Custodial Services

The Assistant Director of Facilities for Custodial Services is responsible for the custodial operation in all St. Olaf buildings and manages the staff and custodial operations in all of the campus buildings. The custodial purchasing agent is responsible for purchasing, warehousing and delivery of all custodial supplies and equipment.  Problems with any aspect of the custodial operation can be called in to the Assistant Director of Facilities for Custodial Services at 507-786-3606.

This link, Custodial Training Manual Table of Contents, will take you to the pages that detail the Custodial Program of the college. It contains a great deal of material and is critical for our staff, and may be helpful for our peers.

Cleaning and Green Seal

The custodial group within St. Olaf Facilities is an important contributor to the overall success of St. Olaf. Their primary goal is to maintain the buildings in a condition in which they contribute to, rather than detract from, the ambiance for work, study, residence, and play. It is a simple idea. If the buildings are dirty, smell bad, appear grungy, they will definitely detract from the experience our students, faculty, and staff should be able to count on. We want space users to not even have to think about cleaning or maintenance issues.

Staffing is based on the kinds of spaces, finishes, and intensity of use that are found at St. Olaf. We have adapted the Custodial Staffing and Standards work prepared by the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers (most commonly known as APPA, an old acronym). The APPA project set four levels of cleaning, and then developed allowances for each kind of space at each level of cleaning.  The allowances say how many square feet of each kind of space a custodian can clean in an eight hour day for each of the levels.

We logged every non-residential space on the campus, assigned an APPA type to each, then specified that we would clean to APPA Level Two initially. Later, we went through the entire database and set some spaces to Level One. For the residence halls we worked at an allowance of residents per custodial FTE, and aim to have one custodian for about every 100 students. Some halls vary because of finishes or other conditions, but across all of our housing 100 per FTE is about right.

About 1990 a close look was taken at Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all facilities jobs. We quickly learned that many people were unable to pass pulmonary function tests necessary to use passive respirators – those that require a person to draw air through a filter media with their own power. This meant that those people would have to use Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR) if we continued to use the same processes and products.  PAPR devices work great, but they are cumbersome, restrict vision, and are costly. In addition, they have to be certified and be regularly tested for fit.

The best decision was to eliminate the products and processes that would require respiratory protection. An evaluation of all the products in use was completed, and a great deal of redundancy was discovered. Many products were re-called and the Material Safety Data Sheet books provided to the staff were culled to reflect the changes. Specific training on the Hazard Communication Standard required by the Worker’s Right to Know legislation was developed and implemented. Remaining products were evaluated and many changes initiated so that we could avoid requiring staff members to use respiratory protection equipment.

In addition, significant changes were made in design of capital improvements and capital renewals.  Life cycle costing was initiated, and a primary aim of finish selection came to be the opportunities any system offered toward eliminating maintenance chemicals. A flooring project in Thorson Hall is a great example of this work. It became research and led to the elimination of vinyl tiles that required stripping, waxing, buffing, and periodic spray buffing, in favor of quarry tile in corridors, and carpet tile in student rooms.  The quarry tile is cleaned with water and a neutral cleaner, and carpet tiles are extracted once a year.  An entire family of chemicals has been eliminated from the building and much better conditions were available for staff and residents. Our new buildings and major renovations are all going to this program.

During the process we also committed to using recycled paper products, and all of the paper hand toweling and toilet paper is 100% recycled with high post-consumer content.

This work continued, and by the early 2000s many of our products were Green Seal certified. Today, the very great majority of cleaning products in use at St. Olaf are Green Seal certified.

You can learn more about Green Seal at:

Green Seal says:

“We develop life cycle-based sustainability standards for products, services and companies and offer third-party certification for those that meet the criteria in the standard. Green Seal has been actively identifying and promoting sustainability in the marketplace, and helping organizations be greener in a real and effective way since 1989.”