The emergence of ‘ Builders cleaning ’ as a trade
Running a cleaning company might at first thought seem as simple as taking a few clothes, brooms and mops. For those who specialise in Builders cleaning however, it is much more complex.
Background to Builders cleaning
In the last decade, as the UK has recovered from the recession of 2007, the construction industry has boomed. Its massive growth has not gone unnoticed which has persuaded many young people to join the industry in recent years. In 2017, the construction industry contributed £113 billion to the UK economy, 6% of the total.
Many self-employed individuals choose this industry due to its flexibility and the huge number of different opportunities within the industry itself. This factor also convinced the UK Government due to this industry’s strength which then they introduced the apprenticeship levy back in 2015 to get three million apprenticeships in the industry striated by 2020. Click here to lear more
Amid this rapid growth, many cleaning companies began to lean from commercial cleaning toward After builders cleaning instead, taking advantage of the increase in work volume and a higher demand for Builders cleaners in general. This, in turn, led to increased health and safety legislation around Builders cleaning, making it even more of a specialist field and an increasingly competitive sphere. Builders cleaners are now treated akin to many other typical construction trades such as electricians, plumbers, painters and decorators, etc when it comes to Health and Safety. Builders cleaners are no longer exempt from Health and Safety Pre-qualification questionnaires and must adhere to the same policies and procedures as all other trades. Any company offering After Builders cleaning services for medium-sized and larger sites especially must hold accreditation with one of the industry-leading bodies such as CHAS, SMAS, Achilles, Safecontractor or Constructionline, to name a few, in order to demonstrate compliance with Health and Safety legislation. Click here to view our accreditations
Builders cleaning companies must supply detailed risk assessments and method statements before commencing with their cleaning works on-site and on most construction sites, it is mandatory that they hold CSCS cards, at labourer level as a minimum. At BRS we do our best to keep ourselves educated and informed from director level downward, with any changes to law and legislation that might have a potential impact on our roles and responsibilities as well as on our daily activities and on our business as a whole. We do this by attending regular training sessions and gaining additional qualifications and certification so that we can each perform our roles to the best of our abilities.
The emergence of ‘Builders cleaning’ as a trade
In addition to increased legislation around Builders cleaning, the actual method of Builders cleaning requires vast experience and knowledge. It is not as simple as just wiping around with a few clothes – cleaners must be experienced in window cleaning, taking care to remove excess paint and concrete splashes and any sticky residue from mastic and suchlike and Builders cleaners should be flexible with working around other trades and assisting site with their handover deadlines. Builders cleaning tends to involve a lot of high-level cleaning and so cleaners must be trained and experienced in working safely at height. Ladders tend not to be permitted on larger construction sites and often areas cannot be accessed via merely a ladder and so Builders cleaning companies have had to opt for different ways of being able to access high-level areas. This means that it is necessary for those wishing to work as Builders cleaners to undergo relevant training in order to gain IPAF certification to be qualified to operate MEWPS (scissor lifts, cherry pickers and suchlike). Construction site cleaning and general house cleaning are clearly 2 complete different ball games.
After Builders cleaning is also very labour intensive when compared to other types of cleaning services. It is often something that people overlook as cleaners are the last trade on-site prior to completion and handover. Builders cleaning is an activity that not many people think about unless they have particular experience in the construction industry or in purchasing a new build property. It often goes unnoticed unless it is done badly!
Construction sites tend to be fast-paced environments and often expand over large areas. Cleaners are often required to carry buckets of water quite far and climb several flights of stairs, especially when working on large sites where the lifts are not yet in operation. Builders cleaners thus need to be quite fit and strong, as they are required to carry equipment sometimes quite far such as buckets of water, equipment and caddies full of cleaning chemicals. To ensure that teams of Builders cleaners are fit and healthy, larger sites often demand that subcontractors carry out health assessments such as ‘Safety-critical assessments’ and ‘Fit to work’ questionnaires and health declarations. Mental health has been a particular concern this year with Mental Health Awareness week back in May spreading the word about the importance of carrying out regular surveillance on the mental health of employees. Poor mental health and depression, in particular, has been described by IOSH as “the silent epidemic” in the construction industry. IOSH’s speech at a conference held on November 2018 in Birmingham highlighted how work-related stress, depression and anxiety have overtaken musculoskeletal disorders as the most reported workplace health issue in the construction industry. The conference, which took place on 7 November, featured a range of industry specialists discussing some of the big issues the construction industry faces in ensuring its workforce is kept safe from injury and ill health. Recent figures published by the HSE put this into perspective, highlighting that a total of 144 workers were killed at work in Great Britain in 2017/18, with 38 deaths in the construction industry accounting for the greatest number of occupational fatalities from an individual sector. Kevin Fear, Strategy Manager at CITB, explained how the construction industry has more suicides than any other profession, with 454 construction workers taking their own lives in 2016. Inextricably linked with this are drug and alcohol issues and thus more and more trades operating in the construction sector, Builders cleaners included, are required to put operatives through drug and alcohol testing, prior to commencing on site. This is usually the case at large construction sites such as the Hinkley Point C powerplant in Somerset where BRS carried out After Builders cleaning works last summer.
Most cleaning companies that currently operate in the UK were founded in the 1990s period, prior to the formidable growth experienced by the construction industry more recently. Such companies have therefore had to adapt to the changing requirements and industry legislation in order to keep up and to continue to grow their business.
Builders cleaners vs site labourers
But why do construction companies need to hire the services of specific After Builders cleaning contractors and not just ordinary cleaners or labourers? Indeed the two industries used to be one; the builders were also the cleaners. As the years went by and gradually more and more safety measures were introduced to both industries (as discussed above), the segregation of the two has become inevitable.
Another important reason why Builders cleaners are important is that they are able to prepare areas to become safe work environments between construction works phases. In most of the projects that we have carried out, after each phase of the project, a team of After Builders cleaners was required on-site to ensure that specific areas were ready for the next group of contractors to operate in. It would be a total chaos to have all of the people involved in a particular project working at the same time, considering all of the regulations and legal timelines set for building a site.
As discussed earlier, while cleaners are on-site, machines and equipment are needed in order to help the After Builders cleaners to reach high ceilings or with their external cleaning works. This is also where health and safety come into play by making sure that the machines being used are operated correctly and that manufacturer instruction is followed. Too many machines on-site at a given time would increase the potential of an accident occurring. In most of the sites where our teams of Builders cleaners have worked, our Builders cleaners operate when the site is empty and the construction workers have finished in those areas and we find that this enables us to have maximum results as well as enabling us to operate in a safe manner. After all, it is called ‘After Builders cleaning’ and not ‘Alongside Builders cleaning’!
In order to make cleaning easier for Builders cleaning specialists such as ourselves, over the years scientific developments have introduced us to some amazing chemicals – these are however as potentially harmful as they are useful to us. Different surfaces require a number of chemicals to remove stains, spots or smell. We, as cleaning contractors have measures in place and are authorised to buy and use these chemicals in our daily works. All of our Builders cleaners attend COSHH awareness training prior to commencing their cleaning works and all are made well aware of both pre-usage and post-usage procedures of all products that they might use on a given day.
The future outlook for Builders cleaning companies
As we have discovered, the growing trend in the construction cleaning sector in the past decade or so has been towards compliance with evolving health and safety legislation in order to be able to secure larger construction projects and gain a competitive edge. This has proven necessary for both the survival and the growth of SMEs in particular. Going forward, and with 2020 targets in mind, there is a prominent focus on how cleaning companies can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and minimise any potentially harmful impact that their daily activities might have on the environment. We will be keeping a close eye on changes to environmental legislation and its impact on the construction and Builders cleaning industries in the near future and at BRS we will continue to stay informed in order to adapt to any such changes.