Nurses, doctors, firefighters – these professions may be the first that come to mind for who keeps our communities safe. But how often do we recognize the cleaning professionals working to slow the spread of infectious diseases? These custodians are frequently the unsung heroes of our daily lives, especially during the novel coronavirus pandemic. As labor typically makes up 85-95% of the cost of cleaning a building, it’s clear the cleaning industry depends on its people. With October 2 serving as National Custodial Worker’s Recognition Day, it’s an opportunity to promote employee morale and support cleaning professionals as they work to meet heightened expectations around cleanliness.

Recognizing the Courage of Cleaning Professionals

Custodians consistently deal with hazardous conditions while performing their jobs. In the early days of the pandemic, these hazardous circumstances worsened for cleaning professionals working to protect essential operations. As of March, they were part of the population at highest risk of being affected by the virus. In some hospitals, many custodial teams were working 12-hour shifts without adequate supplies of personal-protective equipment (PPE) due to widespread shortages.

Besides the added pressure of COVID-19, custodial teams cope with various challenges in their labor-intensive jobs. For instance, continuous repetitive motions associated with facility cleaning work can contribute to muscle strain and chronic pain. Additionally, custodians risk slip and fall injuries from wet floors or exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals.These risks increase as workers clean and disinfect more frequently to combat pathogens.

Transforming Recognition into Action

To give custodians the support they deserve while reducing employee turnover, managers can consider employing various strategies to empower and motivate employees. Consider the following steps to cultivate a people-focused culture:

  • Invest in training. With new pandemic risks like COVID-19 surfacing and new information continuously emerging, employees need regular training to help them safely clean and disinfect. Provide your cleaning staff with training during onboarding and throughout their tenure to keep procedures current and skills sharp. For every dollar invested in training, you’ll see a larger return on investment. Consider reviewing your training program annually to ensure consistency across your operations and identify ways to advance learning for your workers.

  • Prioritize worker safety. Focusing on safety can reduce injuries, limit “days away from work” cases and improve employee engagement. To protect custodians from chemical over-exposure, consider Design for the Environment (DfE) certified cleaning and disinfecting products and keep PPE well stocked. Opt for chemical concentrates using dilution control systems to help avoid harmful spills and incorrect mixtures as well as control costs. Additionally, seek out cleaning supplies like absorbent mops and floor care machines with effective squeegees that support worker safety by reducing conditions for slip-and-fall accidents.

  • Provide certification opportunities. Offer opportunities for certifications that will position staff members as experts on best practices for sanitation and disinfection. Courses such as the BSCAI COVID-19 Safety & Certification Program will provide in-depth knowledge on critical topics and assure customers that you follow the highest hygiene standards.

Empower your Cleaning Staff

As custodians continue to frequently clean and disinfect to slow the spread of COVID-19, managers can provide essential tools, proper training and recognition to demonstrate they value their workers. Organizations that make their employees feel appreciated and engaged can realize reduced employee turnover through a more people-focused culture.

For more information about innovative tools that allow your employees to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently, visit