So, how do you create an effective cleaning inspection program? Two good methods come to mind: Electronic inspection programs and institution-generated protocols.

Electronic programs allow you to use a phone or a tablet to access a customizable checklist of items you can use as you go through your buildings and assess the level of cleanliness appropriate for your program. Many of these programs have the capability of sending inspection results to key people such as the head custodian, principal and even human resource departments. There are a number of reasonably priced, easy-to-operate, electronic programs available on the market today.

The other option is to generate an inspection protocol on your own that contains a simple checklist of your cleaning standards. This method allows managers to customize content for a particular time and place.

For a number of years, we used a paper checklist that the inspector would fill out. The inspection was usually carried out with the head custodian and the inspection findings were discussed with the principal so that any questions or concerns could be addressed. Then a copy of the inspection was left at the site.

No matter what type of form managers choose, consistency is the key to a successful inspection program. For us, unannounced inspections have proven important, as they give us a true picture of how the building is maintained. Constantly reviewing and evolving the programs has also helped.

Recently, our inspection program grew again. We now encourage our custodians to perform a monthly self-inspection of their building, using a checklist. They then email those results to the custodial inspector, who in turn, can target areas of concern on their own inspection.

Our form for the department-level inspector has changed, as well. The new form is done electronically and is no longer an itemized checklist.

As was always the case, the inspector takes the head custodian’s checklist and does a walk-through of the facility, checking for cleanliness issues. Now, however, the form better aligns itself with operational functions. For example, with subjects such as “relationships with faculty and coworkers,” we are able to target a custodian’s leadership abilities and help them address any deficiencies, thereby producing better overall results. This process affords the head custodian an improved means to observe and understand the level at which their building is kept, as well as giving supervisors solid documentation for our state-mandated annual evaluations.

Our inspection process has been a tremendous asset to our entire cleaning program. 

MERVIN BREWER is the Assistant Custodial Supervisor at Salt Lake City School District, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is also a founding member of Healthy Schools Campaign’s National Green Cleaning Schools Leadership Council. Mervin spent 26 years as a school custodian and for the past nine has been SLCSD’s district level supervisor. He supervises the internationally recognized integrated pest management program and holds a current state-certified pesticide applicator’s license. Mervin was responsible for developing a district-wide paper recycling program, diverting at least 45 tons of paper annually from the landfill. He is also past president of the Utah School Custodial Managers Association.

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Defining Cleaning Standards