|Tools are now designed to fit easier in the hand|
Cleaning is the key to a safe and healthy workplace by Torsten Deutzmann - strategic business unit director of Unger Professional Worldwide and managing director of Unger Europe - writes his latest exclusive blog for ECJ.
Workforce well-being is an issue that all responsible employers take seriously. Looking after workplaces, and the people that work in them, makes sense across the board: because healthier, happier people make more motivated and productive employees - helping to boost output and profits, while also improving customer service and increasing client satisfaction. Put like that, only the most foolhardy organisation would neglect to ensure that workplace well-being was not near the top of their agenda.
Health and safety is a phrase of which even more of us are aware. This can sometimes elicit an extremely negative response about ‘red tape' and rules. However, when you separate the two words out, you realise their importance to the wider issue of workplace well-being. Keeping employees, customers - and cleaning operatives - safe and healthy is paramount. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) states that. ‘Good safety and health is good business', and it goes on to list some of the benefits this can bring:
- Healthy workers are more productive and can produce at a higher quality
- Fewer work-related accidents and diseases lead to less absence. In turn, this results in lower costs and less disruption of production processes
- Equipment and a working environment that are optimised to the needs of the working process and that are well-maintained lead to high productivity, better quality, and less health and safety risks
- Reduction of injuries and illnesses means less damages and lower risks for liabilities.
Skilled and dedicated cleaning operatives, using equipment that harnesses the latest technology to make their jobs quicker, safer and more efficient, can greatly enhance the workplace in terms of welfare. A regime that keeps the environment clean, but is responsive enough to deal with unexpected spills or incidents, is a key factor in any on-going well-being campaign.
A grubby, smelly, neglected workplace does not inspire worker loyalty or encourage employees to go that extra mile. Appearances aside, an uncared for workplace can also be a breeding ground for germs, causing illness and staff absence; and poor maintenance is also a precursor to accidents such as slips, trips and falls. When looked at in this way, it becomes obvious that professional cleaning contractors provide an essential service, whose work can make a much wider contribution to the success of an organisation or company.
One good example of how cleaning operatives are providing better and safer services is the adaptation of outdoor window cleaning tools for use inside buildings. Indoor window cleaning systems, incorporating telescopic poles, allow customers to clean places that were previously out of reach, such as glass atria, escalators, conservatory roofs and elevators.
Ordinarily, this would require specialist cleaning and logistics to arrange - increasing financial outlay because of the high cost of hiring equipment such as scissor lifts, and causing disruption to the working day because areas have to be closed off while cleaning takes place. As building design has evolved, so cleaning tool manufacture has followed suit, making workplaces cleaner, healthier and safer.
In parallel, the health and well being of cleaning operatives is just as important, and cleaning equipment has evolved along ergonomic lines to put less of a strain on workers. Tools are now designed to fit easier in the hand, items such as mops or sweepers can be adjusted to the height of the person using them, and equipment is lighter and more manoeuvrable than ever before.
These developments have improved the lives of cleaning operatives, which in turn has upgraded the cleaning services provided to workplaces, and this has, inevitably, enhanced the well-being of the employees who work there. So don't be too quick to dismiss ‘health and safety'.
Taken as separate entities they are essential to worker well-being, and are factors that will influence the development of cleaning equipment and practices for years to come - which can only improve the quality of life for us all.
Making companies shine - Performance Industrial, under new name, finds growth in commercial cleaning, painting (South Glens Falls): Leafing through a copy of Entrepreneur magazine in 1986, an ad for a pressure-washing franchise opportunity caught Mark Miller’s eye. He was 26 years old, driving a tractor-trailer hauling goods across the country. It was good money, but it required him to be on the road more than he liked. “I didn’t have any schooling. I didn’t have any college. I barely graduated high school. I was driving a truck and I wanted to do something different. I needed to make some good money because I had a family. I was making good money driving a truck, but I was gone all the time,” Miller said.
So instead of driving trucks, he figured he could wash them closer to home and bought into a franchise called Americlean that would take him around the area pressure washing houses and trucks. He quit his job and cashed in on a profit-sharing plan at the trucking company, borrowed some money from family and scraped together $17,000 to buy Americlean’s 17th franchise on April 1, 1986, in his home. By the next year, there were 120 franchises, Miller said, but the franchisor was all washed up. “Then they went broke. Within a year, there was no franchise. There was nothing except my ignorance that led me to say, ‘I’m just going to keep doing this.’ The other 119 — they tried to sue the company. They went out of business and thought life was over for them,” Miller said.
The copyright for Americlean wasn’t held by the franchisor, another problem for them, Miller said. “The owners of the copyright in Montana and I had a little discussion. I said, ‘I’m just a little guy in New York. I just want to keep washing houses. I can’t afford to change my name,’” Miller said, and they agreed to allow him to keep using it. Now the business, which shared the name of a national dry-cleaning franchise, no longer needs that clearance since it was officially changed April 1 to Performance Industrial, a title that better describes what the company that now employs nearly 30 people actually does.
Another plus, Miller owns the URL for Performance Industrial. “The name Americlean worked fine when we started. But for the last 10, 15 years, we’ve had this identity crisis with Americlean. We do so much more than clean. Even still today we get calls for carpet cleaning, window washing, janitorial services that we just don’t do, and some of it we never have,” Miller said. Operating out of a blue building at 51 Harrison Ave. in South Glens Falls, Performance Industrial crews travel around the Northeast providing a one-stop shop for industrial and commercial cleaning and painting services.
The company crews complete 800 to 1,000 jobs a year in several states, from western New England through Tech Valley and into central and northern New York. Services include heavy-duty industrial cleaning, sandblasting, HVAC cleaning, complex commercial and industrial painting jobs and commercial kitchen exhaust cleaning. While Performance Industrial doesn’t offer residential painting, Miller’s son’s business does. It’s an entirely separate company, American Pride Painting.
The transition from washing housing to industrial jobs came when Miller was washing a house for an engineer who worked at what is now Irving Tissue. “Everybody who owns a house works somewhere,” he said, and through those contacts, he entered the industrial market. “It involves a lot of thinking. It’s not something you just go start doing. There’s a big safety factor. It just requires planning, it’s backstage work. It requires hours of preparation to do a small performance.”
The new name, proposed by his wife, lends itself to his analogy for running a business — a Broadway play. There is front stage work — the performance or work at the job — and backstage work such as safety training, planning and office work, and everyone must do their part. Putting on a good show has built Performance Industrial a following. When it comes to the backstage work, the company has been recognized by the Department of Labor’s On-site Consultation Program’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, a federal designation. The OSHA cooperative program recognizes small business employers “who operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program,” and sends inspectors to the company job sites.
Miller said the business remains the only cleaning and painting contractor in the state with the designation. That’s an honor, but it’s not about the recognition, Miller said. “It’s about the type of people we become by getting it,” Miller said. Over the years Performance Industrial has grown by acquiring several similar businesses throughout the region and has hit $3 million in annual revenues.
Also adding to its financial growth, the company fosters a spirit of personal growth, investing $3,000 annually for each vice president’s personal development, which goes toward seminars like Dale Carnegie-inspired courses or to join organizations like Toastmasters International. The book that changed Miller’s life was Jack Canfield’s “The Success Principles.” From there, he went on to work directly on Canfield’s team three different times to help plan the annual workshop. Canfield is best known for the “Chicken Soup” books.
“It’s just to help people feel better about themselves and realize how important it is take care of themselves, to put their oxygen mask on first, so they can help others,” Miller said, drawing on another analogy — a flight attendant’s instructions to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others during an emergency.