Fixing What’s Broken in the Industry: Facilities Planning

Mr. Lonnell Parks, L.P. Janitorial and General Services, Owner.

Imagine this scenario. Your night shift team cleans the same restaurant every night after closing, between the hours of 2 am and 7 am. One night they show up to clean at the normal time, only to find the restaurant is being treated by pest control. Your team isn’t granted access to the facility; instead, they are turned away by the pest control contractor. The restaurant didn’t get cleaned that night, and now your contract is on the line.

Sound familiar? This situation, and a dozen other scenarios quite like it in all types of facilities, is all too common in our industry. Because cleaning was an afterthought for the manager of the restaurant—a job that isn’t seen or appreciated but just expected—nobody was informed about the scheduling of pest control.

The story has an ending. The cleaning team did eventually get access to the restaurant after a two-hour delay. They were able to get the job done, but as a result of the late start, they ran over. When the Chef showed up to start prepping, he slammed the cleaning crew because they weren’t done. Furthermore, he noticed the effects of the exterminator’s work (i.e. dead bugs). Not surprisingly, he complained to the cleaners. As is so often the case, the cleaning team took the blame for circumstances beyond their control.

Safety Concerns

Lonnell Parks with LP Janitorial and General Services has experienced this situation many times. He had a cleaning contract with a multinational, high-end restaurant chain that made it a habit of scheduling multiple service providers during his cleaning crew’s night shift. “The first time we showed up to that restaurant and a pest control contractor was spraying, it became a safety hazard for my team, who was breathing in those dangerous chemicals,” says Lonnell.

The problem didn’t end with pest control, either. “After a few weeks on the job, one night a different contractor showed up to set up their equipment in the restaurant’s kitchen,” recalls Lonnell. “It turns out this was a company hired by the restaurant to clean the grease off of the kitchen appliances, of which we knew nothing.”

Once they started spraying their degreasers, grease was everywhere, causing slip-and-fall hazards. Not only that, but the chemicals used in degreasing were hazardous to the health of Lonnell’s team members who did not have the appropriate PPE.

Lonnell spoke with the contractors himself to ask about their schedules and to work out a better, safer way for them to do their jobs. The restaurant needed to be informed about the hazards its lack of communication and advance planning were causing among contractors.

“Before we even signed a contract, we had a very specific timeframe so the restaurant knew exactly what time we were coming,” says Lonnell. “But as often happens, once we got started, it seems like the janitorial crew got the last say in everything.”

The TNKA Clean Way

Partnership and communication between the manager of a business or facility and the contracted cleaning company is absolutely essential. Had the restaurant manager in the story above simply mentioned to the cleaning crew lead, at a minimum of 24-48 hours prior, that a scheduled extermination visit had been arranged, the problem would have been avoided. The cleaning team could have planned to arrive later that night, with additional crew members, to get the job done in the appropriate amount of time. There are many ways we can work toward greater communication and planning in our partnerships, and it all begins with respect.

TNKA Clean Steps

  • Facilities must make sure that they are giving those responsible for cleaning a task schedule with frequency requirements for special requests, and a calendar of planned events, meetings and anything else that could affect their ability to clean. This information should be shared at a minimum one month out.
  • The process of communication could be as simple as creating, or granting access to, a shared building calendar, or it could be a more formal process outlined in a contract.
  • Facility Managers should take pride and allocate time in connecting and communicating with the designated Janitorial Lead. Coordinate a day and time to meet weekly, depending on the activities planned within the facility.  The meeting can be conducted via phone or e-mail and should include a review the calendar of events, discussion of logistics around those activities and a plan for what needs to be changed in the plans.  For example: If a press conference will be held in the main auditorium at 6:00 pm on Wednesdays, and the cleaning crew normally arrives at 7:00pm; this data should be communicated during their conversation and then options can be discussed.  The Facility Manager can request that the cleaning crew arrives early to clean that area prior to the press conference, or advise them to arrive at the same time but instruct them to clean that area last to ensure that it’s ready for the next business day.
  • Ask to be connected with other contractors that service their facility, to understand their needs and communicate yours when you are scheduled to service the facility at overlapping times or the same day.  

In a situation like the one described here, the exterminator should have been in communication with the cleaning team from the first time the appointment was scheduled. That would have helped the cleaning team to do its job protecting the health of restaurant workers and diners. And it would have had the added benefit of protecting the restaurant’s image and bottom line in the process. Nobody wants a dead bug near their food. If only the cleaning team was made aware so that they could have a plan of expectations, and extra manpower to avoid a nasty problem for everyone involved.

Common Problems in Other Facility Types

This kind of challenge crops up outside of food service, too. When Lonnell’s team cleans office buildings, he will often run into issues when construction and building repairs are scheduled. “We will show up one day and right in the path of the trash cans we need to move there will be roofing equipment and exposed nails everywhere,” he says. “It’s so important for any building to let their cleaning crews know when to expect construction so we can plan around that, and take the necessary safety measures.”

According to TNKA Ambassador Mija January, the lack of scheduling has caused problems in a Corporate Office Setting. “At the last office I worked at, I noticed that some of the offices of those of us who stayed late for monthly meetings and to meet regular deadlines, weren’t being cleaned,” therefore complaints were made. “When I put two and two together I realized that we stayed late toward the end of the month, after our staff meeting when we had deadlines to meet.” Therefore, those areas weren’t neglected, nor did the cleaning company fail to clean, the cleaning crew was being respectful of the employees’ work space and allowed them to continue without being disturbed.

Mija suggested to the office manager to inform the cleaning crew to push their start time from 7 pm to 9 pm, during the last week of each month, and to follow up with them periodically to get feedback on timing and office occupancies. With that quick scheduling fix, everyone won.

“In the end, it is all about understanding that service people aren’t mind readers and they can’t be expected to do their jobs with building occupants or other service people in the way,” says Mija.

The Clean Revolution Challenge: Take every opportunity to explain the importance of your work for protecting public health so that you are treated as a partner and not an afterthought.

Join the Clean Revolution and make the change. Let’s take action and hold our contracts and each other accountable to be better partners in the common cause to protect public health through better sanitation and cleanliness. These problems won’t go away on their own. Until we make them a priority, there will be scheduling problems, and even bugs in food from time to time.

Join us in the Clean Revolution. [Link to membership opportunities]