The cleaning industry employs very large numbers of people in all sectors of the economy, from offices to factories, schools to hospitals, shops to aircraft. The range of work covers all cleaning activities from dusting and vacuuming to cleaning windows, factory roofs and industrial equipment.
Employers within the industry range from large contract cleaning companies through to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). 83% of cleaning companies employ between 1 and 10 employees. Workers can be employed under a range of different contracts.
A significant number of people employed as cleaners are from ethnic minorities. Many employees working within cleaning companies are migrant workers.
Office cleaning is often carried out outside normal working hours, out of sight of the client firm's workforce and is usually managed by the cleaning contractor, rather than directly by the host employer. Because these cleaning workers are distanced from the client firm's workforce, they are often isolated and dependant on their supervisors, who control the type of work they do.
The main cause of injuries in this sector are:
- Musculoskeletal disorders, some of which are linked to manual handling;
- Slips and trips; and
- Falls from height.
The main health-related problem relates to dermatitis from contact with cleaning chemicals.
Responsibility for enforcing health and safety legislation in the industry is divided between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the local authorities (LAs). Advice and guidance on the division of responsibility is available on the HSE and LAs working together website.