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by Susan Scapparone

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a new normal for today’s facilities with safety, cleanliness, and hygiene now at the forefront of daily business operations. One key area of your facility to monitor closer than ever before is the custodial closet.

While we all know these closets are the backbone to any facility, now is the time to take a closer look at what’s going on behind closed doors. Creating an efficient, organized custodial closet is vital to maintaining a clean and hygienic facility. A tidy work closet not only sets the tone for how you would like the entire building to be cleaned but it also directly correlates to the overall professionalism and service level of your facility.

While you may already realize the importance of an orderly custodial closet, the space is often shortchanged and becomes a pain point for many facilities. Frequently, this area is a shared workstation with tight quarters. Like many small spaces, it easily becomes cluttered if you don’t have a good system in place. Start by using products, tools, and equipment that have clear labels and functional cues to help custodial staff quickly identify what they need to get in and out quickly. Remember, having enough space for inventory and equipment must be balanced with the need for safety, organization, and productivity.

Use these five tips for maintaining an organized custodial closet:

  1. Track inventory—Stay on top of your inventory. The less products you need in storage, the more organized your closet will be. Use color as a wayfinding tool to visually communicate product use. This makes it easier for cleaning staff to use the right mop, bucket, trash liner, and cleaning supplies for any job. Keep thorough details of all your supplies, equipment, and chemicals stored in the closet. This allows cleaning staff to know exactly what supplies are available and what needs to be restocked. Chemical solutions should only be kept in your closet in sprayers or secondary containers for up to a week.
  2. Maximize wall space—First, use the correct shelving. Install racks and wall-mount holders to organize your closet. Rack-type shelving helps improve air circulation. Organize products by type and usage with your most frequently used products in easy-to-reach locations. Store chemicals and paper products on shelves, not in boxes stacked on top of each other. All your supplies should be stored at least 18 inches away from sprinklers and smoke detectors.
  3. Organize your safety data sheets (SDS)—These records are crucial items in any custodial closet. But equally important is how they are organized. Your first step is to include a written hazard communication policy. This names the person directly responsible for maintaining SDS records. Second, outline how employees use SDS and what is expected of them to be compliant with Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) protocols. Third, keep a detailed inventory list or index of all material SDS information in the binder. Following these steps will put you on a clear path to efficiencies.
  4. Let your closet breathe properly—OSHA officials frequently inspect closets for proper ventilation. Double-check that your vents are clean and operate correctly. Dust buildup can block heating and air systems from operating properly. If your building is LEED – EB certified (existing buildings), your closets are required to have separate outside exhaust systems with no air recirculation in the closet or closet air mixed with the facility’s exhaust system. This will eliminate potentially hazardous or flammable situations.
  5. Train staff with proper protocols—Having a well-trained custodial staff helps keep a safe and organized environment with less accidents. If space is tight, consider organizing cleaning items in a caddy or cart. Require staff members to wipe down their carts with an antibacterial agent or disinfectant at the end of each shift. Make sure they frequently check for a working sink and drain for proper hand washing and water disposal. Also, have a floor drain with an overflow catch pan for easier elimination of waste materials.

As many facilities prepare for reopening during and following the pandemic, there will be a growing desire to ensure employees and customers alike, a safe and healthy building environment. While challenging, this also creates an opportunity for facility managers to move from being a service provider to a strategic change agent for safer work practices. As an industry, we should embrace this opportunity. It can all start with an organized custodial closet.

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