A force to be reckoned with

13th of November 2018 Article by Lynn Webster
A force to be reckoned with

ECJ’s UK correspondent Lynn Webster reports from the recent awards for excellence in environmental cleaning by the armed forces.

Attending the recent awards recognising excellence in environmental cleaning for the armed forces by the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners at their Military Awards was a humbling but very proud experience.

The award-winning individuals are recognised and honoured in citations from their senior officers describing their contributions, their tenacity in the face of adversity and their dedication - demonstrating those attributes, skills and specialist knowledge necessary in such diverse situations. It certainly makes you consider the greater and far wider exposure of the cleaning industry into another world and what we often take for granted in our day to day lives.

There are significant health and hygiene implications establishing effective sanitation levels in setting up a hospital in a war zone camp which take far more focus than in the time of Florence Nightingale. Pre-assessment of the surroundings are critical for providing suitable conditions for surgical operations in a tent or on board a ship, facing challenging standards of hygiene far different to the general National Health Service (NHS) hospital.

For example, the achievement of the field hospital at Bastion was being operational 24-7 and treating up to 2,000 casualties a year. A significant challenge in the Afghan desert with the hospital recording zero cases of MRSA or any other healthcare acquired infection. Hand hygiene protocols become paramount in the management of infections and disease outbreaks in these conditions; often with many thousands of deployed forces personnel living in very close proximity to each other.

The cleaning assessments required in environmental situations continue during peace-keeping missions to far reaching countries with the impact of hurricanes, earthquakes and as disaster relief deployments. They are faced alongside climatic threats, political instability and the extremes of neglected tropical diseases. This can involve managing large-scale trauma situations and humanitarian operations.

Poor water quality

Cleaning challenges abound with poor water quality and limited clean water supplies - with questionable safety of even bottled water let alone the local water bore holes. Providing hygiene support in volatile conditions such as mosquito attack or significant rodent infestations requires additional expertise in the approach to pest control and specific cleaning routines.

Our forces-based environmental cleaning teams have a critical part to play; mitigating health risks, minimising risk to health in both active operations or during exercises for all those deployed. As environmental heath technicians (isn’t that a much more appropriate title than ‘cleaner’?) their advice on environmental health, occupational hygiene, preventing disease and environmental protection for senior commanders is imperative for protecting troops’ health and wellbeing. Clearly a ‘force’ to be reckoned with!!


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