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Janitors and cleaners-also called building custodians, executive housekeepers, or maids-keep office buildings, hospitals, stores, apartment houses, hotels, and other types of buildings clean and in good condition. Some only do cleaning; others have a wide range of duties. They may fix leaky faucets, empty trash cans, do painting and carpentry, replenish bathroom supplies, mow lawns, and see that heating and air-conditioning equipment works properly. On a typical day, janitors may wet- or dry-mop floors, clean bathrooms, vacuum carpets, dust furniture, make minor repairs, and exterminate insects and rodents. In hospitals, where they are mostly known as maids or housekeepers, they may also wash bed frames, brush mattresses, make beds, and disinfect and sterilize equipment and supplies using germicides and sterilizing equipment. In hotels, aside from cleaning and maintaining the premises, they may deliver ironing boards, cribs, and rollaway beds to guests' rooms.
Janitors and cleaners use various equipment, tools, and cleaning materials. For one job, they may need a mop and bucket; for another, an electric polishing machine and a special cleaning solution. Improved building materials, chemical cleaners, and power equipment have made many tasks easier and less time consuming, but janitors must learn proper use of equipment and cleaners to avoid harming floors, fixtures, and themselves.
Cleaning supervisors coordinate, schedule, and supervise the activities of janitors and cleaners. They assign tasks and inspect building areas to see that work has been done properly; issue supplies and equipment; inventory stocks to ensure adequate supplies; screen and hire job applicants; and recommend promotions, transfers or dismissals. They also train new and experienced employees. Supervisors may prepare reports concerning room occupancy, hours worked, and department expenses. Some also perform cleaning duties.
Because most office buildings are cleaned while they are empty, many cleaners work evening hours. Some, however, such as school and hospital custodians, work in the daytime. When there is a need full-time janitors and cleaners and supervisors worked about 40 hours for 24-hour maintenance, janitors may be assigned to shifts. Most a week. Part-time cleaners usually work in the evenings and on weekends.
Janitors and cleaners usually work inside heated, well-lighted buildings. However, sometimes they work outdoors sweeping walkways, mowing lawns, or shoveling snow. Working with machines can be noisy, and some tasks, such as cleaning bathrooms and trash rooms, can be dirty and unpleasant. Janitors may suffer cuts, bruises, and burns from machines, handtools, and chemicals. They spend most of their time on their feet, sometimes lifting or pushing heavy furniture or equipment. Many tasks, such as dusting or sweeping, require constant bending, stooping, and stretching. As a result, janitors may also suffer back injuries and sprains.
Janitors and cleaners, including cleaning supervisors, held 3,168,000 jobs in 1994. More than one-third worked part time (less than 35 hours a week).
Janitors and cleaners held about 19 jobs out of 20. They worked in every type of establishment. One in 5 worked for a firm supplying building maintenance services on a contract basis. About 1 in 6 worked in a school, including colleges and universities. One in 8 worked in a hotel. Others were employed by hospitals, restaurants, operators of apartment buildings, office buildings, and other types of real estate, churches and other religious organizations, manufacturing firms, and government agencies.
Supervisors held about 1 job in 20. About 30 percent each were in hotels and hospitals. Others were employed by firms supplying building maintenance services on a contract basis, nursing care facilities, and educational facilities.
Although cleaning jobs can be found in all cities and towns, most are located in highly populated areas where there are many office buildings, schools, apartment houses, and hospitals.
No special education is required for most cleaning jobs, but beginners should know simple arithmetic and be able to follow instructions. High school shop courses are helpful for jobs that involve repair work.
Most janitors and cleaners learn their skills on the job. Usually, beginners work with an experienced cleaner, doing routine cleaning. They are given more complicated work as they gain experience.
In some cities, programs run by unions, government agencies, or employers teach janitorial skills. Students learn how to clean buildings thoroughly and efficiently, how to select and safely use various cleansing agents, and how to operate and maintain machines, such as wet and dry vacuums, buffers, and polishers. Students learn to plan their work, to follow safety and health regulations, to interact positively with people in the buildings they clean, and to work without supervision. Instruction in minor electrical, plumbing, and other repairs may also be given. Those who come in contact with the public should have good communication skills. Employers usually look for dependable, hard- working individuals who are in good health, follow directions well, and get along with other people.
Janitors and cleaners usually find work by answering newspaper advertisements, applying directly to organizations where they would like to work, contacting local labor unions, or contacting State employment service offices.
Advancement opportunities for janitorial workers usually are limited in organizations where they are the only maintenance worker. Where there is a large maintenance staff, however, janitors can be promoted to supervisor and to area supervisor or manager. A high school diploma improves the chances for advancement. Some janitors set up their own maintenance business.
Supervisors usually move up through the ranks. In many establishments, they are required to take some in-service training to perfect housekeeping techniques and procedures, and to enhance supervisory skills.
The occupation of janitors and cleaners is easy to enter because there are few requirements for formal education and training, turnover is high, and part-time and temporary jobs are plentiful. The need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force will create most job openings.
Employment of building janitors and cleaners and cleaning supervisors is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2005 as the number of office buildings, apartment houses, schools, factories, hospitals, and other buildings increases. Businesses providing janitorial and cleaning services on a contract basis are expected to be one of the fastest growing employers of janitors and cleaners and cleaning supervisors as firms try to reduce costs by hiring independent contractors.
New technology is expected to have little effect on employment of janitors and cleaners. Robots now under development are limited to performing a single cleaning task and may not be usable in many places, particularly cluttered areas such as hotel and hospital rooms.
Janitors and cleaners who usually worked full time averaged about $293 a week in 1994; the middle 50 percent earned between $219 and $401. Ten percent earned less than $178; 10 percent earned more than $527. Maids and housekeepers who usually worked full time averaged about $246 a week in 1994, with the middle 50 percent earning between $198 and $312. Ten percent earned less than $162 and 10 percent earned more than $407.
Cleaning supervisors who usually worked full time averaged about $361 a week in 1994; the middle 50 percent earned between $281 and $501. Ten percent earned less than $210 and 10 percent earned more than $686.
According to a survey of workplaces in 160 metropolitan areas, janitors had median earnings of $270 for a 40-hour week in 1993. The middle half earned between $206 and $374 a week.
Most building service workers receive paid holidays and vacations and health insurance.
Private household workers have job duties similar to janitors and cleaners. Workers who specialize in one of the many job functions of janitors and cleaners include refuse collectors, floor waxers, street sweepers, window cleaners, gardeners, boiler tenders, pest controllers, and general maintenance repairers.
Information about janitorial jobs may be obtained from a local State employment service office.
For information about education and training or starting a janitorial company, contact:
Building Service Contractors Association International, 10201 Lee Hwy., Suite 225, Fairfax, VA 22030.
For information about careers in executive housekeeping, contact:
National Executive Housekeepers Association, Inc., 1001 Eastwind Dr., Suite 301, Westerville, OH 43081-3361.
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