Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Get to know... James Petty

September 19, 2010
How did you start your career in the cleaning industry?

At an early age, I helped my parents continuously repair, remodel and clean apartments they owned in Sioux City, IA.

At 18, moving to South Carolina, I turned my experience into a career, cleaning at a local nuclear plant.

I found cleaning the plant to be interesting work, and I was soon decontaminating tools, equipment and areas.

By the time I was 25, I was managing about 75 onsite employees.

Recognizing that I didn’t have management skills strong enough to supervise the growing contract, I attended night school to complete a business management degree.

About 14 years later, the company I currently work with won the contract — which they’ve had for 10 years now.

Tell us about your current job.

In my current position as systems manager at Bartlett Nuclear, Inc., Plymouth, MA, I am responsible for three nuclear sites inside a 150-mile radius, and assist the company wherever needed.

My job includes writing training guides, conducting training, preparing proposals, and continually pursuing win-win opportunities to build partnerships with clients.

While Bartlett provides staffing services to the entire utility industry, the nuclear industry — including several Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Defense (DOD) sites — remains our primary focus.

How does maintenance/janitorial work at nuclear plants differ from other facilities?

Probably the most significant difference is that companies such as Bartlett deal with a fluctuating demand for resources.

For example, we may keep about 120 employees at each of the three sites I assist in managing, but during a scheduled outage — when the reactor is shut down for refueling, inspection and maintenance — we have up to 300 employees on site.

During outages, site staffing levels as a whole typically increase from 900 to 2,000 employees, which affects the cleaning staff tremendously. During these 30 to 90 days, the office cleaning team contends with much higher levels of traffic in areas such as restrooms and cafeterias.

Some of the maintenance work has a tendency to turn areas into what appears to be a construction zone, with oil-based substances covering carpeted and hard floor areas.

Another difference is security — including armed security officers, microwave intrusion systems, cameras galore, and about every kind of blockade device known. We enter the "protected area" through metal and explosive detectors.

Transferring equipment and supplies on site can present challenges; any cleaning product we bring on site has to be x-rayed.

Further, training of all personnel is ongoing: Office cleaning personnel must pass testing for plant access.

One of the unique aspects of Bartlett is that an individual can start as a cleaner and, in several years, advance through the ranks to be a senior health physics technician.

What occupies your free time?

I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife of six years and a daughter in college.

We all enjoy traveling, riding motorcycles, and boating with our friends when we have the opportunity.

Although we are not a couple that people would picture riding a Harley at the rally in Sturgis, SD, we plan to go back again in ’05.