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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 Moreover, they feel that the title of “janitor” is an outdated and even derogatory term for people responsible for performing cleaning responsibilities.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/.

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.

A Business Revolution: Doing More With Less

“Compression Thinking” is a distillation of 30 years of research by Robert W. “Doc” Hall, who explains his approach to business in this video. This is a new era, where resources are becoming more scarce and the impact of larger human populations on the Earth requires mankind to rethink business practices, which up to now have been seen as gospel truths. However, proven solutions do exist for business problems, both old and new ones, and Doc Hall explores them here… through his concept of Compression Thinking.

The Simon Institute, ManageMen and the (OS1) Users are featured in the video above.

‘Science As It Relates to (OS1)’ by Dr. Michael Berry

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Dr. Berry delivering his presentation at the 2006 (OS1) Users Symposium in Midway, UT.

 

 

Over years of professional practice, teaching and scientific research Dr. Michael Berry is a true pioneer in identifying the foundational principles of what cleaning really means. His book, Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health, was ahead its time. Unfortunately those in the industry that should have taken hold of Berry’s principles have continued business-as-usual.

Most cleaners and janitorial operations are still cleaning the way they did 80 years ago. They are driven by equipment manufacturers and chemical companies that dictate the direction of the industry. There is no evidence based research. There is no common language or standards. The only focus of cleaning is appearance based with no thought about contaminants and indoor environmental problems.

Below is a link to the complete transcript of the presentation that  was delivered by  Michael Berry, PhD, at the 2006 Simon Institute Symposium.   In this presentation, Berry discusses the value of cleaning science; the effect of sick and mismanaged buildings; remediating the Frank Porter Graham building with a deep cleaning protocol and the findings from his 2006 publicly funded study of traditional housekeeping vs. the (OS1) cleaning process.  That study evaluated traditional housekeeping methods vs. a high performance cleaning program over the span of three months at The University of North Carolina.  It is also important to note that Berry also discusses key components of a high performance cleaning program in this presentation.

To read full transcript, please click here

Now Available: (OS1) Career Map

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During Class 65 of Janitor University in Salt Lake City, the new (OS1) Career Map was introduced. The map details the educational odyssey for a cleaning worker. Specifically, this new visual aid details the road of becoming a cleaning professional.

It highlights career learning milestones such as: (OS1) Boot Camp, Certification, Floor/Carpet Certification, Janitor University, Workloading, Benchmarking, Awards and Recognition.

The Career Map is now available for purchase in the ManageMen online store.

Are Dirty Schools Making Kids Sick?

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Two seemingly unrelated events were the subject of news stories in the early weeks of 2012. The first occurred on January 12, when the Vermont Senate gave final approval to Senate bill #92, a bill that requires public schools and “approved independent schools” to ensure that only environmentally preferable cleaning products are used to clean the schools. The bill will now make its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature which will transform the bill into law. Vermont’s state owned and leased buildings have already transitioned to “green” cleaning products as a result of the Clean State Program created by an executive order signed by Governor Douglas in 2004.

Banning Germ Killers in Schools

But the perhaps, unintended consequence of this legislation action goes further. It bans disinfectants and sanitizers in public schools. Is this really the lengths Vermont want to go to be “green”? If so it joins the states like California, Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Neveda, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. It is relevant to note that this legislation has been driven not by the medical community and public health experts but by state procurement officers and purchasing agents in league with the janitorial supply industry.

The Vermont bill allows for the use of disinfectants only when:

  1. Blood, body fluids or fecal soiling is present on any surface; (ignoring that most diseases are spread by invisible germs called pathogenic microorganisms and not visible accumulations listed in the Vermont legislation).
  2.  The State makes a case specific determination that failure to use a disinfectant would create a risk to public health and safety (like MRSA, Avian Flu, SARS, Whooping cough, measles, and the common cold).

Two days later, on Saturday January 14, Dr. Sanjay Gupta CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, aired a report in his series on Toxic America about the sorry, environmental health of schools in the United States. More schools than ever are making kids and school staff sick. While it’s tough to estimate how many toxic schools are in America, most research shows that at least a third or more of U.S. Schools have issues like mold, dust and other indoor air problems serious enough to cause respiratory illnesses like asthma in students and staff. Healthy Schools Network reports that as many as 55 million U.S. children may be attending public and private K-12 schools where poor air quality, hazardous chemicals and other unhealthy conditions can make everyone sick.

The U.S. EPA estimates that at least half of all schools in this country have indoor air quality problems caused by toxic chemical and pesticide use, chemical spills, mold infestations, asbestos, radon, lead in paint and drinking water, heavy metals and persistent toxics, such as mercury, CCA and PCBs.

Other highlights of Dr. Gupta’s story included:

  • A story about a woman who claims school air sickened her son for 53 days last school year
  • New York study finds correlation between building maintenance and illness
  • Studies estimate one-third of U.S. schools have mold, dust and other indoor air problems
  • Connecticut school so plagued with mold officials decided to tear it down

Now the Rest of the Story

Missing from both the Vermont and Dr. Gupta’s story was the recognition of the importance of cleaning and sanitation. There was no recognition that a proven process of cleaning and disinfections leads to improved health, comfort and educational performance.

In 2007, Michael Berry, PhD, wrote a booklet Healthy Schools are Clean, Dry and Productive. Largely ignored, this essay provides leadership for both the “school is making my kids sick” and the “green cleaning” groups. Berry points out that the “importance of a healthy school environment in enhancing the learning process is described in many studies. There is a direct connection between environmental quality, comfort, health and well-being, positive attitudes and behavior, and higher levels of education performance. The quality of the school environment shapes attitudes of students, teachers and staff. Attitudes affect teaching and learning behavior. Behavior affects performance. Educational performance determines future outcomes of individuals and society as a whole.”

Berry wrote:

We need to recognize that the main causes of environmentally related illness in schools are water, food sources for the various bio-pollutants, non-existent or ineffective cleaning, and poor ventilation. We should guard against becoming myopic when it comes to assessing environmental risk in school environments. Too often, we spend a large amount of time looking at air quality alone, especially in recent times with regard to mold. This narrow focus is necessary but by no means sufficient to protect the health of our children and their teachers and the quality of our school environments.

Should the states be banning disinfectants and sanitizers?

To protect health in schools, we need to take a close look at total exposure, and not solely focus on the air route of exposure. Bacteria that come from direct contact with other humans and surfaces cause over 80% of environmentally related illness. The main routes of exposure are dermal and ingestion, not air. Even air poses its most serious threats by delivering bacteria and viruses to sensitive receptors. Sufficiently concentrated airborne mold spore and other airborne allergens, such as cockroach antigen, frequently trigger allergic reactions in sensitized individuals, particularly asthmatics.

Disinfectant and sanitizers are by definition toxic. We use them to “kill” pathogens before they make humans sick. The purchasing agents and cleaning chemical supply marketing organizations who promote the complete ban on poisons and toxins in schools don’t understand what Paracelsus, the father of toxicology, declared in the 14th century “The dose makes the poison.” Using sanitizers are fundamental to food preparation, dishwashing and serving meals. Disinfection of potential cross-contamination points in lavatories, and other common touch points in schools are basic to proper cleaning and school hygiene.

Trainers should expect and be prepared to discuss the risk/benefit analysis of proper cleaning and sanitation. (OS1) has an unequalled dedication to environmental issues. But it also values the benefits associated with properly killing pathogenic microorganisms in the public facilities entrusted to us. The State of Vermont and Dr. Gupta should know about the following scientific studies on the importance of cleaning:

  • Frank Porter Graham Study
  • Alexander Krilov Study

They should also be promoting the benefits and the reported results by workers and patrons in (OS1) facilities like Dixon Middle School and University of Michigan. In 2012, the (OS1) user group will be focusing on three areas to “Protect Yourself” in facilities. They are:

  1. The reduction of asthma-type symptoms due to the performance level of (OS1) that provides negligible dust following the UNC cleaning protocol.
  2. Focus on proper use and application of germicidal chemicals.
  3. The opportunity to dramatically reduce humidity in schools by strategically using portable air drying equipment.

These three strategies are a messaging opportunity for the (OS1) trainers, (OS1) support manufacturers (particularly ProTeam, PortionPac & Dri-Eaz) and the Simon Institute.

(OS1) User News: UT at Austin Makes The Cover of Housekeeping Solutions

Our friends and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin are the cover story in the November 2011 issue of Housekeeping Solutions. Click on the button below to read an article about their custodial training program, which makes them one of our most successful (OS1) Programs.

[button link=”http://www.cleanlink.com/hs/digital.asp?id=hs1111&page=6″ color=”purple” window=”yes”]Learn More[/button]

REMINDER: Outstanding Cleaning Worker of the Year Nominations

For the last couple of years, the (OS1) Users Symposium has been conducting a “Outstanding Cleaning Worker of the Year” recognition ceremony for cleaning workers, who have been nominated by someone within their organization. 2.5 million people earn their living in the U.S. as janitors, custodians and housekeepers. Most toil through their shift, day after day with little recognition for their contribution to the orderly operation of every business.

Once again, the Simon Institute is planning on conducting this ceremony during this year’s (OS1) Awards Banquet, July 11, 2011 at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

This a a friendly reminder, to all (OS1) organizations, that we are currently accepting your nominations for Outstanding Cleaning Worker of the Year. For you convenience, we are accepting your nominations online. Just click the button below to nominate a cleaning worker from your organization:

[button link=”http://managemen.com/os1/os1-users/os1-users-symposium/outstanding-cleaning-worker-of-the-year/” window=”yes”] Nominate My Cleaning Worker [/button]

We encourage all (OS1) organizations that nominate a cleaning worker and bring them along with you to the annual (OS1) Users Symposium. If they are in attendance, they will be presented with their medal of honor at the (OS1) Awards Banquet.

All medals are $50.00 per nominee. Payments should me made to the Simon Institute, a non-profit corporation.