may not be able to receive immediate medical help.
How to conduct a cleaning risk assessment
A cleaning risk assessment should follow these steps:
1. Identify the hazards
This step involves identifying all the hazards listed above that cleaning staff may encounter while working.
The risks involved in cleaning tasks vary depending on the nature of the work and the specific environment. For example, cleaners working in a hospital may face different hazards than those working in an office.
2. Determine who is at risk and how
The next step is identifying who could be at risk from these hazards and how it will impact them. This includes the cleaning staff and anyone else in the building or the cleaning area, such as employees or visitors.
For example, the use of commercial cleaning products not only exposes the cleaner to hazardous chemicals in the products, but others in the building may also be affected by fumes or residues left behind.
Once you have identified those who may be at risk, it is necessary to evaluate the level of risk they face.
This assessment should help you understand the likelihood of the harm happening and the potential severity of that harm. Using this information, you can devise and implement appropriate control measures.
3. Develop the appropriate measures to manage the risk
Evaluate all the existing hazard prevention measures you have in place in your workplace. Consider making changes to your work that will eliminate most, if not all, of the risks.
One example of this is switching from traditional cleaning products to green cleaning products. Not only is this an eco-friendly practice, but it also reduces the risk of chemical exposure and improves overall air quality in the workplace.
4. Record your findings
It’s critical to document all the risks you have identified, the people at risk of being harmed, and the control measures you implemented in your workplace.
This is a legal requirement for businesses with over five employees. and the records of your cleaning risk assessment can serve as evidence that you have taken all necessary measures to ensure the safety and well-being of your employees.
5. Regularly monitor and upgrade the risk assessment
A cleaning risk assessment should not be a one-time activity.
Hazards and risks can change over time, so it's essential to regularly review the cleaning risk assessment and update control measures as needed.
According to general HSE guidance, it is recommended to conduct risk assessment reviews at least once every 12 months.
More frequent updates could be triggered by changes in the work environment, new equipment or machinery being introduced, changes in staff numbers, or working practices.
By regularly reviewing and updating the risk assessment, you can ensure the ongoing safety of its employees and anyone else affected by its cleaning operations.
Risk assessment checklist for cleaning
Following a checklist or template for cleaning risk assessments ensures that you cover all bases and don't miss any potential hazards or risks.
A cleaning risk assessment checklist should include the following:
- Name (the person conducting the risk assessment)
- Department Hazards identified
- Person(s) at risk
- Control measures currently in place, etc.
Remember, the key to an effective cleaning risk assessment is making sure you’re thorough in identifying risk, comprehensive in implementing control measures, and regularly reviewing and updating your documentation.
How can Green Facilities Management help?
If you're looking for professional cleaning services prioritising safety and risk management—Green Facilities Management can help.
As an ISO-certified company, we understand the importance of implementing the right processes and procedures to keep our employees and clients safe and complying with legal requirements.
At Green Facilities Management, we provide cleaning risk assessments for every client contract, and our team is well-trained in identifying potential hazards and implementing appropriate control measures to ensure a safe cleaning experience for everyone involved.
We also use environmentally friendly and safe cleaning products to minimise potential harm to our employees or clients.
Contact Green Facilities for a quote and to learn more about our services.