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The Problem with the Way We’re Training Custodial Workers Today

So he could afford his daughter’s tuition at a local private school, Bob took on a second job as a custodian at the school. He looked forward to the job, much of his day was spent behind a desk, so custodial work would keep him active and involved in her school. He was also was excited to learn something new.

On his first day, Bob showed up for work and was shown a short movie about cleaning chemicals and how to use them. Next, his boss showed him his cart which overflowed with spray bottles, cloths, bags, gloves, floor scrapers and mops. “Duane’s going to show you around tonight,” he advised. “Tomorrow you’ll start on your own.”

“I’ve been doing this for 22 years,” Duane told him as they walked between classrooms. “I know they say to clean from top to bottom, but I’ve got a great system down that works for me.”

The next day, Bob was on his own. The work was hard—much harder than he expected. He strained his back emptying trash and his hands cramped from mopping the floor. When he woke up the next morning, he had trouble getting out of bed. After a few weeks, Bob quit. He found another job at a local warehouse that would help him supplement tuition costs. But had he received the proper training, there’s a good chance Bob would still be there today.

 

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Injury caused from improper lifting or repetitive motions is just one of the many issues that can result when we neglect to train our custodial workers. In many cleaning operations, custodial training includes a hodgepodge of show-and-tell, classroom-style instruction and vendor-led training programs specific to a particular product. Very few cleaning operations have a comprehensive training program in place that not only teaches employees HOW to clean, but WHY they clean. Training should not only provide workers with the overall understanding of why their jobs are critical and how cleaning impacts the health of people in the buildings they clean, but also protocols for how and when to perform specific cleaning tasks.

Last week, we held our annual (OS1) Coach Class. This intensive two-day program provides trainers and instructors with the latest information and resources needed to maintain a world-class cleaning program. One of the key benefits to this class is that participants share best practices and insights they have gathered as they plan their schedule for the upcoming year. We are continually updating our curriculum so that all of the (OS1) trainers and coaches have the most recent research and data to support their cleaning protocols. The coaches then take these training programs back to their facilities and use them to conduct ongoing education for their custodial teams during the next year. 

Participants in our (OS1) Coach Class spend an intensive two days learning and planning custodial training programs for 2018.

Our studies have found that cleaning operations supported with a comprehensive training program, such as that which is provided within the (OS1) System, can improve productivity by as much as 16 percent. In one example, the average square footage of cleaning productivity (SFPE) improved from approximately 27,000 SFPE to 39,000 SFPE. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Cleaning workers understand their importance of their work as it relates to the success of the business and the health of building occupants.
  2. They are taught how to properly perform cleaning tasks in a way that minimizes risk and injury.
  3. Workers are empowered through the educational process and receive one-on-one coaching by expert trainers.

It’s time we stop treating custodial work like it’s something that everyone automatically knows how to do. We can’t just throw a mop in someone’s hand and expect them to go to work. This approach results in the issues many cleaning operations face today: injuries, high turnover and low-morale. Cleaning is a profession, and like any professional field requires proper training and education.

As Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”

If you don’t have a comprehensive training program in place for new employees and continuing education programs for your current staff members, it’s time to give some thought to how you can improve these resources. Your cleaning program deserves more and so do your employees.

Think “Janitor” Is a Dirty Word? No, and Here’s Why.

Janitor University is a three-day, instructor-led class that introduces cleaning organization executives to introductory principles of the (OS1) Cleaning Management Program. When we teach the class, we’ll periodically receive feedback regarding the name of the course. People think that because facility directors, CEOs of large building service contractors and other leaders responsible for cleaning that it shouldn’t be called “Janitor University.” Moreover, they feel that the title of “janitor” is an outdated and even derogatory term for people responsible for performing cleaning responsibilities. They suggest alternative titles like “custodian” or “cleaner.”

While we have no issue with those terms, we encourage any professional cleaner to proudly wear their “janitor” badge.

You see, if you trace the etymology of the word “janitor,” it doesn’t take much research to find that the term is tied to deity. “Janus” from which “janitor” is derived, was a Roman god of beginnings and ends; metaphorically he represented doors and passages. In images, he’s often depicted with two faces that allow him to look to the future and the past.

In the English language, first signs of the word “janitor” date back to the 1500s and originally signified an “usher in a school.” In the 1600s, the word evolved to denote a “doorkeeper” and eventually referenced the caretaker of a building. Modern use of the word denotes someone who handles general maintenance and cleaning responsibilities in a building.

For some people, the term “janitor” is derogatory because it indicates a low-skilled, low-paying position. This is a context that our culture has assigned to the position over time, and not one that is truly reflective of the job description.

Many Americans don’t understand that the job not only requires extensive knowledge of chemicals and proper handling protocol, but that it also is essential for protecting public health.  They don’t know that in Germany, janitors are required to attend cleaning school and serve an apprenticeship for three years before becoming a janitor. Switzerland requires four years of schooling before one is able to seek employment as a professional cleaner. In London, there’s a membership organization for environmental cleaners that is a livery company, meaning that it descended from the medieval trade guilds and is supported by the Lord Mayor and Alderman of the city.

Considering that Janus looked both to the past and the future, it seems only appropriate we recognize the origins of the title of janitor and give those who clean our buildings the respect they deserve as we look to the future.

For more information on Janitor University or to attend our upcoming class Oct. 25-27, please go to https://managemen.com/training/janitor-university/.

A Closer Look: Why You Need to Treat Restroom Cleaning Like the Sinking of the Titanic

Note: In our “Closer Look” posts, we’ll take a deeper dive into the history of common products and technology used in custodial operations. If there’s a particular topic you’d like us to explore, just let us know!

It wasn’t until 16th century when the plague rocked England seven times in a 200-year span that people started taking a hard look at their cleaning and hygiene habits. The first flushing toilet was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, a wealthy poet and godson to Queen Elizabeth I. Though innovative and not much different from the toilets we know today, royals never took to it because it was a fixed device in a room by itself and they were accustomed to having toilets brought to them. Additionally, the queen felt that having a room dedicated to using the toilet was lewd.

At that time, the type of toilet you used depended on your class. People in lower class societies used communal privies, which often resembled a bridge-like structure and was situated over a river. Individuals in the middle class used chamber pots, which was a basic bowl that allowed for some privacy and was later emptied into the street or river. Royals used fancy velvet-lined stools with a chamber pot situated inside the seat. The stools were brought to them by servants, who would roll them away once they were finished with them.

Several inventors contributed designs that are used in the toilet we all know today. This includes Thomas Crapper, who developed a patent for the flushing apparatus.

And contrary to popular belief that Mr. Crapper’s study of the toilet led to the development of the slang term “crap” as it relates to bodily waste, the term actually comes from Middle English origin and predates any reference to it as bodily waste. At least, that’s what Wikipedia says.

Today, restrooms continue to play a critical role in controlling sanitation and protecting public health. They require more chemicals, custodial products, labor, government regulation awareness and professional cleaning knowledge than any other area in a facility. Restrooms are at the very top of the list of cleaning priorities.

Restrooms are often a top area of complaints, and they also can host the most pathogenic microorganisms, including hepatitis, herpes simplex I and II, along with numerous blood borne pathogens.

We have two primary rules when it comes to managing restroom cleaning:

  1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. 
  2. You never know how much of a mess will be in a restroom during the hours of operation.

Thoughts on Rule 1: If that first impression is negative, it can mean a lost customer. A survey by Zogby International revealed that 80 percent of consumers would avoid a restaurant with a dirty restroom.

Thoughts on Rule 2: We recommend treating restroom cleaning during operational hours like the sinking of the Titanic. You wouldn’t grab all of your photos and put on your tuxedo before jumping ship—just the essentials for survival. The same goes for cleaning the restroom when it’s open—pick up trash and spot mop visible defects. Make sure all toilets are flushed, dispensers are stocked and all water is wiped from the countertops.

Clean restrooms indicate a commitment to quality. Make it a priority.

The Five P’s of Pathogen Cleaning

As any professional in our industry knows, cleaning isn’t just about removing dirt, but also stopping the spread of bacteria and infection in the buildings we clean. It’s not just about appearance, but also about health—the health of the people in the building and the people cleaning the building.

As we wrap up our safety series for National Safety Month, we’re putting the spotlight on pathogens. More than ever, educating our custodial teams about pathogens—what they are, how they spread and what cleaners can do to protect themselves—has become critical beyond the healthcare world. Cleaners in a variety of public and private settings are regularly exposed to biological hazards that carry risks and responsibilities. Equipping custodial workers with the education they need to effectively clean for health not only empowers them, but will also improve the health of our buildings.

When training custodial teams about pathogens, consider the Five P’s of Pathogens.*

The five P’s include:

  1. Pathogen types: Broadly speaking, a pathogen is basically anything that can cause disease. Different types of pathogens may include:
    • Bacteria: Bacteria are single-celled organisms that can thrive in extreme conditions. They do not require a living host, such as a human being, in order to reproduce. Salmonella, E.coli and MRSA are just a few of the types of bacteria that custodial workers would encounter.
    • Viruses: Generally smaller than bacteria, viruses require a living host to reproduce. Viruses are likely to produce an outbreak of illness, such as influenza or the common cold.
    • Parasites: Parasites live on or inside a living host. They can cause a variety of issues, including nausea and muscle pain. Examples might include headline or tapeworm, depending on the mode of transmission.
    • Fungi: As the name implies, fungi are molds and yeasts that commonly cause respiratory problems in humans.
  2. Pathways: The primary way a pathogen can enter your body is through inhalation, ingestion (in food or water) or through direct contact with bodily fluids or blood. Custodial workers with cuts or abrasions and who do not use protective gloves can be at higher risk of exposure.
  3.  Problems: If a pathogen enters the body, it can result in temporary illness to the custodial worker, such as influenza or a cold, to something more dangerous and deadly, like MRSA. Because custodial teams often touch many surfaces in a building, they also have the potential  or spreading the pathogen unknowingly, which is why proper hand washing is essential.
  4. Places: Pathogens can be present on most hard surfaces, but are commonly found on fomites, or high-touch areas, which include light switches, elevator buttons, telephones and door handles. Kitchen areas and restrooms can also provide hospitable environments to pathogens.
  5. Protection: Wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential based on the potential hazards that may exist. Protective gloves and hand washing between areas can be an effective way to break the chain of infection.

For custodial workers to take pride in what they do, they need to be educated on the importance of their work and recognized for their efforts. We have a quick reference guide to understanding all of the microbiology used in the cleaning industry that you can use in your educational programs. “Microbiology for Cleaning Workers Simplified” offers the basics to help cleaning workers understand the basics of sanitation, vocabulary and the history of cleaning for health. You can check it out here. 

*This is by not intended to serve as a comprehensive resource on pathogen cleaning, but a baseline primer you can use to help educate custodial workers.

Experts Warn That a Global Pandemic is Around the Corner, but are Cleaning Departments Ready?

The cover of this week’s Time Magazine will likely to grab your attention.

In the article, “The World is Not Ready for the Next Pandemic,” journalist Bryan Walsh chronicles the latest pandemic percolating across China—a new strain of the bird flu called H7N9. While it “mostly” affects poultry, the virus has jumped to humans, resulting in pneumonia (88 percent) and the death (41 percent) of its approximately 1,500 victims.

Experts say that the virus can only be transmitted from poultry to humans at this point, but that’s likely to change. The potential for the virus to evolve and become transmittable between humans is so great that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks H7N9 as the flu strain with the greatest potential to cause a pandemic.

The author notes:

And while a mutant bug that moves from chickens in China to humans in cities around the world may seem like something out of a Hollywood script, the danger the world faces from H7N9–and countless other pathogens with the potential to cause enormous harm–isn’t science fiction. Rather, it’s the highly plausible nightmare scenario that should be keeping the President up at night.

Scary stuff. But it’s even scarier for custodial workers who will be on the front lines of the battle, should the virus evolve. While we can’t know exactly how, when or even if it will spread, there’s a good chance that if it’s not H7N9, another virus will come along that will threaten our health and security.

This isn’t the first time that custodial workers have been challenged with the important job of preventing the spread of infection outside of healthcare facilities. It happened in 2009 with the H1N1 (Swine Flu) outbreak, in 2014 with the Ebola outbreak—it happens each year during cold and flu season.

Because many viruses can live on hard surfaces for several hours, it can spread “like crazy” between unknowing building occupants. That’s why effective cleaning and disinfection is an essential step to keep high-touch fomites, such as door handles and light switches, free of these viruses. That’s why planning to systematically address cleaning operations in an emergency situation like a pandemic is essential.

If you’re even peripherally associated with the cleaning responsibilities in your business, now is the time to start asking questions about how cleaning will be handled during an outbreak or pandemic situation. Is the custodial staff in your facility equipped with the right tools and knowledge to clean during an outbreak situation?

To help custodial teams prepare, we’ve identified the essential components of an effective pandemic preparedness plan. Your pandemic preparedness plan should include:

  1. A Playbook. Custodial teams must have a clearly defined action plan for how to respond in an emergency situation. This playbook will offer different scenarios and action plans depending on the virus at hand. In addition to instructions, the playbook should also include emergency contact numbers for key individuals in the building, suppliers and staff.
  2. Ongoing training for custodial workers. Even before an outbreak occurs, cleaning workers need to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities in an emergency situation. Training should include the following:
    1.  A disinfectant overview: The curriculum should include a primer on the specific viruses the disinfectants are designed to kill and the amount of dwell time required for the virus to be effective. You can’t just spray a disinfectant on a surface and immediately wipe it clean—this will make it completely ineffective. Workers need to understand what to use and how to use it.
    2. Steps for protecting workers: When custodial workers know and understand the risks, they will be more likely to take precautionary measures. This includes donning specific personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks or gloves.
    3. Action plans: Custodial personnel should have a clear understanding of their responsibilities during an outbreak situation. Using a systematic approach to cleaning is an essential step in making sure that surfaces are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  3. Plans for inventory supply shortages. Supply shortages of commonly used items such as PPE, chemicals, tissues and hand sanitizer are likely to occur during an outbreak situation, so make plans for how to address shortages or stockpile items accordingly.
  4. Signage. Effective handwashing is key to eliminating potential pathogen encounters. Place signage around the building to remind building occupants to regularly wash their hands to reduce the opportunity for the virus to spread. Signage can also be used to remind custodial workers of their responsibilities, or  encourage building occupants to assist with cleaning efforts in their personal workspace.

Custodial workers play a key role in protecting the health and safety of building occupants on a daily basis, but even more so in an outbreak situation. Preparing them with the knowledge and tools they need will go a long way in stopping the spread of an infection.

Four Places You Might Be Generating Waste and Not Even Know It

April is Earth month and Arbor Day is next Friday, April 28, so many people are talking sustainability. How can we help protect the Earth so it’s here for future generations? What can we do to reduce our environmental impact?

A large misconception we find in the cleaning industry is that people often use green cleaning products and think that this makes their operations “sustainable.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth—using green products is just a part of it. As an industry, we have a long way to go when it comes to reducing our environmental impact. There’s a lot of “waste” in our operations that goes well beyond the pollutants we’re working to remove.

First, a few facts. Commercial and institutional buildings in the U.S. annually consume:

The issue comes down to how we approach cleaning. Oftentimes, cleaning professionals are forced to be reactive when it comes to managing their inventory, equipment and other aspects of their operations.

Reports like, “We’re out of floor finish!” or, “This backpack vacuum is broken!” often drive new purchases—and understandably.

Supply shortages lead to downtime, which can lead to complaints, which NO ONE wants. Or they generate mistakes and service lapses when a cleaning worker substitutes products. So we place an order and the problem goes away…

But that floor finish? You weren’t really out. And that backpack vacuum just needed a new filter or carbon brush. When the new product arrives, the old stuff gets stashed into a closet somewhere. That’s the kind of waste that we’re talking about.

A truly “sustainable” cleaning operation will operate on a lean inventory, making the best use out of the products, equipment and people in the operation.

To help you identify potential areas of waste in your operation, we’ve identified a few common problem areas along with a list of questions you can ask to see if your department could be more efficient:

1. INVENTORY: What inventory controls do I have in place? Can cleaners use as much cleaning chemical as they want or are they kitted with the exact amount of product they need to complete the designated area? When they are done cleaning, what happens to the unused chemical? How do I track the amount of chemical used? How do I handle overstock (e.g. is there a system in place to sell or donate unused material?)?

Just one of the many janitorial closets we’ve seen that is stuffed with products no longer being used.

A sustainable cleaning operation not only uses Green Seal certified products, but also outfits workers with the precise amount of chemical they need to clean for the day. Excessive chemical use (often resulting from the “more is better” philosophy) is one of the most common issues in the industry and not only costs you money, but also has an environmental impact, even when the products are green.

2. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE: How is the cleaning equipment maintained? Is the equipment visibly clean? Are carts free of personal items or unrelated/unwanted materials? Do I have an equipment maintenance program in place that ensures all equipment receives regular checks and replacements?

A sustainable cleaning operation has a preventative maintenance program in place to make sure that equipment is always clean and operational. When equipment reaches the end of its usable life, it is safely and properly disposed of, not tucked away in a cabinet somewhere.

3. LOGISTICS: Are the logistics of the inventory cabinet and waste disposal points optimized with the worker in mind? If they run out of a product, do workers have to go to another floor or area in order to restock?

Logistics refers to the orderly merging of cleaners with their materials and tools to perform the work.

A sustainable cleaning operation will take into consideration the routes of the cleaning workers and utilize drop points to limit the opportunity for stockpiling or hoarding product. Analyzing the logistical setup of cleaning workers’ paths can also help reduce worker injuries from issues like overexertion.

4. TRAINING: Have cleaning workers been thoroughly trained and possess a clear understanding of their responsibilities? Do they have an understanding of the risks associated with the job, such as improper chemical mixing or lifting the wrong way? Are cleaners recognized for their efforts and made to feel like valued contributors to the team?

A sustainable cleaning operation recognizes the critical component that its workers play and provides ongoing recognition. When workers are empowered and understand the importance of their job, they will be more likely to clean properly and effectively.

Albert Einstein is quoted with saying, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

By taking a hard look at your cleaning program and simplifying some of your processes through standardization, you can break things down to it’s easiest—and most simple—form, which will ultimately improve your sustainability.

Provo City Schools Research Part III: The Incredible Results of a Systematic Approach to Cleaning

Note: If you’ve yet to read parts one and two of this series, you’ll want to check them out before reading this post. This series is based upon the research of Dr. Jeffery Campbell as presented in his paper, “Clean Schools Initiative: Provo City School District Case Study.”

Like many other aging academic buildings located throughout the U.S., Dixon Middle School has welcomed several generations of students through its doors. Built in 1931, the school has been renovated over the years to accommodate more students — it is now three times as large as its original structure. But it had issues. Not only was the school the oldest in the Provo City School District in Utah, it was also considered the dirtiest.

Cleaning-related challenges weren’t isolated just to this school, however. The entire school district struggled with uncontrolled cleaning costs, a lack of accountability with custodial staff and schools not getting cleaned.

To address these challenges, the district decided to pilot the (OS1) cleaning system. Previous users of the system had found it helped control costs, improve indoor environmental quality and improve the health of the building occupants, so they were eager to give it a try.

Dixon Middle School: Before

Before implementing the program, a baseline audit was conducted of more than 1,242 janitorial-related items throughout the school. This included a review of janitorial positions, management programs, purchasing processes and training. The purpose of the audit was to offer a reference point to measure progress. Dixon received an initial audit score of six percent.

The auditors found that the school had lacked in most areas related to its cleaning program, including supplies, organization, training and processes used.

Custodian job descriptions were insufficient, cleaning tools were broken and dirty, unmarked cleaning bottles littered janitorial closets, dirty mops revealed the same color as the bathroom tile, pipes in the restrooms showed rust and discoloration from the use of improper cleaning chemicals and custodians were generally apathetic. This last point was evidenced by the “countdown to retirement” calendar located in the head custodian’s office.

Additional issues included:

  • No career track or incentive for advancement in place for janitors.
  • No standardization of products or processes throughout the district—each school operated independently without communication.
  • Hoarding of cleaning tools and supplies.
  • No chain of command or accountability for janitors—the head custodian didn’t know who he reported to.
  • Raises were based on the length of employment rather than performance.
  • Activity was more reactive than proactive, meaning custodians spent more time responding to the complaints of teachers rather than focusing on improving the general cleanliness of the campus.
  • Custodians had no guidelines for purchasing chemicals, other than what suggestions vendors offered.

Dixon Middle School: After

A year following the implementation of (OS1), a standardized cleaning program, Dixon’s audit score improved from six percent to 80 percent. That score has continued to increase in the years since.

The changes have been drastic, including an overall improvement in cleanliness, better morale amongst the teachers and custodial workers, improved health and wellness of building occupants, cost savings and more.

Some of the specific results include:

Better Health: One teacher who suffered severe migraines causing her to have to call off from work noted that she had not had a migraine or blackout incident since the new cleaning program was implemented (she also switched to use of green cleaning chemicals at home). She cited fewer allergy issues as well.

Improved Safety: Where containers of bleach and unlabeled chemical bottles once littered closets throughout the building, the school has transitioned to a new chemical management system. A single locked cabinet holds all the chemicals and supplies used on a daily basis. With thorough training and better controls, this has substantially improved the safety of custodians and students.

A Better School: Improving the cleanliness of the school has led to a domino effect throughout the school. Walls were painted to better reflect the cleanliness of the school, teachers became more organized and tidy and students took more pride in their school. Once a major issue, the amount of graffiti at Dixon has virtually been eliminated.

Awards: In 2011, Dixon Middle School received the “Best New Program Award” in the K-12 Category of the Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities, sponsored by American School & University magazine, the Green Cleaning Network and Healthy Schools Campaign.

The Dixon Middle School pilot team is recognized with the Outstanding Cleaning Worker Award.

Each of their pilot team members was honored as an Outstanding Cleaning Worker at the 2011 Cleaning Industry Awards Banquet.

Reducing Costs: While it’s tough to say exactly just how much the change to (OS1) has saved the school (the school didn’t keep purchasing records and funds were drawn from several different budgets), the new system has reduced the average monthly chemical cost to $80.29, making the chemical cost per cleanable square foot $0.00076. When adding in labor and other costs, the estimated cost to clean per square foot is roughly $.77.

This is substantially lower than projected costs from IFMA, which estimate the average   cost per square-foot for cleaning educational facilities to be $1.36.

Improved Morale: The head custodian said the experience changed his life.

“I had been doing [custodial management] for 12-13 years, and it was the first time that someone had approached me and said, “You are important, the job that you do is important. The people that work with you are important and we need to recognize them for that and give them the training, the tools and the equipment that show that your job is really a profession.”

With these incredible results in hand, the Provo City School District made the decision to roll out the program to the rest of its schools. Clean schools are better, higher-performing schools. And when you have data that helps you measure the impact of your cleaning program, including the benefit to teachers, students, administrators and the overall longevity of the building, the decision makes itself.

Provo City Schools Research Part II: The Importance of Measuring Cleaning

In the first part of this series, we explored the definition of “clean.” Now that we know what “clean” is, how do we get there? Ah, the million dollar question.

Just as no single agreed-upon definition of “clean” exists, no single standard or process for cleaning exists. As a result, we measure janitorial productivity in a variety of ways, which is largely dependent on the type of facility being cleaned.

To understand the importance of measurement, we’ll first look ways cleaning programs are currently measured, and then we’ll review a few examples of the benefits of measurement through a standardized approach to cleaning.

Current Strategies for Measuring Productivity and Their Limitations:

Visual Inspections: A visual inspection may reveal if a surface looks clean (e.g. is free from dirt or dust), but it does not reveal what is invisible to the eye, such as bacteria or viruses. Visual inspections are most common in retail environments where the emphasis is on appearance.

Cost-Per-Square-Foot Method: Often cleaning professionals want to evaluate cleaning productivity by establishing the cost for cleaning their facility. This method can present obstacles because of different surfaces that may or may not be factored into the equation. For example, do you factor the tops of books on a shelf as cleanable square footage? Should table surfaces be included as well? Not all cost-per-square foot method evaluations are created equally.

ATP Meter Readings: One of the newer methods for measuring cleanliness is Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) Testing. ATP is an enzyme present in all living cells; ATP meters detect the amount of organic mater that remains on a surface after cleaning. This method can lead to discrepancies between testers and not provide a true reflection of the cleanliness (or dirtiness) of a surface.

When we look at cleaning in an academic settings, the need for effective cleaning and cleaning measurement becomes most apparent.

Why Clean Schools Matter

In Dr. Campbell’s Provo City Schools research, he states:

Standards set a level of safety and performance for most industries. Therefore, a cleaning standard that ensures the building’s air quality, safety and health of the people therein should exist. Research shows that students in K-12 schools have improved capacity to learn when school environments are clean.

He identifies a survey conducted by the National Parent Teacher Association that revealed that cleanliness in schools was so insufficient that more than half of teachers (56 percent) purchase their own cleaning supplies to clean their classrooms.

While the immediate response might be to look at the school janitor, Dr. Campbell is quick to highlight research from the National Education Association that supports the need for better job descriptions for janitors:

* 38 percent of janitors have no job description

* 32 percent of those who do have a job description feel it does not match the scope of their work

64 percent of janitors often or sometimes perform work outside of their job description

YIKES. So teachers are taking it on themselves to clean their classrooms, but janitors are left with their hands in the air, because they aren’t clear on their responsibilities.

Why does this matter? Because the confusion surrounding the issue and the absence of a standardized approach and effective cleaning measurement tool to cleaning goes beyond issues of infection control and cross contamination.

Research shows that indoor air pollution (resulting from cleaning chemicals, dust and other particulates that can be breathed in) can result in lower work performance and higher rates of sickness.

Dr. Campbell cites multiple sources, including this research published in Indoor Air, Dr. Berry’s study at Charles Young Elementary School and this study published in Indoor Air Journal — all offering conclusive evidence that indoor pollutants negatively impact student health and performance.

Clean schools are healthier and more productive. But how can we make sure our schools are clean if there’s difficulty measuring janitorial productivity and cleanliness?

In the part three of this blog series, we’ll review how a standardized approach to cleaning establishes measures for janitorial productivity and positively impacts health and the indoor environment, as evidenced by the study at Dixon Middle School.

Provo City Schools Research Part I: What is “Clean,” Anyway?

Many building owners and managers don’t realize that the cost to clean a building over its lifetime will nearly equal the cost of its original construction. When you think about it, that’s pretty mind-blowing. Yet while construction materials and practices have evolved to improve efficiency and bring costs down, most schools are still using the same cleaning practices used 80-plus years ago.

We’ll be the first to say that using the proper cleaning products, tools and practices is important in any type of facility, but schools are particularly important because of their potential impact on student performance and health. In this three-part series, we’ll examine just how important of a role that cleaning plays in a school—specifically, an old K-12 school in Provo, UT. Using Dr. Jeffrey Campbell’s two-year research study entitled “The Clean Schools Initiative: Provo City School District” as a guide, we’ll look at the following:

  • How cleanliness is assessed and measured.
  • How the performance of cleaning personnel is evaluated.
  • How cleaning impacts indoor air quality.
  • How a standardized approach to cleaning can transform a school by improving morale,  saving money and creating a healthier, more productive indoor environment.

Ready?

How do we define “clean”?

Surprisingly, not one generally accepted definition of “clean” exists. This leads to broad discrepancies in how we clean. For example, some facilities clean for health (e.g. cleaners in healthcare clean to remove potentially harmful viruses and bacteria), and others clean for appearance (e.g. cleaners in a retail setting may clean to remove fingerprints and smudges from glass doors and display cases). But in order to identify how we should clean, we need to first identify what “clean” is and what it can achieve—so it’s a pretty critical piece of the puzzle.

In the book Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health, author Dr. Michael Berry writes, “cleaning is not only an activity, but a process and special form of management.”

Dr. Berry has conducted extensive research around the topic, looking at how cleaning impacts the educational performance of students and teachers. In particular, his study of the Charles Young Elementary School in Washington D.C. analyzed student performance before and after the building was remodeled and a higher standard of maintenance and cleanliness was implemented. His research revealed a strong correlation between the quality of of the physical school and quality of learning.

So if cleaning can have such positive outcomes (health, productivity and others), shouldn’t we also consider that in the definition?

Dr. Campbell proposes the following:

“Cleaning is a process that locates, identifies, contains, removes and properly disposes of an unwanted substance from a surface or environment, and contributes to the health and well-being of those who occupy the environment.”

By identifying a single commonly accepted definition of clean, we can start to streamline the processes that get us to that desired result.

How would you define clean? If it were a standardized process, do you feel that would allow us to better achieve the desired outcome of consistently “clean” environment?

In the next part of our series, we’ll look at how discrepancies in measurement of janitorial productivity and why clean matters—specifically in schools. 

University of Michigan Saves $2.1 Million Per Year and Improves Cleaning

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Submitted by ProTeam
CGN Editorial

The ProTeam Super CoachVac was featured in a series of posters at University of Michigan to educate the community about the elements of the new cleaning program.

 

In 2009, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor started a five year rollout of a comprehensive, high-performance cleaning management system, ManageMen‘s Operating System 1®, (OS1). John Lawter, Associate Director of Plant Building and Ground Services, chose (OS1) to improve productivity in light of ongoing budget cuts.

“We knew we were facing multiple years of reductions so we offered up 10% over 5 years with an understanding we would have a couple of years reprieve to protect our new program.” said Lawter. And since implementing (OS1), “We have met that 10 percent goal of $2.1 million and managed to improve services at the same time.”

With 200 facilities to clean covering a total of 15 million sq. ft., Lawter’s staff has gone from cleaning 36,000 sq. ft. per custodian to 40,000 sq. ft. per custodian, while improving the health of the environment. One of the biggest tenets of (OS1) is to clean for health first, then appearance. It was this and the simplified workflow that appealed to Lawter who wanted more consistency and fewer products.

“(OS1) was the only operating system we could find that was comprehensive and had been tested in a University setting for better than 10 years,” said Lawter. “We visited those programs as part of our due diligence and were impressed.”

In (OS1), custodians specialize in specific tasks, and they do all tasks of a single function at one time. This reduces wasted time switching tools and backtracking. Vacuum specialists may vacuum for an entire shift using a backpack vacuum designed by ProTeam® to reduce strain to the user.

“Dr. Berry’s study at the University of North Carolina showed us that, used properly, the backpack vacuum was a more ergonomic and effective product than an upright,” said Lawter.

Lawter swapped a ramshackle collection of uprights of different ages and models for ProTeam’s 11-pound Super CoachVac®.

“There’s no beater bar to throw dust around,” said Lawter. “It reduces the amount of dust particles in the air.” Two of Lawter’s staff who suffered from allergies reported their symptoms noticeably improving after switching to the backpack vacuum. ProTeam is partnered with the American Lung Association in efforts to educate the public about the importance of healthy indoor air.

Prior to implementing (OS1), the biggest problem Lawter faced was inconsistent performance, a symptom of the zone cleaning system they were using previously.

“No two custodians clean exactly alike,” said Lawter. “So, when one custodian is responsible for everything in an area, there will naturally be differences in the level of service. Our customers noticed those inconsistencies.”

According to Jeffrey L. Campbell, Ph.D., Chair of the BYU Facility Management program, Most custodial operations: “1) have no quantifiable standards; 2) are based solely on appearance; 3) have little or no method of measuring effectiveness and performance; 4) are not based on actual research; and 5) are driven by chemical and equipment manufacturers.”

Campbell recorded the story of the University of Michigan’s cleaning success along with the University of North Carolina and two other universities that implemented (OS1) in the article “Cutting Costs and Improving Outcomes for Janitorial Services” which appeared in the September/October 2011 issue of Facilities Manager and was reprinted in the Cleaning Gazette Newsletter the following May.

“In an industry that has been around as long as public buildings themselves, janitorial methods have seen little progress. As a matter of fact, most janitors today use the same tools and processes that were used 50 years ago,” said Campbell.

In addition to the timesaving backpack vacuums, (OS1) reduced Lawter’s chemical inventory from 50 products to less than 10. Individual use portion packs ensure that custodians get what they need and only what they need to clean every day. For Lawter, this hugely simplified the process.

“We used to have a committee of 30 people that would meet once a month and review the latest and greatest new products that came down the line,” said Lawter. “It was very inefficient, time-consuming, expensive, and led to a proliferation of products out there being tested by our workforce. ManageMen has a research and development arm for (OS1) users that does that, so I don’t directly deal with salesman. I love that.”

John Walker, President of ManageMen and progenitor of (OS1), explains how the echo chamber of product claims in the cleaning industry is rarely substantiated by science. “Everyone sells productivity tools. People buy them to save money and time, but they never document that they did it,” said Walker. “The University of Michigan’s janitorial department is a pioneer in documenting over $2 million in savings. They gave it back to the university.”

As reported in the Cleaning Gazette Newsletter last July, Sightlines, a prominent facility management assistance firm, did a thorough evaluation of the University of Michigan in the fall of 2010. They compared the data to a database of 300 institutions of higher learning and a group of 10 peer universities chosen by the administration.

This survey was taken in the midst of the (OS1) rollout at the university. The custodial department had not yet reached the 80-percent audit they hoped for. They were still rated as the number one organization in cleanliness evaluations. The study also showed high production rates and low cost of materials in comparison to their peers and the greater database.

“They got to a 2.5 cleaning level on a 3.5 APPA budget,” said Walker. “And in the Sightlines study, they beat virtually everyone in the country and in their peer group after adopting (OS1). There has never been a collection of data like this.”

In their most recent (OS1) audit last month, the University of Michigan surpassed their goal of an 80 percent audit, reaching 83 and 87 percent. According to Walker, it is the work of people like Lawter and his staff in documenting the effectiveness of (OS1) that will someday take the cleaning industry by storm. When cleaning is standardized, workflows are simplified, and productive tools are utilized, unbelievable savings are possible. “You can reduce costs and improve results with this documented system,” said Walker.