Protecting Custodial Workers: What Every New Cleaning Worker Needs to Know

Long before COVID-19 infected patient zero, a large percentage of the 3.25 million cleaning workers in the U.S. received little job training. In some circles, the assumption is that most people know how to clean, so the absence of training might not seem like a big deal. Individuals in these groups treat it as an inherent skillset that people are either born with or learn at an early age. 

But the thing is, not everyone just “knows” how to clean. As a recent survey showed, the majority of Americans aren’t disinfecting properly. And the processes you would use to clean a building are different than how you would clean your home or apartment.

There are many issues with the lack of occupational training in the cleaning industry, but a primary issues is the increased risk and exposure to workers. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that cleaning workers suffer the second highest rates of job-related injuries of any occupation—injuries heavy lifting, overexertion, chemical exposure and slips and falls are most common.

Reducing Risks to Cleaning Workers Now and After the Pandemic

When it comes to COVID-19, cleaning and disinfection is essential in stopping the spread of the disease. Aside from person-to-person spread, COVID-19 spreads when a person comes into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. So when businesses slowly begin to open again over the next few months, all eyes will be on cleaning workers. Regular, systematic cleaning and disinfection will be key to controlling the spread of the virus and limiting the additional waves of the pandemic. 

For these individuals to clean—and to not pollute the surfaces and buildings they are meant to protect—they need training. They also need training to protect themselves. 

During this period, we can expect to see a swell of new cleaning service providers. Many people who have been displaced from current jobs in the hospitality or foodservice industries may find themselves working in a position where they’re being asked to clean in a commercial environment for the first time. 

We’ve seen way too many headlines highlighting cleaning workers who are concerned because they don’t understand the routes of transmission or how they could become infected. Too many people who are asked to use new disinfectants and don’t have training to do so. Too many people who aren’t equipped with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their hands and faces from exposure. 

We need to reverse this trend and make sure ALL cleaning workers have the knowledge and training they need to clean safely and protect themselves.

If you’re new to cleaning, we’ve pulled together a checklist of things you should know before you start working.

This is not meant to replace any existing training programs, but rather serve as a supplement. Our hope is to help provide a resource for those individuals who may not receive any training from their employers. If that’s you, we’re here for you. Please feel free to reach out with any questions about what you can do to protect yourself during this time.

Cleaning in the Age of Coronavirus

Right now, cleaning and disinfection is a focus for people around the world because of the coronavirus. For people in our industry, this is somewhat of a seminal moment — we’ve arrived at a place where there’s greater appreciation and understanding for the importance of the work we do. Of course, we wish it didn’t take something like a pandemic happening to get here, but we’re thrilled to see that the message is being heard.

When we get to the other side of this, there’s little question that the world of cleaning will change. Already, Singapore is implementing mandatory cleaning standards, beginning with “higher-risk premises such as childcare and eldercare facilities, schools and hawker centers [food courts and markets], according to Channel News Asia

Combined with social distancing, cleaning is the next most effective way to control coronavirus. 

The thing is, cleaning needs to be done correctly, or else it’s not effective.

In the future, we can expect government standards around this to ensure cleaning is done properly. For now, it’s left to each cleaning professional and organizations to make sure they’re following best practices.

Here’s what we know (with some great links to help explain things!):

  • The coronavirus spreads by hard surfaces or fomites. The most recent research found that it lasts on hard surfaces such as stainless steel for up to two-three days. 
  • Cleaning workers form a critical line of defense in helping to stop the chain of infection, killing the virus on the surface before it has the opportunity to jump to the next host/hosts. 
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential to protecting cleaning workers. Follow guidelines from the CDC, which includes using gloves and gowns and understanding how to don (put on), use and doff (take off) PPE. 
  • OSHA requires training for all workers who use cleaning chemicals and disinfectants. All organizations should maintain Safety Data Sheets on ALL cleaning chemicals used in their facilities. 
  • Not all “cleaning” kills coronavirus. It’s critical that people understand the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection, explained in full here.
  • Remember, clean first — then disinfect. A disinfectant will never work on a visibly dirty surface. Clean using a cotton or microfiber cloth—never a paper-based product.
  • Read the directions! Each EPA-approved disinfectant used for killing coronavirus indicates the dwell time, or the time the surface needs to remain visibly wet, in order to be effective.
  • Hand washing is everything. Make sure workers wash their hands before they begin cleaning and immediately after removing gloves. 
  • We must work together. Encourage individuals throughout the facility to assist with cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, per CDC recommendations.
  • Communication is key. Make sure to communicate what you’re doing with stakeholders in your buildings. Share images on social media to help people at home see how hard your facility is working to keep buildings clean for their return. 

We’ll get through this; effective cleaning is essential in that effort. And when we do get to the other side, we hope there will be a much broader appreciation for the critical work that cleaners, janitors, housekeepers, environmental service workers and other cleaning professionals do in protecting the health of the public. 

We’ll be holding FREE training around chemical handling in the coming week. Sign up to our newsletter for dates and times.

Coronavirus Communication: How to Tell Building Occupants, “We’ve Got This”

As the coronavirus continues to dominate headlines, a lot of people have questions about best practices for cleaning and disinfection in public spaces. (OS1)® organizations have a Pandemic Plan in place to prepare for an outbreak of this nature, and are well equipped to handle additional cleaning loads.

To assist (OS1) teams with communicating their plans to key stakeholders and building occupants within their facilities, we’ve developed this sample communication which you can copy to send as an email or print to post in a public area.

Subject: Cleaning for Coronavirus

Dear [building occupant],

With the Coronavirus at the top of everyone’s minds right now, we wanted to brief you on the cleaning practices used within our facility and the pandemic preparedness plans we have in place. Most importantly, we want to reassure you that our organization uses best-in-class cleaning processes to stop the chain of infection and limit the opportunity for pathogens to spread throughout our building.

As you might know, our organization uses the (OS1)® System, which is a comprehensive, high-performance management system for custodial organizations. Each worker within our department has received extensive training and has been certified to complete specialized tasks within the system. They are kitted with special tools and chemicals for their job function, which includes the use of a germicidal cleaner in an outbreak situation.

As a part of our pandemic planning, we have completed or are in the process of completing the following steps to combat the Coronavirus within our facility/facilities: 

  1. Identified all potential routes of transmission.
  2. Conduct a survey of all direct and indirect contact fomites (high-touch surface areas) throughout our buildings.
  3. Provide custodial workers with additional training and instruction on proper disinfection protocols.
  4. Provide custodial workers on Protect Yourself” training so they understand routes of transmission and how to best protect themselves when cleaning.
  5. Stockpile additional cleaning and disinfection supplies.

It is important to note that at this point, the CDC has not recommended additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning. However, our teams are meeting on a regular basis and are prepared to increase cleaning frequencies when it is deemed appropriate.

We ask for your ongoing cooperation in this effort. Our staff is working diligently to keep high-touch areas cleaned and disinfected, but we encourage you to use wipes placed throughout the building to disinfect community surfaces when cleaning staff aren’t available.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update our cleaning protocols as necessary. 

Again, thank you for your continued support and cooperation.

Sincerely,

<<NAME>>

<<TITLE>>

<<PHONE OR EMAIL>>

Want to KEEP Cleaning Workers? Start Here.

When you were a small kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A race car driver? A doctor? A park ranger? 

Did you have hopes of joining the millions of people in the professional cleaning industry?

Probably not.

Heck, ask most people in the cleaning industry how they ended up in it, and most will say they fell into it. They answered a job ad, took a second job to pay for a big expense or offered to help out a friend for a weekend.  

Current figures suggest approximately 2.5 million people work as cleaners in the U.S., and that’s probably a conservative estimate. But a lot of the people who begin working in the industry quit shortly after they start. 

This happens for a lot of reasons—reasons you already know. 

It’s hard work. 

It doesn’t pay much. 

It gets little respect. 

Another thing we know? We’d be totally screwed without cleaning workers. Cleaning is essential for any high-performing organization—and society. 

And right now, we’re experiencing a big issue of attracting and retaining talent. In Facility Cleaning Decision’s 2018 Reader Survey, staffing challenges were one of respondents’ top areas of concerns.

Historically low unemployment rates and stricter immigration policies are causing employers to look for alternative solutions, such as reducing frequencies and cross-training employees to cover labor shortages.

Changing Perceptions: It’s More than Just Dirty Work

Cleaning workers are an essential part of an organization. We know that, but in order to change the perceptions cleaning workers have of the work they do requires involvement from others within the organization.

A recent study looked at the social interactions of hospital cleaners and how those interactions impacted their perceived self worth. It looked at what researchers called “valuing acts” that cleaners experienced throughout the day and how those experiences made them feel. 

Researchers stated, “A hospital’s effectiveness depends on the work of the cleaning staff…Those who clean hospitals ensure a safe and sanitary environment for the execution of routine and complicated medical procedures.” (p. 14)

So while the researchers recognized contribution of cleaners, they found their critical role wasn’t recognized by other people in the hospital.

Here’s what they found:

  • Many cleaners recognize the importance of their work and take “great pride” in it. 
  • Their self worth is tied to social encounters they experience on the job — encounters with other people in the building, such as patients, nurses and doctors. 
  • Simple acts, like a doctor or nurse getting out of the way when the cleaner is pushing a cart through the hallway or acknowledging their presence with a simple nod contributes to a cleaning worker feeling valued.
  • On the opposite side, acts like not cleaning up after themselves (e.g. not picking up paper that has fallen beside the waste basket or a spill for which they’re responsible) along with not involving them in a hospital wide event may contribute to the cleaners feeling unappreciated.

Ultimately, seemingly small gestures can leave a big impact on cleaning workers and can help them feel more valued—or devalued—within an organization.

How can we KEEP more cleaning workers?

Few people grow up wanting to be in the cleaning industry. The goal is to KEEP them in our industry once they get here. 

How can you do this? Try following the KEEP acronym:

Keep employees at the forefront. Take the time to talk to your staff members and get to know them. Listen to them and learn the names of people in their families. Ask them questions and show you’re interested in them as a person, not just as a work. 

Explain the importance of what they do. Help them understand the importance of their role. Make sure they know that cleaning isn’t just about helping a building look nice, but it’s about keeping people in that building stay healthy and safe too.

Empower them with training and advancement opportunities. Cleaning workers are one of the best customer service tools in your building. Empower them with training so they understand how to interact with others in the building and strategies to do their jobs better so they can be promoted and grow within their career. 

Preach their importance to other people in the building. In a hospital, that might be doctors and nurses, in a school, that could be students and teachers. The key is that other people in the facility have a greater appreciation for how cleaning workers help them. 

Studies routinely show that more engaged workers are higher performing. Showing workers that you truly value them will help KEEP them on your team in a competitive job market. 

Check it out!

The short film “Keepers of the House” aims to highlight the importance cleaning workers. Developed to educate others in a hospital about the vital role housekeeping/custodial workers play in developing an environment of care, the film will be used as a learning tool to help create better, stronger businesses.

(OS1) Trainer Profile: Josh Sego

(OS1) Trainers are a critical piece to creating and implementing a successful (OS1) System. Beyond training their teams, they are also committed to their own continuing education. Trainers are required to complete Train the Trainer class and must pass an exam with a score of 80 percent or higher to earn their designation as a (OS1) Trainer Certificate Holder.

We’ll profile several of our skilled trainers over the coming year with the hopes that by sharing their insights and best practices, everyone learns and improves their training skills.

Joshua Sego is the Simon Institute’s 2019 Trainer of the Year.

Joshua Sego is awarded the 2019 Trainer of the Year award by Simon Institute.

Name: Joshua Sego

Title: Training and Staffing Coordinator

Facility: Michigan State University

What do you enjoy about what you do?  I enjoy helping others be successful.

Is there anything that you think a lot of custodial trainers miss when educating workers? 

Letting people know the “why” of things.  I feel that when people know why they need to follow a process, or do something a specific way, people are more likely to follow that process, than if they are just doing what they are told.

What is one thing you’ve found to be most effective when training your team? 

Real world examples.  MSU is a big enough operation that we can give examples of how we have screwed things up and how doing things the way we train people avoids making those mistakes again. 

Do you have any tips for getting to know your audience? 

Being willing to share part of yourself I think helps people and lets them feel comfortable sharing part of themselves.  Not some list of accomplishments but little things. My family and passions end up in a lot of my training material as examples and stories. This, in turn, makes me more of a person and helps others to relax and share as well.  In the end, I get more participation out of a group this way.

Any tips or resources you’d recommend other trainers use to improve their craft?  

Ask questions.  I will make a statement and ask, “What does that mean?”  Then I wait until someone answers.  As you continue to do this, it encourages more of your audience to engage—or at least pay attention in case they are asked a question.

Any memorable/funny stories you’d like to share?

When I first became a trainer, I trained filter maintenance on the vacuums. I would let people know that on the microfilter the white lining was the actual filter so if it gets ripped, they needed to replace the filter.  The brown covering around it was there to protect the lining. After 6 months of training this, one of my trainees pointed out to me the microfilter was green, not brown.  I am color blind and could not see the difference.  Shortly thereafter, I also found out that the lid on the vacuum was purple, not blue.   

Anything else? 

It is easy to think the worst in people.  Our approach to people at MSU is, what do we need to do to help this person so they can be successful.  Often, as we begin interacting with people especially in a retraining situation, they are defensive and sometimes verbally combative. Once they realize that we are really there to help them, their attitude changes.  It is these moments that make our job so fulfilling.  

Lean and Clean: A Checklist

As we head into the holiday season, it seems like a strange time to talk about anything “lean.” Many will spend the next several weeks feasting on a medley of turkey, ham, cookies, chocolates, breads and other delicacies as we turn to 2020.

For some people, the start of a new decade doesn’t mean anything special—it’s business as usual. But for others, it can signal the opportunity for a fresh start and improvement. Just as you set personal goals around health and wellness, this is also an ideal time to check the health of your custodial operation. 

Henry Ford, developer of assembly line production which saved 9.5 hours of labor per manufactured vehicle.

A healthy custodial operation is one that operates on lean management principles. You might be familiar with terms like Six Sigma or ISO 9000—these are quality systems that businesses put in place to limit the waste in their operations.

This approach was first used by Henry Ford when he created the assembly line in 1913. While this innovation received much applause because it reduced the amount of time it took to build a car (from 12 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes!), this was also the first system to designate workers as specialists. 

In Ford’s assembly line, each worker focused on a specific task throughout the line rather than performing all the tasks required to create the vehicle. This was the birth of lean management principles as it lead to a significant reduction in the amount of labor required in the manufacturing process. 

In their paper, “Cleaning as an Engineered Process: Lean Principles for a Neglected Industry,” authors Dr. Jeffrey Campbell and Kathleen Campbell look at how Lean Management Principles can be used within a cleaning department to improve efficiency.

“Lean is implemented by first understanding the activities and practices that are considered wasteful and do not add value to the process. It then looks at the process and identifies what creates value in the process stream and what is wasteful. A culture of continual improvement must be set up so that those who are in the day-to-day work-flow are comfortable with approaching management with new ideas on how to improve processes. 

“Each area also needs to be cleaned and organized so that everything is in its place. With the preceding steps in place, waste can be eliminated or mitigated, and the process can become more Lean.’ The process should be re-evaluated often as new ideas or improvement emerge.” 

 If you want to look for ways to reduce waste and create a leaner cleaning operation, we’ve developed a short checklist to help you get started. Feel free to download this and share it with your friends and colleagues.

Of course, we have several more strategies to reduce waste in a custodial department that you can add to this list, as this is the foundation of our (OS1) System. If you’re interested in learning more, just drop us a line.

Until then, we wish you a cleaner—and leaner—holiday season. 

“If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Henry Ford

6 Easy Ways to Prevent Accidents from Cleaning Chemicals

After last week’s incident at a Buffalo Wild Wings when a young manager died following exposure to toxic fumes from a floor cleaner, we’ve received several calls and emails from organizations looking to prevent a similar situation from happening in their own businesses. 

Updates from the original story show that the manager died and at least 13 other individuals in the restaurant became sick after two cleaning products — Super 8 and Scale Kleen — were “accidentally” mixed.

As most cleaning professionals know, mixing bleaches and acids is a no-no, as bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, it can create a dangerous—and sometimes fatal — chlorine gas. 

In this incident, Scale Kleen, an acid based solution, was applied to the floor. Later, Super 8 was applied to the floor which mixed with the Scale Clean creating a reaction that “turned green and started to bubble,” the local fire chief told NBC. The resulting fumes killed the manager who tried to squeegee the substance from the floor and sickened others in the vicinity.

While some have called for less “dangerous” chemicals to be used in commercial settings, we need to do a better job of training the people who use cleaning chemicals. Why? Because incidents like this can happen with household cleaning products. Even the most basic things can cause issues. Bleach (sodium hypochlorite), Ammonia (glass cleaner) and Peroxide (used as an alternative to a disinfectant) can cause reactions that damage surfaces —or even worse—death.

One of the most common OSHA violations is the lack of worker training and understanding on common SDS symbols.

Here are six easy ways to minimize chemical accidents such as these:

  1. Never mix chemicals. Need we say more? 
  2. Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when using any hazardous substances. This includes gloves, goggles, boots, face shields, aprons and any other material that can protect the user’s hands, eyes, face and skin from contact with the chemical. The PPE should be made of material specifically designed to resist penetration by the particular chemical being used.
  3. Read the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). In addition to listing the name, toxicity and hazard, the SDS also provides critical information about the chemical’s composition and physical characteristics. OSHA requires this information be available for employees to read and understand. 
  4. Follow instructions. Manufacturers include specific instructions for use of cleaning chemicals, which includes dilution ratios and where the product can safely be used. Read and take the time to understand these instructions before using any cleaning product.
  5. Use ventilation. The ongoing circulation of fresh air is critical in keeping concentration diluted and within safe usage levels. 
  6. Conduct ongoing training. Training—and the documentation of training—is critical when it comes to making sure workers safely handle cleaning chemicals. From online to classroom style training, there are a variety of resources to educate workers on how to properly handle cleaning chemicals.

When Benjamin Franklin made the famous statement, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” in 1736, he was encouraging the citizens of Philadelphia to be vigilant about fire awareness and prevention. 

He encouraged the formation of a brigade specially trained to fight fires, which led to the formation of the Union Fire Company later that year. He also urged that chimney sweeps should be licensed by the city and be responsible for their work. 

Thanks to his advocacy, Philadelphia became one of the city’s safest from fire damage. 

It is our hope that even today—almost 300 years later—we can look to the wisdom offered in Franklin’s axiom to prevent future chemical accidents from occurring, improving the safety of everyone who handles cleaning chemicals. Taking steps now to prevent an accident from occurring could quite possibly save a life.

Engaging Younger Workers: How the Provo City School District Trains High School Custodial Workers

Jeff Hawkins is the Director of Custodial Services with Provo City School District, which includes 18 schools — three high schools, two middle schools and 13 elementary. To clean the 2.5 million square feet in each of these buildings, the district employee 175 custodians. The majority of these custodians—or “sweepers” as they’re called locally—are high school students. 

Yes, high school students. 

Like most cleaning operations, turnover is also a major issue with this demographic. Jeff says that of the 175 custodial workers on his team, more than half stay for less than a year. 

Many stay for just three to six months. 

High turnover can be really costly for a business. But so can employee training. That said, many successful businesses, like McDonald’s, have been built using employees that leave in less than a year. Training is key to that success.

Several high school students who work as custodial workers in the Provo City School District received recognition for their effort and contributions during the recent Simon Institute Symposium.

To maximize the amount of time students work for the department, Jeff works hard to target training to their interests. Basically, he finds creative ways to make custodial training more FUN. 

“At the beginning of each school year, we kick things off with an event to get all of our staff excited for the job,” he says. “We create a party-like atmosphere that appeals to kids.”

That’s the key, says Hawkins.

There’s music. Pizza. Soda pop. Raffles. Games. Gift cards. We’d imagine that it feels more like spring break and less like work for most in attendance.

Hawkins has found a way to make work fun for the students. He also holds similar events throughout the year to keep them engaged. The result has been extremely positive, helping increase retention and building morale with workers.

Training Younger Workers: Jeff’s 5 R’s of Training Millennial Workers

Effective training is a key component of the (OS1) System. It’s why we make sure all (OS1) Trainers have passed rigorous testing to ensure their knowledge and capabilities. It’s why we provide workers with job cards to keep their responsibilities top of mind. It’s why we advocate for training that reaches all different learning types, like visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

With the demand for cleaning services on the rise and continued growth projected for cleaning workers, more organizations will need to focus their sites on training programs in the future.

Hawkins suggest that custodial professionals develop training programs around recognized motivators for younger generations.

These motivators might include achievement, recognition, emphasizing the value of the work, advancement and growth. 

Something that would demotivate a younger worker might be heavy supervision.

As we look ahead, Hawkins offers the “5 R’s” of training younger employees, specifically, millennials:

  1. Research-based methods. Lectures are so yesterday! Group work and collaboration not only helps reinforce workers’ understanding and knowledge, it allows them to share with others. This approach is more appealing to Millennial mindsets. See how Jeff’s team collaborates with teachers on Earth Day below.
  2. Relevance: Use tools and technology that is relevant to what they are using, including mobile phone or tablet-based training tutorials.
  3. Rationale: Help workers understand why their work is so important. Provide studies and statistics that validate the impact of cleaning.
  4. Relax: Keep events warm and inviting. Make it inclusive for all ages and demographics.
  5. Rapport: Provide recognition and attention to workers. This not only builds relationships, but can also help them feel valued, which can reduce turnover. 

Elementary students are encouraged to touch and try on cleaning equipment during custodian-led Earth Day instruction.

Beyond the Party: Collaboration and Education

Each year, PSD teachers host Earth Day activities to highlight the importance of sustainability and protecting natural resources. To encourage collaboration, Jeff challenges head custodians to help teachers share the message of how (OS1) supports sustainability by limiting the amount of packaging, inventory and waste in a typical cleaning program.

Custodians participate in the Earth Day classroom activities, talking to children and encouraging them to touch and try on equipment used throughout the custodial operation. They share how chemicals are pre-portioned to prevent waste, Green Seal Certified to protect the environment, vacuums filter the air for cleaner breathing, the benefits of using microfiber flat mops, etc. This collaboration captivates students and custodial workers alike, allowing them to teach and learn in a different way.

How to Prepare for a Bad Flu Season with a Good Disinfection Program

So—do you want the good news or bad news first?

Bad news: Early reports show that this year’s flu season is not looking so good. There’s a particular strain—H3N2—which is said to be more severe.

Good news: With proper disinfection, cleaning teams can have a substantial impact on stopping the spread of the virus.

A few months ago, we talked about the “Hygiene Hypothesis” and how there’s no such thing as being too clean. Proper cleaning—and disinfection— is critical to preventing the spread of viruses and diseases outlined in that post. 

But contrary to popular practice, disinfecting is about so much more than just misting an area and wiping it down several minutes later. In most non-critical environments, low-level and intermediate disinfection will do. Summary: HOW people clean is much more critical than WHAT they use to clean.

As we head into cold and flu season, now is a good time to refresh these basic principles of disinfectants with your team to make sure they work as intended:

  1. Consider the Tools: It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re cleaning to disinfect an area, you can’t use dirty tools. the tools you use can’t be dirty. And we’re not talking just “I can’t see dirt, so it must be clean” — freshly laundered cleaning cloths, mops and brushes must be used in order to prevent poor disinfection. Once the surface of the cloth has been used, fold it over to expose a clean side before wiping again.
  2. Follow Specified Dilution Ratios: We’ve all heard about the dangers of the “glug, glug” method where cleaners loosely follow dilution ratios by adding a “glug” of disinfectant to a few “glugs” of water. In some instances, cleaners may think that adding more disinfectant than called for is better.  This approach is not only be dangerous to the cleaner, it can result in  sticky or heavily soiled surfaces – which actually can become an even bigger breeding ground for pathogens . Always follow manufacturers’ directions when preparing  a disinfectant. 
  3. Clean, and Then Disinfect: If soil is present on a surface, it can cut down on the germicidal capabilities of a disinfectant. Use a one-step procedure to enable disinfectant cleaners achieve peak performance.
  4. Use Friction—and a Little Elbow Grease: According to the CDC, friction (e.g. scrubbing a hard surface with a brush) is an “old and dependable method for disinfecting hard surface. We’d go a step further and say it’s the most important component of a surface disinfection program. Cleaners should also put a little muscle into cleaning, as bacteria can mix with film and dirt on surfaces. When these are not removed, bacteria can also be left behind. 
  5. Wipe in ONE direction. Try sprinkling some flour on a tabletop and wiping it in a circular motion with a slightly damp cloth. What happens? The flour just spreads around the table. When you wipe in a singular direction and continue to expose a clean surface, you are able to move toward the edge of the table and remove bacteria more effectively.
  6. Change Solutions Frequently: As a best practice, cleaners should use a two-sided mop bucket system. To ensure cleaners regularly change disinfectant solutions, set a hard rule on frequencies (e.g. change solution once every five rooms). 
  7. Return Tools for Cleaning: After any disinfection occurs, it’s important to establish a protocol for cleaning equipment at the end of their shift so tools can be cleaned and dried. Mop heads should be returned to a designated barrel so they can be taken to a laundry and cleaned. Before each use, make sure mops are completely  dry. Bacteria are not destroyed by laundry chemicals, but by  the hot air of drying. Even slightly  damp mops will harbor dangerous bacteria. The same holds true for squeegees or any other tools used in the cleaning process—make sure they are properly cleaned and inspected for tears, which can create places for bacteria to hide. 

Always remember: the best disinfectant is a clean, dry surface.

For more information on disinfection, sanitization and best practices for cleaning, check out our book “Microbiology for Cleaning Workers Simplified” in the ManageMen store. 

The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do to Attract and Retain Custodial Workers

What do employees what in a job, anyway? Custodial managers often ask themselves this question when assembling a new team or filling a position opening. Finding good staff is difficult, because even in tough labor markets, turnover in the commercial cleaning industry is notoriously high—as much as 200 percent in some operations.  

In Facility Cleaning Decision’s 2018 Reader Survey, staffing challenges were one of respondents’ top areas of concerns. While respondents cited an average turnover rate of 15 percent, they identified numerous reasons for people leaving the department, including opportunities for better pay, limited advancement opportunities and the physical nature of the work. 

Stop for a minute and imagine that you just found out that several people on your team were currently looking for a new job. Would you do anything to help dissuade them from leaving? If so, what? As custodial managers, we can’t often set perks such as benefit programs or 401k plans, but there are a few carrots we can extend team members to incentivize and retain them.

To be clear, we’re not talking about Silicon Valley office style carrots either. Giving employees a place to take a nap or play video games isn’t a likely possibility in most custodial environments. But take Bain & Company, Gassdoor’s top place to work in 2019, as voted on by their employees. The one thing their employees say makes working at Bain so great? 

Its employee-focused culture. 

“The people are what make [Bain] special,” said one Bain employee. “Throughout my career, I can point to people who invested in me, helping me to grow and develop.”

What incentives do you have in place to keep your team motivated? Certifications, recognition programs and opportunities for advancements can incentivize workers.

An employee-focused culture means developing an environment that helps employees evolve both personally and professionally. It means thinking about how the work impacts them. It’s about not viewing them as cogs in the wheel, but as the wheel itself—necessary to move forward.

How can you create an employee-focused culture? It’s not as hard as you might think.

  1. Offer frequent training and certification. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report revealed that a shocking 93 percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. Training is one of the top ways to retain custodial workers, but it can also be one of the most difficult due to the diversity of our industry. Languages, disabilities and ages can all present barriers when training employees. Training programs that accommodate a variety of learning styles can help workers understand not just HOW to do the job, but why their jobs are important. Help them understand how to protect themselves during work and demonstrate a culture of safety. Consider offering a stipend for other training and/or certification offered beyond your organization, and think about micro learning opportunities, which do not require the time or commitment of traditional certifications.
  2. Provide opportunities for advancement.  Custodial work is often looked at as a transition position. “I’ll work as a custodian until I can get another job,” people say, or maybe they pick up custodial work as a second job to earn extra income in evening hours. What too many employees don’t realize is that they can have a great career—that pays well—in the cleaning industry. Through mentorship and managerial shadowing programs, you can give frontline employees a lens into some of the opportunities available in the field. Provide a clear outline of advancement opportunities so they understand what they need to do to get to where they want to go.
  3. Give Recognition. Frequently. From housekeepers week to environmental services week, National Custodian Day (Oct. 2, 2019) to Thank Your Cleaner Day  (Oct. 16, 2019), there are plenty of recognized events to recognize cleaning workers. But you don’t have to wait for an official day to give staff an applause for a job well done—something simple like presenting a star award for outstanding performance or highlighting a “worker of the month” can help workers feel seen and appreciated.
  4. Balance workloads. It’s easy to give the faster, younger people on your team additional work that comes from a call-off or event, but that can create resentment over time. Employ a system to fairly divide work so that no one person or team bear the brunt of additional responsibilities. 
  5. Show you care. Sometimes, it’s the small things that go the furthest with your team. Remembering an anniversary, details of an upcoming vacation or checking in with them to see how their child is doing in school shows your team that you’re listening, and that you care. Encourage your team to share ideas and create opportunities for connection at the beginning and end of each shift so you have time to talk with one another.

Automotive mogul Lee Iacocca once said, “Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.”