custodians in Ontario

How custodians can prep before students return

Nine tips to manage work before the bell rings in September
Friday, July 29, 2016
By Robert Kravitz

Public and private schools will soon be reopening across Canada, welcoming millions of new and returning students. Retailers have already started to advertise back-to-school sales, signaling the tail end of summer. While the reality of school is slowly settling in for students, August is especially busy for custodians who have to begin preparing clean and healthy facilities.

Before the bell rings, cleaning professionals should remember their true purpose is to keep students and staff healthy. Improving the appearance of the school is usually a by-product of effective cleaning. To get work off to a clean start, there are other important items to consider before students shuffle in.

Think safety

According to Allan Gray, manager of food service, training and corporate accounts for Avmor, a Canadian manufacturer of professional cleaning products, there are some rules of “the cleaning road.” Wear gloves when working and change them frequently. Eye gear should also be worn, especially when cleaning restrooms, diluting cleaning solutions or working with powerful cleaning solutions, such as those used in floor care.

Consider a team approach

Many educational facilities section off cleaning with one custodial worker per area in what is known as zone cleaning. However, working in pairs, or group cleaning, is often faster, reduces worker fatigue, is more thorough and effective and translates into cost savings.

To implement this process effectively, divide the work up. One cleaning worker should be tasked with collecting trash, another with vacuuming, someone for general dusting, and one or two people for restroom cleaning. Group cleaning is often designed to emphasize specific cleaning duties, but many facilities do not need to be vacuumed every day. When vacuuming isn’t necessary, that worker should focus on high and low cleaning or high-touch cleaning, which refers to cleaning and sanitizing doorknobs and light switches. In 2010, Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, conducted a study at K-12 schools and found that the most contaminated site was cafeteria tables. Other germ-ridden areas included the computer mouse, restroom paper towel handle-areas and drinking fountains.

Review the scope of services

The scope of services is designed to provide information as to exactly what cleaning tasks are expected of each custodian. The scope, as it is often called, is essentially an agreement between you and management. Be sure it is thoroughly understood and up-to-date. Very often, the scope is not updated and may not refer to new cleaning technologies or practices. In such cases, this should be brought to the attention of management.

Review SDS

It is now required that employers review the safety data sheets (SDS) that accompany all cleaning solutions so that custodial workers are aware of how to use products safely. The SDS will also provide information on what to do in an emergency and whom to call. You want to be familiar with this information.

Analyze your rolling office

The janitorial rolling office, otherwise known as a mobile cleaning cart, is meant not only to carry the necessary cleaning tools, but also to make a custodian’s job easier. A mobile cleaning cart is an efficient, self-contained cleaning system applicable for use in washrooms, shower areas, trash areas, foodservice areas and offices. It should be compact, easy to maneuver and allow for easy access to cleaning tools and equipment.

Determine where it will be used most. If mobile cleaning carts are frequently used in restrooms, they should include equipment to pressure-clean floors, and clean counters and restroom fixtures. This will significantly help improve worker productivity. Such a cart, however, is not necessary for general cleaning, where carts should have ample storage to help organize tools and supplies.

Organize the janitorial closet

Always view the janitorial closet as a reflection of you and your fellow custodial workers. The more clean and organized, the better you will look. Nothing should be left on the floor, and mop buckets and mop heads should be cleaned each evening. In regards to shelving, an effective approach is to colour-code the janitorial closet to address possible language issues and make sure that everyone understands where each of the products should be used. Red shelves could be for restroom cleaning products, green for products used in food service areas, yellow for floor and carpet care products and blue for all-purpose cleaning products.

Find an astute distributor

A janitorial distributor is the most important partner when it comes to cleaning and maintenance in schools. Select a distributor that is well versed in school cleaning needs and challenges, and make sure she or he works with a cleaning solutions manufacturer that is also proficient in the cleaning needs of educational facilities.

Power down

Many administrators are turning to cleaning workers to ensure that lights, electronics, HVAC systems and other power-using items are powered down after school hours or when not needed. To make sure this is done correctly, here is a technique some facilities use: Working with administrators before school begins, place a small green sticker on electronics that are to be turned off at the end of each day, a red sticker on those items that are to be left on, a blue sticker on those items that are to be turned off only on weekends and a yellow sticker on items that need authorization as to leaving them on or turning them off.

Get to know students and staff

Your goal is to be part of the school’s team. Getting to know students and staff helps you to accomplish this. Don’t be surprised if they start going out of their way to make your job easier.


Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning and building industries.

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