What the Golden State Warriors Can Teach Us About Better Cleaning

Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated magazine named the Golden State Warriors as their Sports Person of the Year. They are the fourth team to be recognized with the honor, following the 1980 U.S. hockey team, the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer team and the 2004 Boston Red Sox. 

“Our success is due to the contributions of every single player, coach and staff member in our organization; for Sports Illustrated to recognize this unique dynamic is truly special,” said Warriors President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Bob Myers upon receiving the notice of the honor.

In an industry such as ours, which is notoriously filled with inefficiencies, it can be beneficial to look to a successful organization like the Golden State Warriors for inspiration and ideas to improve the way we operate. One thing that stands out about the Warriors is how they are a team, both on and off the court. Everyone makes sacrifices and while there are star performers, each individual fills a very specific function within that team dynamic. 

A lot of custodial operations operate use an individual-based approach, rather utilizing than the collective strengths of the team. This is called zone cleaning. Within this type of system, individuals are assigned to clean a specific area, performing all of the cleaning responsibilities within that space. So, a janitor might be required to dust and mop eat floor, empty trash, wipe down/disinfect surfaces and fixtures on the first floor of a building. 

If the Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr were to apply that to his team, you can only imagine the results. At six foot three inches tall, Steph Curry is too small to play center and would never be effective under the basket. He’s a talented ball handler and shooter, which makes him better suited for a point guard or shooting guard position. 

When you apply a team-based approach to cleaning, each individual has a specific job, much like the players on a basketball court. For example, a “vacuum specialist” vacuums all the surfaces throughout the building and checks that wastebaskets have been emptied. It’s much simpler and faster to train employees to perform those two tasks than it is to train them on a long list of jobs. 

Team Cleaning uses specialists who concentrate on defined tasks such as light duty and trash, vacuuming, restrooms, and utility work, much like the players on a basketball court. (Photo courtesy of ProTeam)

Yet the advantages go beyond training. The biggest advantage of team cleaning is improved productivity. Let’s say that you have to clean a 12,000 square foot building with eight floors. If one worker was assigned to each floor, performing every cleaning task over a four-hour period, it would require eight people, eight vacuums, eight trash barrels and eight restroom carts for the entire building. 

In that same building using a “specialists” approach, a light-duty specialist and vacuum specialist would be assigned to the first four floors, and another identical pair of specialists would be assigned to the top four floors. A restroom and utility specialist would be assigned to the entire building. Using this approach, only six people, two vacuums, two trash barrels and one restroom cart is required.

In addition to fewer people and equipment, team cleaning has several additional benefits, including: 

  • It saves energy
  • It reduces complaints 
  • It’s easier to inspect
  • It’s more fun
  • It’s safer
  • It’s faster
  • It’s easier
  • It simplifies the cleaning process

There are several things which experts attribute to the overall excellence of the Warrior’s legacy. This includes the versatility of its players, their skill, the number of great players on the team, their unselfishness and the respect everyone within the organization has for one another. Rise or fall, the team does so together. These attributes have led the Warriors to three NBA championships in the past four years, losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 finals.

At Janitor University, we teach janitors to always remember “if it is to be, it is up to me.”

Just like the Warriors, everyone on a team cleaning team is responsible for the success or failure of their team. And as a result, they are stronger—and more effective—together.

* For more information about team cleaning or to find a variety of resources designed to improve the way you set up and manage your team cleaning program, please click here

It’s Flu Season: Please Protect Your Cleaners

Last year’s flu season claimed the lives of 80,000 people, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, making it the deadliest season on record in more than four decades. Last year’s flu season was unique in that the virus didn’t remain isolated in a particular area of the country. A CDC spokesperson shared that for three consecutive weeks, “the entire continental US was affected by the flu at a very high level.”

November typically marks the start of flu season, so runny noses are already starting to fill classrooms, offices, hotel rooms and cafeterias everywhere. A few months ago, we shared information about how to clean to stop the spread of the flu virus, but it’s equally important to protect the people at the front line of flu prevention: your custodial staff. A kitchen staff wouldn’t come to work on a busy night without tools like gloves and knives, so your cleaning staff should be equally prepared when it comes to cleaning during flu season.

Here are seven easy ways that you as a custodial professional can make sure your team is protected:

  1. Make flu shots easy and accessible. Depending on the business type, a nurse may already be available onsite to administer flu shots to custodial personnel, but most times this is not the case. Make it easy for workers to get their flu shots by providing them with a list of nearby locations where they can get the flu shot and giving them time off work (just 15-30 minutes is all they need) to do so. If time off work isn’t an option, consider arranging for a professional to come to your facility and administer shots to staff during the start or end of their shift. The CDC offers this guide for promoting the flu vaccine within your business. 
  2. Educate workers on the differences between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing. Before the start of flu season, consider providing a short training session on microbiology basics. You know the drill—cleaning removes dirt and germs, disinfecting kills germs, sanitizing reducing germs to a safe level. Make sure your team understands the difference between each type of cleaning, along with how to disinfect properly by allowing disinfectants the proper amount of dwell time to be effective.
  3. Protect workers with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). From gloves to eye protection and face masks, equip workers with the necessary PPE to prevent them from coming into direct contact with airborne viruses or bacteria resting on surfaces being cleaned—or from exposure to quaternary-based cleaners. 

    Did you know? The average sneezing distance is anywhere from 3 to 26 feet!

  4. Implement hand-washing protocol. When arriving at work, one of the first things custodians should do is wash their hands to remove any dirt or bacteria they may have carried in with them. Even if they’ve used protective gloves throughout their shift, encourage them to wash their hands when they have completed cleaning responsibilities or before/after taking a break as they may have come into contact with a virus during that period. Regular hand washing not only helps protect custodial workers, it also helps prevent them from spreading germs as they clean.
  5. Encourage sick workers to stay home. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average sneezing distance is anywhere from 3 to 26 feet—no one wants to be in the direct line of fire of that! Sick workers can not only spread viruses and bacteria throughout the building (and to others on staff), they can also become sicker. Reduce “presenteeism” by making sure employees understand what leave is available to them and encouraging a workplace environment that values health and wellness. 
  6. Reduce cross contamination with standardized cleaning processes. From dirty tools to processes driven by employee whim, a lot of cleaning programs lack standardization and leave the door open to issues like cross contamination, missed surfaces and ultimately polluting the indoor environment. Prevent this from happening by using an engineered, scientific approach to cleaning tasks that allows you to measure the work performed. 
  7. Increase fomite cleaning frequencies in custodial areas too. When the flu season hits, one of the first things many custodial workers do is increase the cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces such as door handles, hand rails, light switches and faucet knobs throughout the building. Make sure to include areas frequented by custodial professionals in this effort too, including custodial closets, break rooms and lockers. 

It’s estimated that the last flu season cost employers more than $21 billion in lost productivity. Because your team is on the front lines of preventing the spread of this virus that will inevitably appear in your facility at some point this year, make sure your team is prepared—and protected—in the fight. 

When Was the Last Time You Sharpened Your Ax?

You may have heard the story about the man who works hard chopping wood, but never sharpens his ax? In the tale, a man goes to work for a local timber company. The job pays well and the management is friendly, so he wants to do his best so he can keep the job. The first day, he manages to cut down 18 trees. Proud of his accomplishment, he goes out the next day with the goal of chopping down even more trees, but it turns out that he’s only able to chop 15. With each day that passes, the man cuts down fewer and fewer trees. Feeling defeated, he goes to his boss for advice on what he could be doing wrong. 

The boss looks at the man and says, “You are one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen, but did you ever take a moment to sharpen your ax?”

When is the last time you took a minute to stop and sharpen your ax? This anecdote can be applied to a custodial operation in a couple of different ways:

1. Maintaining good care for your tools and equipment.

How can we clean faster with dirty tools and equipment? 

A lot of organizations come to us looking to improve cleaning efficiencies and make their operation more productive. And not surprisingly— “improving staff performance/cleaning times” was the top priority cited by respondents to this year’s Facility Cleaning Decision’s Reader Survey.  So when we go into a business, one of the first things we do is take a look at the custodial closet. Why? Because it gives us clues into the way the custodial department is managed. 

A lot of times, we find that custodial workers aren’t “sharpening their axes”—or keeping their tools and equipment clean. We see mop buckets filled with black water, soiled cloths, cob-web covered dusters—the list goes on. How can a janitor possibly “clean” if the tools that he or she uses are dirty? 

If you were an artist, would you paint with dirty brushes? 

Aside from obvious cross-contamination issues, if we don’t take the time to care for our cleaning tools, they will generally degrade over time and become less effective. This applies to everything from cleaning cloths to large capital investments like auto-scrubbers or carpet extractors. Every productive, efficient cleaning organization will have a program in place to make sure tools are regularly cleaned and a preventative maintenance program is in place to keep cleaning equipment in top condition.

2. Maintaining good care of our mental and professional health.

How can we be our best if we don’t take the time to refresh our own professional development? 

The metaphor of “sharpening your axe” can also be applied to continuing your own professional training and education. Studies show that organizations that invest in training are often higher performing (you may want to check out this post, where we identified 10 reasons why you should make continuing education a priority.). 

We use the term “training” loosely here, as it can mean anything from reading industry publications to stay up-to-date on custodial management best practices, to participating in webinars, in-person training programs and industry trade shows. 

However, professional development is only part of the equation. Finding ways to improve your mental health is an important way to sharpen your ax. According to the American Psychological Association, 58 percent of Americans say that work is a significant source of stress.

Some people go golfing, fishing, running or kayaking to decompress from the rigors of work and life demands. Others practice mindfulness, yoga or spend time writing or reading. Whatever your outlet, make sure you take time to step away in order to best care for your own mental well-being. 

In the ever-present push to clean faster and better, we need to take a minute to make sure we’re sharpening our axes. Otherwise, we’ll never get anywhere.

Thank You, John Walker and Friends

John Walker spent much of his life finding ways to empower janitors and enhance the way custodial operations are organized, managed and executed. When you talked to John, his energy and enthusiasm for improving the industry was contagious.

Last Sunday, John passed away after an extended illness. In passing, the cleaning industry lost a legend and janitors lost one of their biggest champions. Wherever John went, he’d stop to thank the janitors he met. This was true right up until the end — in a short hospital stay, he knew the names of every person who came in to clean his room and made sure they knew how much he appreciated their service. 

John touched the lives of so many people both in the industry and beyond; the outpouring of support we’ve received since his death has been overwhelming. We want thank everyone who has reached out with a story about John or a kind sentiment about how he impacted them. 

We’re in the process of making arrangements to give proper tribute to this incredible man, but we wanted to say thank you. 

Thank you, John Walker, for your tireless work and inspiration. Thank you for making the world —and our industry— a better place. 

Thank you, dear friends and colleagues, whose support means so much to us. 

With John’s wind at our sails, ManageMen will forge into a new chapter. But until we can continue on this journey, we thank you for your patience and continued support.

Our best, 

Renae, Ben and Lisa

The Top 10 Complaints of Custodial Professionals

You’re in a tough business—we’ll just put that out there. The people who make it in this industry are problem solvers. Every day, they put together a new puzzle — figuring out which piece needs to go where to complete the puzzle of a clean building. Maybe one piece involves covering for a janitor who called off work and another is delayed supply delivery… each day presents a unique set of challenges. 

When we go into a new business to set them up on the (OS1) System, we often hear a common set of complaints. It doesn’t matter if it’s a laboratory on the east coast or a University in California. A very common set of issues exist for custodial professionals everywhere. So you know you’re not alone, we’ve pulled together a list of complaints and frustrations that we hear.

The top 10 frustrations experienced by custodial professionals include:

1. Not enough/broken/wrong equipment. People who don’t understand cleaning don’t realize that you need more than a vacuum and a microfiber mop to keep floor surfaces clean. In addition to cordless equipment, carpet extractors, burnishers, strippers and dryers are all necessary pieces of equipment to maintain and protect floor surfaces—at least if you don’t want to replace carpet or tile every few years. 

2. Chemical musical chairs. Too often, custodial professionals are at the whim of their purchasing department when it comes to buying cleaning chemicals. While the type of chemical might be the same, the brand might be different which can cause confusioTop n for custodial workers. Standardization is key in order to establish effective SDS programs and reduce injuries. 

3. Not enough mats/no matting at all. Keeping floors clean inside the building starts well before someone walks through the front door. A combination of scraper and entryway matting can help trap dirt before it tracks onto the floors. But adequate matting is only half of the puzzle—mats need to be regularly laundered so they can work as designed.

4.  No training resources. Overcoming the common misconception that “everyone knows how to clean” is one of the biggest challenges faced by custodial professionals. An effective custodial operation will have an established classroom training program that includes training aids, videos, work-flow charts and tools to assist with comprehension. 

A training classroom equipped with training materials is key to developing a high-performing and engaged custodial team.

5. Supervisory void/exasperated supervision. Supervisors are in a tough spot—not only are they responsible for overseeing custodial workers, they are also often the point of contact for building occupants whenever there’s an issue. Custodial supervisors need to be well trained to do the job properly— and well compensated.

6. Unmotivated staff/skeptical staff. When dealing with so many nationalities, personality types and ages, it can be tough to get custodial workers to rally behind a greater goal or the vision for creating a clean indoor environment. Training, compensation and a structure for advancement can all help workers buy-in to your organizational goals. 

7. Lack of respect. Every now and then, you’ll see a news story about an elementary school that surprises a custodian with a generous act to show their appreciation, but the large majority of custodial workers feel invisible in the buildings where they work. Even if employees work at night, recognizing workers through appreciation events such as International Housekeepers Week or Custodial Workers Recognition day can help bolster morale and help workers feel that they are respected. 

8. Rotating door. For a lot of people, custodial work is a “filler” job. By that, we mean that it’s something people do to supplement their income for a period of time or maybe it’s something that helps get them by in their pursuit of another position. This often leads to high turnover rates. Providing opportunities for advancement, recognition and living wage compensation will help close this door. 

9. Injuries. Because of the strenuous nature of custodial work, a lot of custodial professionals experience injuries— in fact, double the number of injuries compared to other industries. By training workers and helping them warm up for their work day, we can help reduce these injuries.

10. Lack of input. How many times has your department been tasked with cleaning a new building that you’ve had no input in designing? Not giving custodial professionals a seat at the table of broader organizational decisions (like new building construction) can leave money on the table.

Have an issue we haven’t covered? Let us know, we’ll add it to our next list!

Why Are Chemical Handling Accidents Still Happening?

During our recent Symposium, Flynt Belk of Workers’ Compensation Fund Insurance shared the haunting story of Stefan Golab, an immigrant from Poland who in 1983, died at his place of employment, Film Recovery Systems. A former steel construction worker in Poland, Golab had only worked at the factory outside of Chicago for a few months where his job was to reclaim silver from used photographic film. 

On the morning he died, Golab drank warm milk, hoping it would settle his stomach. He’d been experiencing headaches and vomiting. He couldn’t read English or Spanish and while it was likely he’d seen the skull and crossbones located on the barrels of cyanide, that meant “high voltage” back in Poland, so he wasn’t aware of the risks in his job. 

In a landmark court case, a judge found the top executives of Film Recovery Systems and its parent corporation responsible for Golab’s death. The verdict read that the company had exposed workers to “totally unsafe” working conditions with no training, warning or safeguards to protect them. 

This is the catalyst for OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) in place today and later the Right-to-Know act. Right-to-Know refers to workers’ rights to information about chemicals in their workplaces.

“This is not the case of someone taking a gun and placing it to the head of a victim and shooting him,” the judge explained at sentencing. “What we have here is the kind of case where you take a bomb and you put it in an airplane, and you turn around and runaway somewhere, and a time bomb is ticking off and ticking off, and . . . all of a sudden, on February 10, 1983, the time bomb went off, and Stefan Golab is dead.” 

More than two decades later, that bomb is still ticking. The EPA estimates that as many as 2.8 million people in the cleaning industry are exposed to dangerous cleaning chemicals each day.

Required training under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) includes understanding:

  • The health and physical hazards of cleaning chemicals
  • How to properly handle, use and store the products
  • What type of personal protective equipment to wear
  • How to use the hazard information, including labels and Safety Data Sheets
  • Procedures to follow in the event of a spill

This standard requires worker training before the use of any new chemicals, but no refresher training is required.

Wait… what? 

That means if a custodian may receive training on potential hazards associated with a chemical when they are initially hired, but if they stay at the same employer for several years, they are not legally required to demonstrate any understanding of how to properly handle, use and store chemicals after that point. 

Do you remember everything you learned in your first week on the job? In the flurry of new faces, paperwork and training, there’s a lot to remember. 

Sadly, incidents related to inappropriate use or storage of cleaning chemicals continue to happen all-too often. 

Earlier this year, five children were taken to the hospital after washing their hands with a cleaning chemical that was accidentally placed in the soap dispensers. In August, three workers in a cheese factory were treated at a local hospital after two cleaning solutions were accidentally mixed together. Just last week in Lexington, Ky., a janitor was burned while trying to clean chemicals with a towel. 

Fortunately, most employers take precautions to prevent deaths like Stefan Golab’s from happening. But we still have much work to do when it comes to training anyone with exposure to cleaning chemicals, as injuries are still happening. 

To help organizations comply with the ANSI/SI BSR SI-0001 American National Standard for Safe Use of Cleaning Chemicals which will go out for public review soon, we’re launching a new chemical handling workbook and online certificate program. Because accidents are still happening and every worker has the right to a safe workplace. 

10 Good Reasons to Make Continuing Education a Priority

President John F. Kennedy once said, “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” 

We’d agree. If you want to become an effective leader in the cleaning industry, you can’t stop learning. It doesn’t matter if you work as a janitor, custodial manager, distributor sales representative or in the research and development for an industry supplier. The minute we stop learning, we stop evolving. 

This week, we’re holding our (OS1) Coach class, which is a professional development program that helps coaches and trainers using the (OS1) to plan their training schedule, and design, budget and operate a world-class training program. It got us thinking about professional development opportunities and how important it is to our careers.

Studies show that organizations that invest in professional development opportunities for their employees are often higher performing. According to the Talent Development’s 2014 State of the Industry Report, organizations spend an average of $1208 per employee on training and development. This number increases for companies with fewer than 500 workers, amounting to an average of $1,888 per employee. 

While your company might have specific requirements for what constitutes a reimbursable professional development course, we shouldn’t dismiss educational opportunities outside of the industry. For example, a course on customer service or management will likely provide you with ideas to improve these areas in your organization. And while there’s nothing wrong with distributor-led training in most cases, that’s not what we’re talking about here.

Whether or not your organization supports your professional development, here is a list of the top 10 reasons why you should look into set continuing education goals for yourself, if you haven’t already. 

  1. It can give you new skills. While this is one of the more obvious reasons, it’s often taken for granted. Technology is continually changing the way we live and work; we can always learn new skills and processes to become better leaders or improve the way we do things. 
  1. It helps push you out of your comfort zone. When was the last time you walked into a room where you knew no one? What about the last time you did something you’ve never done before? If you’re not pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you might be missing out on great opportunities. 
  1. You can refresh your knowledge. When you first started working in the custodial department, maybe you earned a certification or attended classes. But after awhile, if you’re not actively using it, a lot of that knowledge—pH scale, anyone?—could use a refresher. 
  1. It helps you stay on the top of your game. Maybe you’re not the type of person who is regularly reading the latest business book, but if you’re relying on a sales person to be your source of what’s new, you may want to rethink that strategy.
  1. It gives you confidence. As the adage goes, knowledge is power. When you learn something new, it gives you information you can share with others and makes you feel better about yourself. 
  1. You can meet new people and expand your network. Recently I enrolled in an online educational course and I was amazed by the number of people across the world who were also looking to become better communicators. Some of these people don’t live far from me, and we’ll likely meet up at some point. 
  1. It can help you better protect workers and building occupants. Better cleaning programs make for healthier indoor environments. When you and your staff use best practices for cleaning, everyone wins.
  1. You’ll better position yourself for professional advancements. Go-getters are the ones move up. Keep a file of your ongoing education and successes so you can share them when it’s your time to take the stage. 
  1. It’s invigorating! If work is starting to feel a little monotonous, attending a professional development class can help re-energize you and your staff. It can also help provide new ideas and offer a new perspective on your business.
  1. It sets a good example for others on your team. When you take the time to expand your knowledge, it helps encourage others to pursue similar opportunities. This ultimately benefits the entire organization. 

Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to a Cleaning Operation

In his paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation” published in the 1943 issue of Psychological Review, Abraham Maslow revealed a pyramid in which various levels of human needs were defined (see Figure 1). Ultimately, the theory suggests that humans must cover their most basic needs (like food, shelter and safety) before they can think about higher level goals, like education or relationships. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy or Needs (Figure 1).

We can benefit from looking at a cleaning operation in a similar way. There are certain fundamental needs within a custodial operation that must be met in order for the program to be effective and meet certain higher-level goals. Too often, our conversation about cleaning is just through a specific lens rather than looking at the operation as a whole.

When was the last time someone asked you one of the following questions:

  • What are you doing to make your team more productive?
  • What are you doing to reduce the turnover in your operation?
  • How are you reducing injuries?
  • Can you stop the man on the third floor from complaining every time we clean his office?

Stepping back and looking at a custodial operation with Maslow’s framework in mind could be useful in answering these questions, and improving your overall operation. Because, if the baseline needs of your cleaning operation aren’t met, how can you make sure it, and all the intricate, moving pieces involved in it, operate at their fullest potential?

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The Hierarchy of Needs within a Custodial Operation

FOUNDATION: Tools and People

At the foundation of every custodial operation is the tools and labor to clean. In our industry, we spend the majority of our time talking about the tools rather than the labor, but that’s another blog post for another day. If you don’t have equipment, such as flat mops, buckets, auto scrubbers, vacuums, cloths, chemicals—you get where we’re going—then it’s going to be tough to do much cleaning. 

The same goes for people. You might have all the best equipment in the world, but without the people to use the equipment, apply the chemicals and remove the soil, you can’t clean.

LEVEL 1: Safety & Training

A cleaning program’s hierarchy of needs.

Once you have the equipment, people and cleaning supplies in place, the next level of any cleaning operation is making sure they have the right training and safety equipment to protect them from injury. Surprisingly, custodians continue to experience one of the highest injury rates of any occupation. Most injuries result from slips and falls, over-exertion and improperly mixing  of chemical. 

Teaching custodial workers not just what to clean, but HOW to clean is also critical. Help them understand the correct routes to follow, best techniques for lifting heavy equipment and how to prevent cross contamination. 

Equipping custodians with the right personal protective equipment is not only the law, it can also go a long way in making them feel more valued, reducing injuries and insurance costs. 

LEVEL 2: Recognition and Appreciation

Once the basic elements of the custodial operation are in place, the next level in a custodial operation’s hierarchy of needs is the sense of value. This is instilled by offering recognition to custodial workers and making them feel appreciated for what they do. A lot of housekeeping and environmental service operations use the month of September to recognize employees through events such as housekeepers week or environmental services week, typically the second full week of September. 

It’s important not for just custodial management to acknowledge and show appreciation for people who clean our buildings, but everyone within a building. A simple “thank you” helps a custodial worker feel valued for the important work they do.

LEVEL 3: Self Actualization

At the top of the pyramid is self-actualization, which is understanding one’s importance and achieving one’s full potential. When a custodial operation reaches this point, it is filled with a group of engaged team players who strive to work to the best of their abilities. They have been given the supplies and training to do their job effectively, they feel valued and appreciated for their work and do their best to fulfill their role. Because of their engagement, these employees may be well suited to take on new roles or responsibility within the organization and help mentor others.

Would you agree with this proposed hierarchy of needs? What systems do you have in place to create a group of engaged and committed custodians? We’d love to hear your thoughts — please share them on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/managemen.

From the History Books: How the White Wings Cleaned up New York City

Have you ever heard of Colonel George Waring? He’s kind of a big deal in the cleaning and sanitation world. Before he fought in the Civil War, Colonel Waring was a city engineer in New York, where he gained recognition for his work reclaiming the swampland that would become New York’s Central Park. He had helped develop a first-of-its kind drainage system that allowed for the lakes and ponds within the parks, while leaving the remainder of the land dry. 

Following his success in New York, Waring left for Memphis, where he engineered a dual sewer and drainage system that separated storm runoff from septic waste. This ended decades of waterborne illnesses and diseases, including cholera, which had plagued the city for decades. 

Lacking any formalized sanitation and refuse system, New York City was drowning in garbage and filth in the late 1800s. Its current mayor, William Strong, called for Waring to return and assume the position of sanitation engineer. The job of tackling the city’s overwhelming sanitation issues would be no easy feat, and Waring approached the job as he would approach combat on the battlefield. 

Colonel George Waring transformed the image of the sanitation department in New York, dressing workers in white so they would be affiliated with hygiene and cleanliness.

His first initiative was to build an army of cleaners, equipped with ashcans and broomsticks as their weapons. But before he cleaned up the streets, he knew he needed to clean up the perception of the cleaners. 

Street cleaners of the day were known for accepting bribes and generally slacking off on the job. To transform this image, Waring assembled a force of more than two thousand sanitation “soldiers” who were clad completely in white, from the white caps on their heads down to the pants covering their legs. The motivation was to associate workers with hygiene (though other sources indicate that it was to also make workers obvious and easily identifiable should they feel compelled to skip off to the saloon during their shift).

According to an article in Collector’s Weekly, Waring’s military-like structure included “very clearly defined tasks, like someone was assigned to sweep from this corner to that corner 10 blocks down, and they were going to do it inside these eight hours, and this cart was going to follow and the driver of the cart had these set hours. If there were any problems, the officer immediately in charge of that crew would have to answer for them, and then the officer above had to answer for the larger regional work.” 

With his system in place, Waring and his army set to clean the poorest sections of the city (the more affluent areas had enlisted private cleaning services to clean up their streets). Initially, the sanitation workers were met with resistance, and local residents threw rocks and bricks at workers, fearful they intended to displace them. By the end of two weeks, the White Wings had won them over because their neighborhoods were clean. Eventually, the piles of trash throughout the city had been completely cleared.

After seven months of Waring’s sanitation leadership, The New York Times reported: “Clean streets at last… Marvels have been done.”

Workers clean up the streets of New York in the late 1800s.

Robin Nagle, author of Picking Up, noted, “These men became heroes because, for the first time in anyone’s memory, they actually cleaned the city. It was a very bright day in the history of the department…Rates of preventable disease went down. Mortality rates went down. It also had a ripple effect across all different areas of the city.”

Cleaning as a hygiene issue. A systematic approach to cleaning. Improving the perception of cleaners. Sound familiar?

  

2018 Symposium Recap

“Please raise your hand if this is your first Symposium,” Kristie McNealy, MD, Executive Director of the Simon Institute instructed the packed room. More than a dozen hands shot up in the air. “Welcome! We have a great lineup of presentations and activities planned,” she promised. Two days later at the conclusion of the conference, attendees agreed—the 17th Annual Symposium at the Westgate in Park City, Utah, delivered. 

Facility professionals from across the country gathered at the annual event where (OS1) users and other cleaning executives discuss best practices and learn about new tools and equipment to improve safety and productivity within their custodial operations. It’s different from other industry conferences in that a majority of the sessions highlight actual product trials—speakers offer candid reviews of how a product or system worked within a facility. 

Simon Institute is an ANSI-Accredited Standards Developer, and McNealy kicked off the event with an exciting update about the status of the Safe Use of Cleaning Chemicals- ANSI/SI BSR SI-0001—it will soon go out for public review and comment. 

The first day of sessions included several talks on improving safety for custodial workers. Guido Piccarolo, CEO, discussed how new tools from Unger Enterprises that made custodial work easier for workers with disabilities at Los Angeles Habilitation House (LAHH). Flint Belk from the Workers Compensation Fund discussed ongoing safety issues within the custodial industry in his presentation “Right to Understand: Preventing Accidents by Following OSHA/ANSI Standards for Chemical Safety.” 

Additional sessions covered topics including strategies for improving recycling diversion rates, understanding blockchain technology and future applications within the facility management industry and ways workers and cleaning organizations can leverage the gig economy.

During the evening, attendees donned in evening gowns and tuxedos enjoyed dinner before the annual Cleaning Industry Awards ceremony. Janitors from as far as Barbados were recognized for their performance, as Mark Unger from Unger Enterprises presented the Outstanding Cleaning Worker Awards. 

Additional award recipients include:

(OS1) Green Certified Programs of Merit

• The University of Texas at Austin – L. Theo Bellmont Hall

• The University of Texas at Austin – Engineering Education and Research

• Mt. San Antontio College – Business and Computer Technology Complex, Buildings 77, 78, 79

(OS1) Green Certified Programs of Excellence

• GMI Building Services – Torrey Plaza

• Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM

• The University of Texas at Austin – Sid Richardson Hall

Best (OS1) Audit

Sandia National Labs

Workloading Award 

The University of Texas at Austin

Safety Award

Sandia National Labs

Training Program Award

The University of Texas at Austin

Trainer of the Year Award

Jeff Hawkins – Provo City School District

Best Cleaning Team Award

GMI Building Services

Best Cleaning Program

The University of Texas at Austin

 

For the first year, Simon Institute also presented the following new awards: 

“Stay the Course” — The University of Michigan 

“Research and Development” — Michigan State University 

“Inspiration” — Los Angeles Habilitation House

Wednesday morning kicked off with an impressive presentation on the superior ergonomic performance of the custodial program at Sandia National Laboratories from Cynthia Rivera, CSP, SSH, CEAS I, a health and safety specialist. Additional presentations covered the performance improvements of ProTeam’s battery pack vacuums and an insightful commentary on the successful career of the 2018 Pinnacle Award Winner, John Lawter. John Walker concluded the event with his presentation, “Risky Business: The Legal Ramifications of Balancing Workloads, Locsei versus Mayfield School District, Ohio.”

Attendees to this year agreed, the breadth of information and relevant insights presented this year was unparalleled. 

“At the center of everything we do is the person who does the work. I thought that all of the sessions at this year’s Symposium focused on improving the dignity and safety of the worker.”

—Guido Piccarolo of Los Angeles Habilitation House

“I just took on a new training position and found a lot of great information and tools I will be able to integrate into our program. It’s great to network with other universities and hear what is working for them.”

— Josh Sego, Michigan State University

“This was my first time attending. I found the people to be very welcoming and it enabled me to better understand the big picture of the industry.”

— Judy Ramirez, Michigan State University

“I always learn at these events. The best way to learn is from the people who are performing the work so we can improve our products. The content this year was also really good and engaging.”

— Rich Steinberg, ProTeam

“This was my first Symposium. I found it provided a great opportunity to network and make connections with other manufacturers and OS1 organizations.”

— Adrian Cook, 3M