Cleaning and hygiene standards and legislation are coming to Australia whether the industry is ready or not. Bridget Gardner’s company, Fresh Green Clean, has been at the forefront of this regulation for the past 10 years and her programs are helping leading cleaning companies be ready for the imminent change. Keith Watts report.
Bridget Gardner, director and founder of Fresh Green Clean (FGC) based in North Carlton, Melbourne, is recognised as Australia’s ‘leading expert’ in sustainable and safe hygiene cleaning standards. Bridget has been researching best practices in facility cleaning for more than 15 years since she launched her non-toxic cleaning business in 2001.
She has a true passion for green cleaning and has constantly championed the Australian green clean movement through Fresh Green Clean’s (FGC) training, advisory, tendering and auditing services. “I am a consultant and a qualified trainer in best practice cleaning. My programs help people to change their behaviour,” she said. “I work with both management and staff to engage them and help them to be more efficient and innovative.”
Bridget explains that when she had her own cleaning business she was personally motivated to be more sustainable because she was highly sensitive to chemicals. She looked for safer chemicals and chemical-free alternatives, but back in 2001, the information was very poor. After five years of research for her own cleaning business she found that she was far more interested in the teaching and setting up of systems than running a cleaning business so made the decision to start Fresh Green Clean in 2006.
“I kept searching for the perfect product that would work without giving me a headache. The more I experimented the more I realised it was about having good systems in place. I decided I wanted to base my business on selling information rather than products or services. I wanted to offer independent, practical and accurate advice. And this is still my driving force today,” Bridget admits.
“My clients rely on my information so it’s got to be accurate” she shares. “I am constantly researching and networking. I’ve done lots of courses, such as a post graduate certificate at Swinburne in Vocation Sustainability, a Company Director course, Training and Assessment, Environmental Cleaning Auditing. I also attend seminars and lectures, such as RACI’s (Royal Australian Chemical Institute) seminar on the GHS rollout, which will have a big impact on green cleaning.”
Bridget admits that she is becoming frustrated that the work done by cleaners is not taken seriously. “It’s not valued,” she says. “I am really passionate about cleaning, sustainability and doing things properly but I’m also very pragmatic. I chat with chemical companies and cleaning suppliers all the time to keep up with their latest innovations. Those that know me understand that I am not anti-chemicals, but that we need to be smart about how we use them so we don’t poison the earth unnecessarily in the process.
“The cleaning industry provides an enormously valuable role to the commercial sector, aged and healthcare. In some cases cleaning can mean life or death. So let’s document how we go about it, set standards and make it consistent,” she continued.
She is amazed that subjective visual auditing is still the standard for measuring cleanliness in hospitals. This is what drives her pushes for better cleaning standards. “I don’t want to see the role and process of cleaning demeaned. Standards should guide and support the people who do the work,” she implores.
“I write a lot of documentation” says Bridget. “I research, write training manuals and procedures and help put them in place. It is important for cleaning services companies to document exactly how they clean, what products are used, techniques, how many cloths they use, how they launder them, and be able to demonstrate this is being taught to their cleaners and monitored.
“At the moment, a lot of companies are operating on vague and generic documentation but this means running a massive risk,” she adds. “If an accident happens, a kid gets an allergic reaction or a patient dies, how can they defend themselves in court?”
Bridget’s client base covers a wide range of businesses and projects including The Sydney Opera House, The Victorian Department of Justice, and numerous cleaning companies around Australia, Universities, corporate clients and local councils.
In the early days of FGC, a major year and a half- long project funded by Sustainability Victoria in child care helped get things started. “It was a big leap” shares Bridget. Another major breakthrough was landing a large project in 2010 with The City of Yarra. The job entailed writing specifications and training for the cleaners and then running a year-long improvement program of trialling different green innovations and testing them to see which ones were the most environmentally friendly and measuring the outcomes.
Auditing is an important service provided by FGC. “I do conformance auditing for some Councils and Universities,” Bridget reveals. “I audit against the specifications. Sustainability is about monitoring ongoing performance and checking that the certified chemicals they say they are going to supply are being used. Universities start at 4.30am so that is when I have to be on site. I observe the cleaners, conduct checks in the cleaner’s rooms, audit performance then provide a report and recommendations. The client sets the brief, then I write the auditing tool and the report to meet it.”
However, her next program is what has her excited at the moment. “About two years ago I developed a certification standard called ‘Green Sash’ (Safe and Sustainable Hygiene). Because it was too hard to get off the ground on my own I went back to the drawing board and have now developed the criteria into a benchmarking program called HPC Solutions that I am beta-testing with a major cleaning company,” she explains. “It helps cleaning managers to document their cleaning products and processes against this criteria that is then audited on-site and rate the services against other facilities.” She will be announcing more details in the coming months so watch this green space!