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Taking the trauma out of biohazard cleaning
Providing biohazard cleaning services to a variety of industry sectors is always a challenge, but Simon Biggs, partner and operations director of Monthind Clean, has the solution. Here, he talks about the simple steps that will ensure a safe and efficient clean-up...
"Biohazard and trauma cleaning are governed by stringent regulations and health & safety guidelines. This isn't a matter of unnecessary bureaucracy; as dramatic as it sounds, it can save lives.
The risks to health include viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, which bodily fluids and faeces can carry. Pathogens can come in the form of bacteria, viruses, mould spores, or protozoans; they can cause disease and often have a significant presence in sewage waste. Infection can take place via the mouth, nose, eyes, broken skin, open sores or wounds, or by absorption.
On a day-to-day basis, pathogens can be managed by a robust health and safety training and supervision schedule, but in the event of a biohazard or trauma incident, it is usually best to outsource to professionals.
A number of incidents require the expertise of trained biohazard cleaning operatives, including fires, floods, property clearance and decontamination - particularly when a property has been vacated by a hoarder or someone who was unable to carry out basic domestic hygiene tasks - to cleaning up following an unexpected death.
Whatever the trigger is for the clean, the required outcome is the same; to minimise the risk of contamination from pathogens.
Biohazard cleaning operatives are obviously at great risk of infection from pathogens, before and during the clean-up. It is imperative that you have comprehensive safe systems of work in place and readily available; supervisors should regularly check operatives' understanding of these, as well as their compliance. Regular reviews of safe systems of work, particularly after any accident or raised concern, should be recorded and audited for compliance. This data could prove invaluable in the event of a compensation claim and the documents themselves demonstrate duty of care.
Because staff are removing and disposing of contaminated materials, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) must be provided, and be fit for purpose. It's also a good idea to colour code equipment, and consider the use of icons in any communications (including safe systems of work and procedures).
Icons are easier to read and remember and will be comprehensible to all nationalities of operatives.
Training records should be kept up-to-date and a strict regime of refresher courses should be implemented, as well as an auditable system of communication to ensure all operatives are aware of any changes in legislation or procedures.
The emotive nature of a trauma clean provides additional management challenges. Ensure you offer supervision following a trauma clean. By providing a qualified counselling service, you are not only demonstrating that you take your duty of care to your staff seriously, you will also reduce the number of cases of staff taking long-term sick leave as a result of work- related stress.
Always have a team de-brief at the end of a clean-up, it's an excellent ?opportunity for everyone to voice any concerns and a supervisor can look for signs that staff have been emotionally traumatised by what they have seen.
Train your staff to be able to deal with any media enquiries and liaise with family members affected by an incident, particularly after a bereavement. The cost to your company's reputation if your staff don't deal with enquiries appropriately is immeasurable, and it is not fair to put your employees in a position that they are not equipped to cope with.
Reward your staff and let them know you appreciate how challenging their jobs can sometimes be. A box of cakes or a packet of biscuits with a note acknowledging the team's professionalism left in the staff room will confirm that you value their contribution. Yes, it is the job they are paid to do, but that doesn't mean they are not affected by it, and everyone benefits from a supported, motivated workforce.
Biohazard cleaning is a highly skilled and very important service. When it is carried out professionally, it protects the public and provides a rewarding career for operatives."
Founded in 1975, Monthind Clean is East Anglia's leading independent cleaning contractor with a well-established reputation for delivering a high standard of cleaning services to a broad customer base in both the private and public sectors. With its head office in Colchester, Essex, Monthind employs 950 staff and provides cleaning services for more than 250 clients across East Anglia and the Northern Home Counties.
Over the years, the company has developed into a service provider whose team of highly trained operatives can provide East Anglia's biggest corporations with a full package of services including specialist window cleaning, biohazard, deep and forensic cleans, janitorial supply and services along with property maintenance, concierge services and caretaking operations.
T: 01206 215300
12th January 2017