Health and Safety in Schools

02 April 2020
Health and Safety in Schools

Janitors and custodians represent one of the first and best lines of defense against illnesses. This is especially true for those working in facilities with vulnerable populations—schools, for example. These sorts of facilities require an extra degree of care and attention to detail because they can be breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria (the microorganisms that make us sick) that can be deadly to children. But what, exactly, should you be doing differently in a school environment versus any other? Let’s look at some basics.

First, you should be washing your own hands frequently. If you wear gloves, change them frequently. This is practical advice for everyone, but it’s doubly so for those of you cleaning in school buildings. You’ll be seeking out the places that microorganisms accumulate, so you’re almost certain to have them on your own hands or gloves. Without frequently washing up or changing gloves, you become another convenient vehicle for opportunistic microbes.

Second, understand that stopping or slowing the spread of viruses may require going beyond your school’s routine cleaning procedures. Schools and other communal buildings have what are known as high-contact or high-touch points—surfaces that are touched frequently by many individuals. These include light switches, doorknobs, desktops, hands-on learning items or toys, computer peripherals (keyboards/mice), and so on. Many schools only require that these surfaces be cleaned and sanitized daily, while disinfecting is reserved for areas like restrooms and locker rooms.

During cold and flu seasons, it’s vital that you clean and disinfect—not just sanitize—all high-contact points as thoroughly as possible. This will easily be the most time-consuming work on your agenda in the fall and winter months, but it’s necessary. Sanitizing doesn’t kill microorganisms as thoroughly as disinfecting and it only takes one germ to make a child or adult ill. Additionally, it’s important that you use cleaning products as the manufacturer intends them to be used, which leads directly to the next point…

Follow instructions on the labels of the products you’re using. Some cleaners, for example, can also be used as disinfectant. However, products that work in both capacities sometimes have separate directions for one use versus the other. Failing to follow instructions can greatly reduce the effectiveness of cleaning, sanitizing, or disinfecting operations. If teachers or administrative personnel in the building have access to your custodial supplies, make sure they understand when and where products should be used.

Finally, take precautions when handling waste. Don’t pick up used tissues or paper towels with your bare hands—either wear gloves to handle them or sweep them up with a broom dedicated to non-sterile waste. Wear gloves and a mask (when possible) when cleaning bodily waste like blood, vomit, or mucus. Take caution when clearing waste from cafeteria and break room receptacles, as partially eaten food scraps can turn a trashcan into a hotbed of germs very quickly.

The most important thing is to never be complacent when cleaning in a school building. Always follow best sanitary practices as exactly as possible; don’t skip steps that you think are redundant or unnecessary. Use common sense when it comes to disinfecting hard surfaces and handling waste. Understand that the landscape in school custodial services has shifted from cleaning for appearance to cleaning for health. Trust Gergely’s Maintenance King to meet all of your cleaning and sanitation needs.

View All Entries