Cleaners who are trained in the basic principles of health and safety, such as firefighting and first aid, can be the first line of defence to mitigate risk at any workplace or during an event, according to Servest Cleaning, a division of multiservices outsourcing group Servest.
Servest Cleaning sales director Dees Maharaj tells Engineering News that, to date, 105 employees of Servest Cleaning have received training in safety, health and environment programmes.
He explains that Servest’s health and safety policy aims to ensure that personnel work in a safe environment where accidents are less likely to happen and that client safety standards are complied with.
Servest endorses the Occupational Health and Safety Act, No 85, which aims to provide for the health and safety of persons at work and those using plant and machinery, protect persons at work against hazards to health and safety, establish an advisory council for occupational health and safety and provide solutions for matters connected therewith.
Servest will embark on three programmes – training at its Centre of Excellence, which is situated in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town, sector education and training authority-accredited training and National Qualifications rating.
Since April this year, Servest has trained 18 new first aiders and 17 new health and safety employees in-house, which includes firefighting representatives, with an outsourced company conducting the first-aid training.
“When staff are trained, they will be more aware of all aspects of health and safety and they will, therefore, be alert to hazards to mitigate risks, with the necessary assistance from management and clients,” he notes, adding this approach creates a safe working environment that drives consistent and safe behaviour.
The specialised training will enable Servest staff to use their skills in the field at other companies and at home, Maharaj points out. “They will also be able to widen the knowledge base of their families and colleagues regarding health and safety practices and procedures.”
Challenges and Trends
The biggest challenge currently affecting the industrial cleaning sector in South Africa is labour.
“Over the last few years, increases in labour costs have been significantly higher than the consumer price index,” states Maharaj, adding that labour unrest is currently at a critical point, with the whole labour industry – from an unskilled-labour perspective – having changed significantly.
Servest recently consulted with its various financial advisers, who confirmed a definite trend towards settling on much higher wage percentages than in the past, he adds.
Maharaj says this is to avoid industrial action, but it “poses a huge risk for businesses” and, as such, “needs to be monitored closely.”
Servest’s commitment to the industrial cleaning industry is illustrated by its being a member to the National Contract Cleaning Association (NCCA) since its inception in 1997.
Servest Cleaning human resources director Ruth Maseko was appointed as a member of the NCCA board of directors in July 2013 through a nomination process by the cleaning industry.
She aims to ensure that an audit and compliance process is enforced, as the process was poorly administered in the past. “The NCCA previously conducted audits and had specific processes in place; however, with the integration of Maseko into the NCCA, this process is being refined to enable stricter governance and compliance,” says Maharaj.
Maseko’s appointment will enable Servest to form an integral part of an improved, value-adding association that can better serve the industry. “We will use Maseko’s position on the NCCA to leverage collective bargaining to benefit the broader industry,” says Maharaj.
He explains that clients who currently use labour broking will have to transform their recruitment to an in-house procedure, or consider employ- ing service providers to provide a full service.