In safe hands?

7th of December 2018
In safe hands?

Knowing that your facilities are secure when outsourcing contracts is paramount. Secure commercial cleaning expert Julius Rutherfoord & Co wants to see levels of security vetting improved across the professional cleaning industry, says operations director Caroline Hutchins.

Security is an issue that every business, large and small, must take seriously to protect people and reputation and we know how important it is to our clients’ business. Figures indicate organisations are making significant investment in security. Massive cyberattacks and data breaches are driving companies worldwide to increase security spending to $96 billion in 2018—up eight per cent over 2017, according to a research forecast by Gartner.

Facilities managers play an essential role in ensuring the security of a building and must be confident that external contractors, such as their cleaning supplier, put security vetting first. While the best cleaning contractors are championing progressive attitudes to safety, general levels of security vetting need to be improved across the industry.

The contractor’s staff, systems and technology should all be focused on ensuring an organisation is in safe hands. As well as the risk of theft or damage to property that can result from poor security vetting, there are other serious concerns around issues such as terrorism, cyber-crime and the personal safety of people in the building.

Legality of the workforce

All staff, whether recruited directly or inherited through the Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) process, must have the legal right to work in your country and pose no threat to your business.

The UK Home Office for example, estimates as many as 900,000 people work illegally in Britain, many in the capital. There have even been cases of employers knowingly taking on illegal workers and seeking to exploit them. This is despite facing penalties of up to €5,600 for each illegal worker employed and even tougher penalties under the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

Estates and facilities managers should check how thorough the cleaning provider’s recruitment procedures are, and what background identity checks are made. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks will only go so far, and are useless if the ID in question is fake. No-one should be able to work within a business without first providing photographic ID with a machine-readable zone (MRZ) so its validity can be checked.

Our use of passport scanning stands us out from the crowd and helps us to identify illegal workers applying to work with us. During the initial security vetting of staff we inherit through the TUPE process, we frequently find that up to 40 per cent of the previous contractors’ staff have fraudulent or out of date documentation. Technology enables fake passports or ID documents to be identified in seconds which means that clients can be guaranteed a 100 per cent legal workforce.

The British Standard BS 7858:2012 is the recognised benchmark for performing candidate and employee screening within the UK and clients should be asking if their cleaning company are vetting to this level. Depending on the locations that you require your cleaner to access, facilities managers should also seek to establish whether cleaning operatives have been checked against the Children’s Barred List.

Site security

Once employed, the checks and balances should not stop. Biometric time and attendance systems, whereby a person’s identification can be verified through unique physical attributes, such as their fingerprint or iris, offers the most advanced and reliable means of ensuring only the right personnel enter your premises. This also means facilities managers know that a professional service is delivered to specification, cost-effectively and securely.

If this all sounds a bit ‘Big Brother’, it is worth remembering security vetting also helps to keep cleaning operatives themselves safe. Everyone has the right to work in secure environments, and anyone employing cleaning operatives has a duty of care to ensure they can work safely without the risk of harm. Understanding security and safety are a two-way priority is essential to gain the highest level of service from your contract staff.


Thorough training should be provided in health and safety, security procedures, cleaning skills and the needs of a particular site and client. Solid processes and procedures embedded in training will mean staff know what to do in every conceivable situation. Training should be carried out on-site on an ongoing basis to ensure operatives are up to date on everything from latest legislation to new procedures and equipment. Operatives should also be empowered to spot and report potential hazards – the client may not be aware there is an issue and will welcome proactivity in helping to reduce accidents.

Risks associated with manual handling, working at height and other challenges must be carefully assessed and mitigated through appropriate training before cleaning begins. At the same time, compliance issues associated with the use and safe storage of cleaning agents, equipment and other machinery, should be fully accounted for.

Systems and processes

Effective management ensures an unobtrusive, quality, efficient, transparent service that does not compromise building security. As an example, we introduced an iPad-based contract management app which is used for every aspect of managing our sites from quality audits and onsite training to HR queries and health and safety audits.

While on-site with clients, technology enables area managers and quality auditors to use tablets to record a vast array of data about cleaning performance. With this information, the contractor’s head office can check whether they are accurately meeting the requirements set out in the cleaning specification, ensure relevant compliances and instantly create a site audit for clients. Operatives can even provide a date and time stamped photo capture of the area to be cleaned before and after the work has been completed, giving clients total peace of mind.

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems enable all communication between clients and contractors to be logged and accessed quickly, which can help alleviate security concerns. Summaries can be held of conversations, emails, meetings, consumables used on site and details of any sub-contractors involved. This helps the contractor understand clients’ needs more deeply and faster, which in turn builds a stronger and transparent working relationship.

The best contractors will use vehicle fleets that are tracked by GPS linked into a fleet software system. This ensures the contractor knows exactly where vehicles and staff are in real time. This also helps promote responsible driving practices which create a safer environment for everyone.
In addition, if there’s an emergency that requires additional backup support at your site, then it is possible for your cleaning contractor to check online to see where all vehicles are and deploy the vehicle closest to the site.

Up to the challenge

When organisations outsource cleaning and FM services, they need to be secure in the knowledge that they will be supported with exceptional service. Facilities managers should opt for contractors that can demonstrate the most up-to-date, innovative approach to protecting the personal safety of people within the building.

To highlight the security challenges facing businesses, and the importance of systems and procedures to protect facilities being cleaned, Julius Rutherfoord & Co has produced two videos about staff vetting procedures and security on client sites which are available to view at


Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited