July 17, 2020

Essential Warriors: WSU's Custodial Services team keeps calm and carries on

While practicing social distancing and wearing a mask, Wayne State University custodian Pam Crigler sanitizes the College of Nursing's Cohn Building.

While the majority of employees continue to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, the Custodial Services team never entirely left. On May 6, they returned full force. 

Although they could have remained home, in March and April a handful of custodians volunteered to work so that police officers, researchers and others still reporting to campus wouldn’t have to empty their own trash and clean their areas.

“It was a scary time back then. There were a lot of things in the rumor mill in terms of how the virus spread and how long it lasted on surfaces,” said Terri Roberstson, a custodial supervisor who was one of those who volunteered to keep coming in. “There was a fear of the unknown; the whole world was fighting something we can’t see, so I’m really proud of those who were so selfless and thinking of other people.” 

When it came time for all custodians to return, they were still grieving the April 3 death of their colleague, Darrin Adams, from COVID-19.

“The department was shaken by Darrin’s death,” said Rachel Saunders, associate director of custodial services. “But they’ve been nothing but a strong, resilient group. Especially when they walked back into the unknown.”

Custodian Anthony Royal shampoos carpeting in the College of Education building. The goal is that every building will receive a deep cleaning and have special projects completed before fall that cannot be done as easily when occupied.

Upon returning to campus, the full department focused on emptying trash and tidying offices that were left unexpectedly and quickly. 

After that, every building was hit with a special high-touch-point disinfectant to kill coronavirus and other viruses. Special attention was given to door handles, desks, tables, glass surfaces and elevator buttons. The high-touch-point cleaning continues daily in buildings that remain open.

Otherwise, operations have changed significantly. While practicing social distancing and wearing masks, custodians now work in teams, assigned to new buildings and given more time to clean bathrooms and high-touch-point areas more than once a shift. 

The goal is that every building will receive a deep cleaning and have special projects completed — such as stripping and waxing floors, shampooing carpets, and doing low-and-high dusting — before fall that cannot be done as easily when occupied.  

“We are doing everything possible to make sure people feel comfortable and return to a safe environment,” said Nisha Grant, associate director of custodial services.

However, given the intense demand for cleaning during the pandemic, the new Facilities Planning & Management Campus Restart Playbook encourages all employees to take on the responsibility for cleaning and disinfecting their private office and all shared equipment before and after each use. Users of common areas such as supply and copy rooms, kitchenettes, or breakrooms share a responsibility to disinfect and sanitize high-touch surfaces.

Offices and units can request cleaning supplies through Custodial Services, labs through Science Stores and any special requests can be submitted to Procurement and Strategic Sourcing. 

Saunders, Grant, and Robertson say that they are proud of their team and how nice the buildings look.

“I think this whole situation has brought us a lot closer,” said Robertston. “A lot of us have worked together for many years and we’re a family. We are grateful to have a job, and it’s a good feeling to be working.”