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Locations that are accessible and frequently used by the general public, such as shopping centres require constant cleaning and maintenance to prevent people from having accidents and being injured or even killed. As an example, it is common for people to drop and spill things such as food or drink and not clean the mess or immediately find someone who can, such as a cleaner. There are many possible reasons for this behaviour, but the numerous public education campaigns around the world that have been designed to change the way people behave have never been fully successful. And so, the problem persists.

So how do you prevent accidents when you can’t rely on the public to do the right thing?

In Australia, the standard for cleaning rotations of publicly used spaces such as shopping centres is 15-20 minutes. This standard was set by the High Court of Australia during the Strong v Woolworths Limited case of 2012. The case is summarised below.

At around 12.30 pm on Friday the 24th of September 2004 Mrs Strong, along with her daughter and a friend, were walking into the Big W store within the Centro Taree Shopping Centre. Outside Big W, Woolworths had exclusive rights to conduct “sidewalk sales” in a roughly square area that extended 11 metres out into the food court area located between the Big W and Woolworths stores.

As Mr Strong was walking into through this area into Big W, she moved to the right to examine some pot plants on a display stand. The tip of her crutch landed on a chip, or the grease from the chip and slipped from under Mr Strong causing her to fall and badly injured her back.

A cleaning company had been contracted to clean the common area so that the “floors are to be free of any rubbish and or spillages”, at intervals of 15 minutes or less. This common area didn’t include the sidewalk sales area. Despite the contract stipulating a 15 minute cleaning rotation, the cleaners serviced this area every 20 minutes. Centro employed security guards to patrol the area and report spills to the cleaners, while Woolworths employed a “people greeter” who kept an eye out for incidents in the sidewalk sales area. On the day of the incident, the common area had not been cleaned for longer than 20 minutes and the sidewalk sales area hadn’t been cleaned at all.

Mr Strong went to court and after numerous appeals a decision was made by the High Court of Australia to award Mr Strong $580,299.12 as Woolworths had failed “to implement and/or maintain a proper cleaning system”. The cleaning contract didn’t require the floors inside the sidewalk sales area to be cleaned. As an outcome of the case it was also agreed that,

  1. the avoidance of negligence did not require “the continuous presence of someone always on the lookout for potential slippery substances”,
  2. and a system of inspection and cleaning at 15 to 20 minute intervals, would have sufficed to avoid negligence.

Many cleaning contracts now require cleaning rotations of less than 15 minutes, particularly in high use areas where spills are more common such as food courts. Although this case helped to define exactly what is, and is not acceptable, it doesn’t solve the problem of staff not following instructions such as the cleaners at Centro Taree who hadn’t cleaned the floor for more than the contracted time.

For this reason, it is now common for contracts to require indisputable proof that areas have been cleaned according to the cleaning rotation. In fact, law courts, and many insurance companies also expect this proof of service. The only way to provide indisputable proof of service is through an electronic staff tracking software system, and the most reliable on the market and most frequently chosen for this task is the UniGuard system. UniGuard specifically addresses this area with its rotation features, specifically designed for cleaning at monitored intervals.

If you want to learn more about how UniGuard can improve contract compliance, minimise Public Liability Insurance and the risk of accidents and Personal Injury Claims, then access our white paper “The Solution to Cheaper Public Liability Insurance for Cleaning and Building Serviceshere.