More time needed for essential coronavirus cleaning work

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Sunday, 19 July, 2020 - 11:45
Industry news
National News

Ninety per cent of cleaners are having to rush essential cleaning work and 80 per cent do not always have enough cleaning equipment during the coronavirus crisis, according to a recent survey.

Conducted by the United Workers Union, the survey of more than 500 cleaners also found that 74 per cent of cleaners said they do not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to do their job safely.

“The crisis has shown everyone that high-quality cleaning that protects public health and safety cannot be delivered on a shoestring budget,” said Lyndal Ryan, director of property services for the United Workers Union.

“Too often cleaners are asked to do too much, in not enough time, without the right training and equipment – because for years and years the contract system has driven cleaning wages and costs down.

“Re-opening the economy is contingent on cleaning – quality cleaning is essential to the management and prevention of COVID-19.

“We cannot have cleaning that is inadequate for the day to day protection of people as we rebuild public confidence in returning to public spaces.”

Workplaces should clean surfaces at least daily, according to Safe Work Australia, with special attention should be given to frequently touched surfaces (such as tabletops, door handles, light switches, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles).

Ideally, once clean, surfaces should also be disinfected regularly, or alternatively, it may be possible to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant.

For routine cleaning, disinfectants are usually only necessary if a surface has been contaminated with potentially infectious material.

For this reason, when and how often a workplace should undertake disinfection as part of routine cleaning will depend on the likelihood of contaminated material being present at the workplace.

The United Workers Union survey also found that 70 per cent of cleaner said they receive no face-to-face training and other issues reported by cleaners included employers skimping on chemicals supplies and equipment (or diluting chemicals) as well as not having safety issues taken seriously.

“Federal, state and local Government, universities, big building owners, airports and shopping mall owners buy cleaning services and they need to understand that the cleaning of their buildings and services cannot be delivered on the smell of an oily rag,” said Ryan.

“Quality cleaning requires trained cleaners, with the right equipment and enough time to do the job.”