Meet Shaun Caudwell, an industrial cleaner and a long-standing Biffa employee with 13 years under his belt.
Based at our Sheffield depot, Shaun and the rest of the industrial cleaning team clear and maintain hazardous areas in industrial facilities such as factories, warehouses and power plants.
Factory, warehouse and power plant cleaning involves some of the toughest and dirtiest work, manoeuvering around volatile chemicals and powerful machinery. From food producers to steel manufacturers, cleaning and maintenance are essential aspects of all industrial sectors to ensure things run smoothly and safely.
I caught up with Shaun to talk about how challenging industrial cleaning can really be and what a day as a Biffa industrial cleaner is like.
I arrived in Sheffield in the midmorning to a light dusting of snow on the ground. As soon as I walked into the office of Darren Boler, Hazardous Site Manager and Shaun’s boss, he kindly offered me a very, very milky brew to warm me up.
Darren introduced me to Shaun, who apparently is quite shy and doesn’t like interviews (or having his photo taken) but once we got started, Shaun was confident speaking about what he knows best.
How did you get into industrial cleaning?
I used to work in a factory printing cardboard boxes, but I didn’t enjoy it. Your day is very limited in a factory, everything is scheduled for a set time and it’s always the same. So, my mate who works at Biffa, Jamie said they were looking for industrial cleaners, I went for an interview and got the job! That was 13 years ago.
Do you enjoy the work at Biffa?
Definitely! It makes a difference being able to work outside and to have variety in your day. I prefer to be able to work outside.
Is Biffa’s industrial cleaning service only in Sheffield?
No, we go all over the country, wherever we’re needed. We once did a job in Scotland, doing a multiple site clearance which took almost a month to complete and it was in the middle of winter!
What time do you typically start in the morning?
It depends really. There’s no set time it just depends on what time the job starts. Sometimes if we have to be on site for 8 am and it’s in Exeter, then I’ll be up at 3 am.
3 am! How do you manage to get up so early?
You just get used to it. I’ve always had to get up early for work and so does my wife. She gets up every morning at 3 am, even on the weekends.
Does that mean there’s no set finishing time?
We’re all rostered onto shifts, so you don’t finish at the same time every day. When working with machinery and hazardous environments, sometimes a task can take longer than planned but you can’t just go home when your shift is over. You have to stay until it’s finished as many companies we work with can only shut down for cleaning for a certain amount of time. You have to be very flexible.
What other requirements do you need for industrial cleaning?
There’s quite a lot of health and safety training you have to do, which is to be expected. You have to have a CSCS card so you can work on construction sites. You also need to know emergency first aid, working in confined spaces training as well as working at a height training.
Is it scary working in confined spaces or up high?
I don’t particularly like heights but not enough to stop me working, and you’re always safe. We use lots of safety equipment like harnesses and monitors so there’s no danger you’ll fall or get stuck.
How do you prepare for potential risks on site?
Before we even set foot on site we have a risk assessment given to us with all the potential hazards and how to avoid them and reduce the risk of harm. When we go into confined spaces to clean sewers, there’s often not enough room for two people just one person and a hose to suck up whatever’s down there. For that, we have a tripod fixed over the hole with a cable and harness attached to whoever’s turn it is going down so if we need to get them out, we can easily pull them up.
What are the most dangerous industries to clean?
A lot of the time we’re working around heavy machines, so it’s important to follow the risk assessment and wear the correct PPE. The most dangerous jobs are probably the ones where you have to work in places that use acid and other chemicals. That’s when you really need to have some common sense – don’t do anything unless it’s safe.
Are there any industries that are risk-free?
Not in this line of work, no. You always need to be aware of your surroundings. You’re in an industrial environment, so there are always dangers but as long as you follow the risk assessment you’ll be okay. Not a lot can go wrong vacuuming up shavings at a steel manufacturer or flour at a food producer. That’s pretty safe.
What other equipment do you use?
We use DISAB vacuum trucks which can suck up a lot of whatever needs sucking up. It could be dust, debris, sludge, oil, literally anything that can fit in the hose. We also use equipment that monitors gas levels like CO2 and hydrogen sulfide for when we’re cleaning and maintaining sewers.
Following my interview with Shaun, I accompanied him and his team on a nearby industrial cleaning operation to see what industrial cleaning was like in action.
It was quite spectacular to see the size of the sites Shaun and his team clean on a regular basis to help keep Britain’s industry ticking over. It was clear that health and safety were at the forefront of every job with a detailed briefing with the customer’s staff and the Biffa team as well as an audit of the site carried out before commencing any work.
It’s apparent that the Biffa Industrial Cleaning team take pride in their work and ensuring that all of their staff and the customer’s staff are safe while they carry out their vital work.
Discover the range of industrial cleaning services available at Biffa.