Twizzle and Other Adventures in High Level Cleaning

Giving your age away by referencing a Gerry Anderson cartoon character from the 50’s could make you appear a Saddo but anyone of a certain age will remember Twizzle with fondness. With his extending arms and legs he constantly went from one high level escapade to another.

The cleaning industry was exactly the same not that long ago. I remember the days when we used to have a squad undertaking high level cleaning works in a crisp factory every Saturday, cleaning factory overheads contaminated with grease from the fryers from one stage of the cooking process to encrustations of ‘flavourings’ at the other. The disappointed at discovering that all those favourite tastes on my Tudor Crisps were simply powders sprinkled onto the cooked potato has never left me.

Crisp factory cleaning

Just like Twizzle our squad could perform seemingly superhuman acts, accessing the shadowy voids above the lights over the production floor like acrobats in a Big Top.

The deceptively simple act of slinging 24 foot Newman boards between greasy purloins to access the ceilings 35 feet above the still hot fryers was only surpassed by the choreography of 5 men working in tandem. Standing on the board which twisted and dipped keeping time with their movements as they reached as high above themselves as they could to spray and scrub the roof panels, coated with layer after layer of greasy gunk. All the time being serviced by a ‘gopher’ on the factory floor that would be rinsing and throwing back the wipes which they constantly threw at him as they got clogged up with grease.

Fond memories of a good hard-working team of people but how lucky we were. It’s hard to imagine in this day and age when “high level” means anything higher than you can reach from floor level what it was like.

Five of you working from a greasy, slippery plank, 18″ wide that moved like a ship bobbing in a stormy sea. No side rails and only wimps clipped on their safety belts, which would have disembowelled you if you had fallen anyway. Working away, covered in degreasant which matted your hair and slowly worked its way down your arms and through your overalls so you were constantly damp from sweat and chemical.

How we never had an accident I will never know but that was the way it was done in those days. Customers weren’t interested in the factory cleaning process, only in the result and the cost. So, perhaps, on reflection, those good old days weren’t as good as they appear.

Fast-forward to 2010 and while some things haven’t changed, as customers still want the lowest cost possible but what has changed is how ‘elf ‘nd safety has improved the lot of our industry.

Not only has it heightened the requirement for planned maintenance cleaning in every industry as the skills aren’t available to do it inhouse now, which has grown the cleaning market, but it also dictates that cleaning is carried out in a far more planned and professional manner.

This can only be of benefit to our staff, our customers and the cleaning industry itself.

For our customers it simply means a more professional job. “Duty of care” imposes a lot of responsibility on their shoulders and yes, they do want value for money but they also want Method Statements, Risk Assessments, COSHH sheets on the products being used (can you really use this cleaning product in a food factory?), training records and a thorough knowledge of ‘pedigree’ a s a company so that they can have peace of mind that they are getting a pukka job which they don’t have to worry about.

For our cleaning staff the changes within the industry mean that they can be recognised as being professionally competent. What I mean by that is that they are no longer just the cleaners. Competency in my eyes means that elusive combination of practical experience combined with formal training to recognised standards, which in turn further reinforces their practical experience. A win-win situation!

factory interior

This means an experienced “hand” will have had time and money invested in them to equip them with both the practical skills to do the job but also formal training to prove their competency in doing the job. This could range from PASMA training to even be allowed to build an access tower to IPAF certification to use “cherry-pickers” then there is the multitude of testing to prove competency to work in confined space, use high pressure washing equipment, then the knowledge of what to do if there actually was an accident so first aid training. The list is endless and from the operatives point of view can show the regard that their employer actually holds them in as all this training is ‘portable’ i.e. it’s in the workman’s name NOT the company’s name.

So yes it would be nice to employ a few Twizzles but in reality the ‘good old days’ of the cleaning industry weren’t as good as our memory would have us believe. Through Health & Safety legislation lives have been saved and injuries minimised but also the marketplace has greater barriers to entry put in position as the need for professionalism within the cleaning workforce has increased which in turn leads to a better job for our clients. All in all I believe this can only be for the greater good.

Columbus Dixon March 2010.

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