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Introduction

Have you ever wondered why so much of your daily routine is taken up by managing your current contractors, and double-checking that they are performing to the standards you expect?

Do you ever wish you could place your soft services contracts with a contractor you can rely on 100% to do more than the bare minimum?

But do such reliable contractors actually even exist? And if so, how can you identify them?

Well, the answer is to be very choosy and selective about who you invite to tender for your contracts, and then you need to ask them the detailed questions that will reveal just how well organised and efficient they will turn out to be.

That’s why I’ve written this short, plain-English Guide, to help you ask the right questions, and explain what answers you should expect, and what answers should raise alarm bells!

This guide is based on over 20 years’ experience in the soft services industry, where I have had so many conversations with Clients who despair at the lack of reliability their contractors exhibit.

The result is that they are obliged to chase their suppliers to check that work has been completed on-time, and to the appropriate standard. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way forever!

Carefully consider the following five questions, and make sure you use them as part of your Supplier shortlist procedure.

Question #1 – Exactly What Accreditations Does The Contractor Have, And Are They Up-To-Date?

As a guide, any soft-services contractor you are considering must have a minimum of the following accreditations:

Company Accreditations:

ConstructionLine – This proves the Company has Health & Safety accreditation for the Building Sector, as in New Builds.

CHAS – Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme This is another SSIP (Safety Schemes in Procurement) Accreditation

Safe Contractor – is an accreditation, which demonstrates to potential clients that you meet specific standards of health and safety

IPAF

Emergency First Aid

NPORS Operator

CITB Site Safety Plus

 

Ask to see copies of their latest certificates, and don’t be fooled if they say they are in the process of renewing their accreditations (ask them to show you their old certificates).

Question #2 –What Job and Site-Specific Risk Assessments And Method Statements Do They Use?

RAMS are a critical part of preparing for any project, and most contractors simply copy and paste RAMS without any thought or preparation.

Ask to see examples of how they adapt and modify method statements for different types of projects.

Whilst each RAMS is specific to every job, your chosen contractor should also undertake a ‘ToolBox Talk’ on site, to determine any unseen or new issues that can be added to the RAMS there and then.

Question #3 –Will the Contractor Attend Site Prior To Tendering For A Project, And How Thorough Is Their Site Survey And Questioning Of Your Exact Requirements?

Any decent contractor should arrive promptly on site, and come prepared to ask a variety of important questions, and make certain checks such as:

Environmental issues; how will delicate areas such as flower beds/ponds be taken care of?

Are there any waterways locally that could be damaged by chemicals running into them, causing fatalities to animal life?

Drainage is important i.e. flow/rate; fire hydrant positioning; liaising with the local Water Authority; considering recycling of waste matter.

Question #4 – What Legal Standards Does The Contractor Work To, And How Do They Demonstrate Compliance?

There are so many laws regarding soft services working practices, that a surprising number of Contractors are not fully aware of their responsibilities, and are not compliant. This exposes YOU to unnecessary risk and liability…

Here are six common tasks that any professional exterior building cleaning company should carry out to ensure that they (and you) always remain within the law.

  1. Drawing Water from a Standpipe – Standpipes must be hired in from the relevant water authority which covers the location of the building. Employees should then pass a training course on how to correctly use a standpipe, before being allowed to use one. A water meter will be fitted on the standpipe and water must be paid for in addition to the cost of hiring the standpipe. Costs for this vary between different water utilities companies, and their chosen partners who supply equipment around the country. Here at CCWC Services we always list this in our quote for your assurance with compliance.

 

TOP TIP: Always check for yourself that Contractors’ employees have had the relevant training to use a standpipe. Do not rely on the building cleaning company assuring you of it – as with anything, when in doubt ask for proof.

 

  1. COSHH

 

We all understand that COSHH regulations need to be adhered to, but have you ever checked whether your exterior cleaning companies is providing suitable, regular training for their employees?

Any good external cleaning company will be able to easily demonstrate their commitment to training. So often, exterior building cleaning companies bring chemicals onto your premises that they have not been trained to correctly handle or use. Always ask to see proof of adequate training in these areas.

 

  1. WAHR

 

Working At Height Regulations – Contractors have a duty to ensure that all of their employees are suitably trained when their job involves working at height.

 

Suitable training should always be provided when required for the following:

 

 

  • The safe use and selection of safety harnesses and lanyards
  • Using Mobile Elevated Work Platforms or MEWPS – requires certain IPAF training. All of our staff have levels 1a,3a, &3b – for the safe use of Spider Lifts, Boom/Cherry Pickers and Scissor Lifts
  • Ladder Training
  • Other types of training depending on the equipment being used.

 TOP TIP 1: Ask your chosen exterior building cleaning company for a copy of their Training Matrix. This will show you how much they care about their employee’s wellbeing, and will give you a good idea of whether they are a good fit for you and your building clean.

TOP TIP 2: You should also insist on seeing their risk assessments and method statements relating to works being carried out on your building. Do not settle for generic documents, always insist on Site Specific ones that have been written specifically for your building, and the work that is being carried out on it.

 

  1. Waste-Water Dumping

It is illegal to allow waste wash water to run into storm drains outside in the street. Where this does occur, both the cleaning company and building owner can face fines from the local water authorities. Instead, waste-water MUST be collected and disposed of in the sewerage drains, or taken away and paid to recycle/dump.

Any experienced building cleaning company will ensure that no waste-water goes down the storm drains.

One-way that waste wash water can be prevented from entering storm drains is the use of a vacuum recovery system. This ensures all waste water is vacuumed into a recovery tank, and then, by using an onboard waste pump, the effluent can be pumped into the customers sewers. Alternatively, it can be pumped into a larger holding tank inside a van, to be taken away to a recycling centre.

Vacuum recovery systems are not used by many exterior cleaning companies as they are expensive to purchase or hire. Fortunately, our approach has never been about what method is cheaper for us, but about what is best for you. Therefore, we DO use vacuum recovery systems at CCWC Services!

TOP TIP: Ask your exterior building cleaning company whether they use a vacuum recovery system. If they do not, ask them why not, as it is a great way of ensuring legal compliance.

 

  1. Check: Do the employees of the cleaning company actually work for the cleaning company?

Some cleaning companies will take on larger jobs than they have capacity for. This means they will need to sub-contract other smaller cleaning companies to help them carry out the work. When they sub-contract, they often will not check the following:

  • That adequate training has been provided by these smaller firms to their employees
  • The level of insurance cover is sufficient (which should include public and employee’s liability insurance).

 

  1. Does the cleaning company have adequate insurance cover?

This is another especially important aspect of Exterior Building Cleaning Law. Most small cleaning companies buy cheap insurance policies which do not cover the building being worked upon.  Obviously, this could leave you at great financial risk should an accident occur while they are cleaning your building.


TOP TIP
: Always verify the insurance cover of any cleaning company you are thinking of using.

With any exterior building cleaning company you are considering hiring, we advise you to go through these six points with them, so that you can be confident you won’t be left legally liable for any negligence on their part.

 

Question #5 – How Well Trained Are The Contractor’s Staff, And Do They Have Proof Of Their Current Ticket Status?

All contractors’ staff must be legally qualified to work in each different working environment.

For example, on building roofs, working at height, on mobile elevated working platforms, and handling hazardous materials.

Here’s a more complete list of tickets you should expect your Contractor’s workforce to hold:

 

Employee Accreditations:

First-aid at work – Our staff are trained in First Aid

Working at height – All staff are trained for working at height

Harness trained – This is for Safe use and Selection of Harnesses and Lanyards

Softwash authorised – All our Staff have passed a 200-question exam to safely use chemicals

IPAF 1B 3A 3B accredited – This enables our staff to use a multitude of Access Equipment

CSCS card holder – This enables the holder to show compliance when working on building sites

PASMA licences – This shows competence in building scaffold towers correctly

 

SSSTS – Some members of staff are Site Supervisor Safety Training Scheme Accredited

SMSTS – Some members of staff are Site Management Safety Training Scheme Accredited

 

Summary

After reading this guide, I hope you’re excited by the prospect of being able to identify the very best soft services contractors for your upcoming projects.

The more effort you put into questioning your potential suppliers, the better the chances of finding the right contractor, who offers the best overall value, and will make your life so much easier when it comes to the day-to-day management of your soft services contracts.

I hope you’ve found this short guide helpful, and please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

Best regards,

Lee Clark

lee@ccwcservices.co.uk

 

Do You Have A Project Or Tender That You’d Like To Receive A Professional, Detailed Proposal For?

Let’s have a chat and see if we can help you… Call 0800 035 4142 or email service@ccwcservices.co.uk and we’ll ask you some important questions about your needs.

If helpful, we’ll meet you on site, check for any unique circumstances or issues, and then respond with a comprehensive proposal, including appropriate RAMS and Client references.

 

About the Author

 

Lee Clark started to clean residential windows back in 1990, and grew his business into an exceptionally large round. He started purchasing Commercial grade equipment to service the commercial market back in 1999.

Lee won a large window cleaning commercial contract with The Admiral HQ building in Cardiff, for Sir Robert McAlpine, which received coverage in local news media.

Not long after, Lee also won a very large contract with Willmott Dixon, as they built the very prestigious building, namely No.1 Central Square, where CCWC were tasked to clean the building from top to bottom, and inside-out, within budget and with a very tight schedule.

Suitably impressed by the Sir Robert McAlpine contract on the Admiral Building, CCWC Services were head-hunted by SRM to clean the Prestigious Central Square 6 & 7 which houses HMRC and HSE (Health and Safety Executive). The Health and Safety implications on this building were met very easily with SSSTS and SMSTS certificated Staff, who were also tested and approved for Critical Working at Height.

These sites were running consecutively with all of other commitments, such as Cardiff City Stadium, The Hilton Hotel & Spa Cardiff, and other smaller, daily national contracts such as Five Guys, Cote Restaurants, Leeds & Co Op Banks, to name just a few.

 

 

Lee Clark

Lee founded CCWC Services back in 1988 with the focus on being a great company to work for and providing a great cleaning service in South Wales, over the years his expertise has been called on all over England

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