Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Letters to the editor

September 19, 2010
Editor’s note: A recent CM e-News Daily™ article (visit www.cmmonline.com, go to the archive search box and type in “janitor locked in”), filled with ironic twists to say the least, reported that custodian Harold Jones had a tough night — which turned into a weekend — at work one Friday at the Dutchess County Courthouse in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Jones was mopping the floor of a secure meeting room in the now quiet courthouse when the door swung shut, locking him in.


That was irony No. 1, getting “jailed” in the courthouse for doing nothing more than his normal job.


The unexpected “jail time” was no laughing matter for Jones who spent almost 60 hours trapped in the meeting room. According to a Poughkeepsie Journal report, Jones had no food, water or access to a restroom.


That was irony No. 2, a custodian who spends most of his time cleaning restrooms doesn’t have access to a toilet for two-and-a-half days.


The story went on to say that Jones didn’t have his cell phone on him, and there was no phone in the room.

Fortunately, the story had a happy ending as Jones was “rescued” by returning courthouse workers on Monday morning.

His employer, JanSan contractor Occupations Inc., was unable to explain how Jones could be locked in the courthouse over the weekend.


Initially, building security, too, was at a loss to explain why no one checked the area where Jones was trapped.


While the plight of Jones and this news flash did not prompt a recent
CM Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online™ bulletin board posting, it helped to put one particular previous posting in perspective. That posting, found below, questioned the once-popular JanSan industry policy of locking workers inside a facility while they were cleaning at night.

The posting sparked a number of responses. Here are some of the more interesting ones, edited slightly for space considerations and clarity:


Post:

By Charles Burrus:
2/27/2007, 7:27:42 p.m.
This is probably a naive question, but when property management has a policy to lock your people in the facility while performing your cleaning service, what are the arguments that can be tactfully presented to disarm this position?

Medical emergency and forced entry are the most obvious arguments, but is there anything legal or against union or OSHA policy which could apply?

Responses:

Kevin Carnahan:
2/27/2007, 9:16:46 p.m.
No need for the big regulators. The local fire marshal will have direct say. There have to be two open exits provided for all staff.

I have customers current and in the past that want to do this for concern of loss of valuables, not only by janitorial staff, but because of break-ins.

We do a couple of places like this; we charge an extra hourly rate. The cleaner waits to get out in the morning and takes the trash out.

No exits are locked. They just set door alarms.

One place we do is about three hours of cleaning, and about five hours of watching TV.

I guess we’re cheaper than the security guard company.

The employee there loves it — paid to watch TV — and the manager leaves the pool table open for him.

Charles Burrus:
2/27/2007, 10:42:49 p.m.
I appreciate the response — I never thought about the fire marshal. Our problem is each location requires an auto-scrubber and a propane burnisher (12 locations in all). We can do three locations in one night, but to invest in 12 scrubbers and burnishers, well, that’s a large financial commitment considering the possibility the contract could go sour for one reason or another.

Kevin Carnahan:
2/28/2007, 2:49:44 p.m.
Are you trying to do all 12 locations on the same night? Sounds like you have been subbed to do the work at Rite-Aids by a MMM. Any possibility of doing three locations per night (four nights in a row)? Or are you time-constrained and have to be at each location at closing? If you are the contract holder, which it sounds like you’re not, how about subbing out the remaining locations.

If you’re the sub, the cost is too high and unpredictable for the investment. If you’re the sub, more than likely the general contractor is having a hard time finding a service in your area that will meet those terms at all locations. You might want to offer up as many locations as you can handle.

Chaz Townsend:
2/28/2007, 2:52:37 p.m.
We have held contracts in some retail settings that required that our crews be locked in. As for emergencies, there was always an exit we could use should one come up.

Financially, to provide the equipment to each location is something I wouldn’t go for, especially if you feel the contract is not stable.

I would go to the contact person and see if something can be worked out. If not, explain to him you will need to charge him much more because of the added investment in equipment due to his requests.

Charles Burrus:
3/1/2007, 10:35:25 a.m.
Kevin & Chaz: I’m the owner of the janitorial company these stores have contacted to do the floors seven days a week. I don’t like the idea of having my people locked in any facility — that’s why we told TGI Friday’s to take a hike. When doing floors, I’ve always had a policy of having a minimum of two people as a “floor crew” in case one is injured or items have to be moved on the floor surface. If we could move about freely one store to another, an experienced floor crew could do three stores in one night eliminating the need to invest in additional auto-scrubbers and burnishers. Thanks again for the help — I’m open to all suggestions.



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