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Risk management in the cleaning industry

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Kristine Daw is the Managing Director of Dawtek, a Melbourne-based company specialising in tenders and proposals, tender training, copywriting, editing and creating business templates. Kristine and her small team have a range of clients including small businesses, multi-national corporations, all levels of government and not-for-profits.

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Every employee has a responsibility to be uncompromising with regards to health and safety in the workplace no matter their position in the company. Risk Management is an integral part of all cleaning business initiatives and operations and needs to be incorporated to ensure all hazards are identified, assessed, controlled as necessary to ensure that all workers are safe when conducting cleaning activities.

Understanding the Terms

There are a number of terms used when we talk about Risk Management. It is important that you understand these terms to ensure you work safely in the cleaning industry.


A hazard is defined as any situation with the potential to cause injury or illness to people, danger to health and/or damage to property or the environment. Common Hazards in the Cleaning Industry Include:

  • Chemicals
  • Heat Stress
  • Equipment
  • Slip and Fall
  • Manual Handling
  • Biological
  • Sharps
  • Electrical
  • Risk

A risk is a combination of consequences and their likelihood of the identified hazard.

Risk Assessment

Once a hazard has been identified, an assessment is required to determine the level of risk. The risk is calculated by determining consequences and their likelihood and other attributes of the hazard.


It is the law that every chemical supplied and used in the workplace must have an MSDS. The MSDS shows you how to safely:

  • Store chemicals
  • Transport chemicals
  • Handle chemicals
  • Dispose of chemicals
  • Clean up spills
  • Apply first aid in an emergency
  • Identify the chemical
  • Contact the manufacturer
  • Hierarchy of Controls

The Hierarchy of Controls helps you determine an appropriate control mechanism for minimising the risk for the identified hazard.

Health and Safety Policies and Procedures

Every cleaning business or business in general needs to have in place health and safety policies and procedures to keep their employees safe. A good Health and Safety Policy should outline your company’s commitment to health and safety and the roles and responsibilities of all your employees. Supporting policies and procedures that you should have in place at a minimum for a cleaning company include:

  • Risk Management
  • Hazard Reporting
  • Incident Reporting
  • PPE
  • Infection and Waste Control
  • Manual Handling
  • orkplace Safety Inspection
  • Prevention of Falls
  • Contractor Safety
  • Emergency Preparation
  • Emergency Response
  • Workplace Signs
  • Safety Induction
  • Test and Tagging
  • Safety Inductions

An employer has a responsibility to provide health and safety training to all new employees specific to their duties. At a minimum your induction training program should include: definitions of roles and responsibilities description of your company’s Health and Safety arrangements job descriptions (including details of hazardous tasks that need to be performed) employee performance appraisals hazard identification, risk assessments and risk controls procedures and operating instructions details of the Health and Safety Management System and its associated policies and procedures. Specific site inductions should also be undertaken to ensure staff/subcontractors understand the specifics relating to their work sites, which should cover all health and safety (including risks and hazards), environmental and quality issues.

Incident Reporting

It is very important to report all incidents and injuries in the workplace; the report should be as detailed as possible with names, dates, locations, causes of incident/accident and any other details available. The purpose of reporting incidents or accidents is to make any changes necessary in the work environment to ensure no one is harmed in the future. These reports should be used to highlight any dangerous work sites, habits or perhaps a gap in the health and safety policies and procedures or training conducted by your company.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

All PPE should be correctly used and training should be provided to all cleaners on the correct way to use the supplied PPE. PPE should be returned clean and ready to use or disposed of correctly. Items of PPE commonly used by cleaners include:

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Aprons
  • Boots
  • Masks
  • Safety Shoes
  • Ear Muffs

The Bottom Line

As an employer you have a responsibility to keep your employees, contractors and the general public safe whilst you are conducting cleaning services at client sites. Understanding your health and safety obligations is the first step, well documented health and safety procedures including risk management and hazard identification procedures will demonstrate your commitment. It is essential for a cleaning company to have all appropriate policies, procedures and training in place before commencing contracts at client sites.