Back to School: The Importance of Custodial Training Programs

By Amy Milshtein

Back to School: The Importance of Custodial Training Programs

Custodial work is about more than cleaning. Janitors are the caretakers of our building’s interiors and exteriors. They provide a safe, functioning and attractive environment so the public can work, shop or learn seamlessly. If done incorrectly everyone’s at risk. Maintenance personnel encounter dangerous chemicals, hazardous materials and blood borne pathogens. They are at higher risk of developing asthma, repetitive motion injuries and slips and falls. That’s why custodial training programs are so important. A well-trained crew will do their job better, faster and stick around longer. Are you taking training seriously?

Ignorance Ain’t Bliss


A lot can go wrong–really wrong—in the custodial field. The National Education Association website tells a story about a custodian who left an aerosol can of gum freezing chemical on his cart during school. A student got ahold of the can and sprayed the chemical in his mouth, freezing his mouth and lungs. 

“It was a horrible day for all of us,” recalls Nancy Tooms, president, Kentucky Education Support Professionals Association in the piece. She insists that proper training could have prevented the incident.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers training in the handling of bloodborne pathogens, asbestos, hazardous substances and more. Yet according to a NEA ESP study fewer than half of support professionals receive regular health and safety training on hazardous waste removal or asbestos even though they face these issues every day.

Other training topics may be less dramatic, but just important to your staff and bottom line. Workshops on best practices ensure a variety of building materials are cleaned with the right tools and correct amount of chemicals. Classes on ergonomics, back safety and slip, trip and fall avoidance teach workers how to protect themselves.

The Value of Feeling Valued


Churn is a big issue for the custodial industry with turnover running anywhere from 50 to 400% a year as cited by Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine. A revolving door of workers is expensive for management, demoralizing for the whole team and potentially hazardous for the client.

A custodial training program, certification and the accompanying bump in pay enhances skills and performance but perhaps more importantly helps retain workers by proving that the work is important and valuable. Courses can come from professional organizations like ISSA or the Cleaning Management Institute or from product and equipment suppliers. Either way, training should be a consistent and repetitive for full effect.

Click here for more information on the importance of cleaning right.  

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Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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