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What is a Clean As You Go Policy?

Last updated on 20th December 2023

The clean as you go policy is standard working practice throughout industry and is especially important in the retail, hospitality or food sector. The name is self explanatory; it requires that you clean up as you go, but there have to be formalised policies put in place so that all staff members know exactly what to do and that it is everyone’s responsibility to act on them. Without these guidelines, staff members may tend to believe that cleaning up is someone else’s job and just leave it for this unnamed “mum” figure to do it for them!

The two types of cleaning categories

The two types of cleaning categories are broken down into urgent and non urgent.  Urgent cleaning is required to prevent an immediate threat to health or safety, such as a spillage or breakage. Non urgent cleaning refers to day to day maintenance in order to keep the work place safe and clean, this includes cleaning surfaces, sweeping up, emptying bins and other similar things.

It may sound obvious in a domestic situation to clean as you go, to use the correct cleaning materials in order to do it and to tidy away rubbish and waste, but when it comes to the workplace; all eventualities have to be catered for. Cleaning at work requires a well thought out policy and some clear instructions.

Clean as you go and wipe down sufaces

Urgent Cleaning

Reacting instantly to spillages and breakages is imperative for risk management and safety. Spillages can cause people to slip and any breakages especially those involving glass could cause cuts and further injuries. This means you should ensure that you have a complete kit of safety and cleaning equipment on hand to deal with any of these eventualities.

Your spill cleaning kit should include the following components:

  • Disposable gloves.
  • Absorbent material such as sand or similar.
  • Roll of absorbent paper.
  • Disinfectant or cleaner spray.
  • Cloths or sponges.
  • Rubbish sack for the debris.
  • Broom.
  • Brush and dustpan.

You should also have hazard signs so that you can warn staff members or customers that the area poses a risk of slipping over.

Your urgent cleaning kit should be positioned in an easy accessible place. You will probably be able identify the areas where these spillage / breakage accidents most occur, so your cleaning kit should be on hand in the same places and staff should know where these are .

Responding quickly to cleaning incidents is important and this won’t be possible if a staff member has to search for the spill cleaning kit or it is located too far away from the site of most of the incidents.

Non Urgent Cleaning

This is the cleaning routine that is necessary to keep the workplace clean and hygienic. Non urgent cleaning includes keeping surfaces clean and free from bacteria, clearing rubbish away and emptying bins, cleaning the floors and ensuring that equipment is clean and ready for the next use. Your non urgent cleaning routine will depend upon the industry and your workplace and your clean as you go policy should reflect this.

Your non urgent cleaning kit should contain everything you need for the particular area. For example anti bacterial sanitizers and disposable cloths, mop and bucket, vacuum cleaner where appropriate. Remember that the urgent cleaning kit is on hand for spillage or other events.

How to use the clean as you go essentials

Understanding how to clean is very important. You need to train staff in the importance of using the cleaning materials correctly.

Points to cover include:

  • The use of the appropriate sanitizers for different tasks i.e. such as not using the bleach that is usually stored in the toilet, for cleaning the kitchen.
  • The importance of disposing of soiled materials and dirty cloths so that they are not reused.
  • The essential ongoing cleaning jobs that need to be carried out at peak times such cleaning surfaces in between new tasks, mopping up spillages.
  • Where to dispose of food waste and packaging material.
  • Emptying the bins.
  • The importance of storing clean equipment in its proper place.
  • Where the emergency spill kits are situated.

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What to include in your policy

In work places such as retail and hospitality there needs to be a policy in place and this will depend upon the precise nature of the area. Unsurprisingly kitchens come under special scrutiny because cleanliness not only affects the people working in the area, adherence to food hygiene standards is vitally important for the safety of your customers.

When it comes to food preparation, clean as you go is important for health. Good clean as you go policy helps avoid cross contamination and bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. It also minimises the risk of allergic reaction from equipment that may contains traces of substances from previous use.

Clean as you go policy for kitchens

The government has issued guidelines for food safety and these steps should be incorporated into your policy. These reflect food hygiene training required by the catering industry. Your policy should include clear instructions regarding the following areas.

  • Remove outer packaging from food and throw it in the correct bin before it is bought into the kitchen or storeroom. Packaging could have been in contact with dirty surfaces.
  • There needs to be a policy regarding raw food waste and packaging. Meat and poultry for example may come in plastic bags which should be disposed of in the correct bin. If this type of packaging touches the work surface, you should ensure that these are thoroughly cleaned with an antibacterial product. Raw food waste such as blood or fish waste needs to be disposed safely and the area cleaned to prevent cross contamination.
  • Kitchens should be kept clear of clutter and dirty utensils. All kitchen staff should endeavour to clean as they go and clear away used equipment as soon as possible. Doing this will help prevent the spread of bacteria.
  • Deal with spillage as soon as it occurs.
  • Disinfecting work surfaces between tasks to avoid the risk of cross contamination of food.
  • Ensure the sinks are kept clean and free of debris.

There are other things to be included in your policy such as the disposal of waste which can be a major issue in the catering industry. In the food industry bad practice can result in pipes and drains becoming blocked with oil and food and pest contamination such as rats or cockroaches infesting the kitchen.

To guard against these serious issues, your clean as you go policy should establish how to deal with waste. It does not take very long for bad practice to result in a major health risk.

Usual safeguards include:

  • Scraping waste into a food bin before washing plates and utensils and fitting a strainer over the sink plug hole. These measures will prevent sinks and pipes from becoming blocked.
  • Storing food waste away from the area where you prepare food. You need to ensure that food waste is collected on a regular basis as failure to do so will attract pests. Keeping the waste food area clean and regularly disinfected will also discourage pests and bad odours.

It is important to check with your local environmental health office to find out whether there are additional special requirements.

Chef using cloth to clean as you go

Establishing your clean as you go policy

It is important to formalise your clean as your go policy so that all staff members know exactly what their duties entail. This means your instructions should be clear and include everything that is necessary; from wiping down surfaces, cleaning the floors at the end of the shift and when to empty the bins.

Although all this may seem like common sense, a formalised clean as you go policy is helpful for staff members and especially useful for new or younger employees who may not feel confident about taking the initiative. In addition providing clear guide lines and stressing the importance of a consistent cleaning routine will establish a healthy working environment for everyone.

You should explain that any downtime or quiet periods should be spent on routine cleaning and that this will be noted favourably by managers. Failing to clean and use time productively is a good indicator that the staff member may be a time waster or slacker. After all we have all visited restaurants or bars where the tables remain uncleared and dirty while the staff members chat to each other idly in the corner. This is not a good recommendation for any business and will lead to a loss of repeat custom.

Although different types of businesses have different requirements, the basic message is the same; to keep the area clean and hygienic and to deal with any emergency cleaning situations as and when they happen.

How to manage your policy

The best way to manage a clean as you policy is to establish a daily rota of duties as part of a master plan of cleaning, so that staff members know exactly what they are supposed to be doing.

We have all seen these check lists in toilets in restaurants and public spaces where the staff member signs that the area has been cleaned and checked , so your policy should reflect this, with paperwork in place when necessary.

All staff members should be familiar with the cleaning policy.

It should include:

  • All the daily essential tasks. Such as cleaning floors at the end of the shift and disposing of rubbish.
  • Correct placement of cleaning kits and spill kits. These should be checked regularly to ensure that there are no shortages in equipment
  • Timetable that requires staff members to sign off after scheduled cleans
  • Cleaning equipment after use as well as when necessary throughout the day. Some food preparation equipment may have a separate Clean in Place procedure, which outlines full cleaning instructions. This may have a procedure card that needs to be signed once it has been completed.
  • Placing dirty towels or equipment in the washing machine or the correct container to be taken away by contract cleaners.

Identify problem areas

There are always problems areas where waste can build up, such as public bins, or areas where staff tends to leave refuse at busy times in the day. These problem areas need to be managed and factored into the cleaning schedule.

In addition, it is important to ensure that walkways and areas outside the workplace are kept clean and tidy and rubbish free. Cleaning these areas should be scheduled into your daily cleaning rota because in some cases staff members may not notice them or even feel as if it is part of their job. It is important not to block walkways or emergency exits because of the fire risk as well as for reasons of hygiene.

It is important to maintain a good cleaning strategy

Maintaining an effective cleaning policy with clean as you go is crucial for any business, and especially those within the food or hospitality industry. All staff members should have a consistent attitude to cleaning so that it becomes second nature to ensure that all areas and equipment are safe. This attitude should be demonstrated by senior members of staff right down to the most junior and inexperienced employees so that everyone is fully on-board with cleaning strategies and understands their importance.

As with all work practice, whether your business operates good clean as you go practice or not, will come down to staff training and the general mood of the workplace. Nobody has ever said that cleaning is interesting or fun but good staff training will help everyone understand why it is so important. The best workplaces are those where all staff members work together to maintain high standards of hygiene. Without this in place, it won’t be long until your local environmental health officer pays you a visit.

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About the author

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Jane Higgins

Jane works with the CPD Online College to produce great articles and has been with us since 2019. Specialising in numerous areas of content, Jane has a vast writing experience and mainly works on our health & safety and mental health posts. Outside work Jane enjoys playing music, learning foreign languages and swimming in the sea even when it is far too cold for comfort!

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