Before campus was shut down in March 2020, building service workers began the thorough cleaning of buildings. Almost a year after the beginning of COVID-19, they continue their efforts to maintain cleanliness.
Facilities Management at SIUE is in charge of construction, maintenance, transportation services and cleaning campus. After the pandemic began, it became more important for classrooms and frequently touched surfaces to be properly sanitized.
“What we do now, we did not do at this time last year,” Superintendent of Building Services Jheri Riedel said. “The pandemic changed pretty much … our procedures, the equipment that we use, chemicals that we use [and] our main focuses were highlighted differently than what used to be the norm.”
For the 60 building service workers, there are three shifts throughout the day: day shift, evening shift and third shift. Third shift will soon be divided between the day and evening shifts. Riedel said at the beginning of each shift, workers are assigned a specific building they will be working in. The day shift cleans faculty offices and public areas, evening shift cleans classrooms and third shift cleans other highly touched areas and works on other projects.
Riedel said they had been fortunate enough to have access to proper personal protective equipment and chemicals that are strong enough to kill off the virus.
“We were very lucky to have purchased two pieces of equipment that are called Clorox 360 and purchased 10 backpacks that are electrostatic,” Riedel said. “So what they do is they disperse the chemicals in a fine mist and then the chemical air-dries on any hard surface or anything it attaches to.”
Building service worker Jim Gillentine works the evening shift from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. He said each building service worker bids on a campus building to work in during specific days and times.
He said part of his daily tasks includes wiping down every surface that could have been touched throughout the day as well as making sure every classroom is stocked with masks and hand sanitizer.
“We’re having to make sure everything is constantly sprayed down with the cleaner that they’ve provided to combat [COVID-19] … tables, the desks, everything,” Gillentine said. “[The backpack spraying] is done every day.”
When campus closed after spring break, Riedel said building service workers didn’t have access to the equipment yet, so they started by cleaning everything by hand. Now that they have access to Clorox 360 and the backpacks, they are able to disperse the chemicals to more areas at a faster pace.
“We have three different chemicals that we use to neutralize COVID-19 and anything else,” Riedel said. “The chemicals that we use are specific to COVID-19, they pretty much kill any virus that they come across. A couple of them are actually hospital grade.”
If someone were to test positive after being on campus, Riedel would send a couple of building service workers to go to any buildings they had been in, using the backpacks, to spray down the areas surrounding where the positive case had been.
“If there is a room that has a known outbreak [the foreman] has to go in there with [the backpack] and spray it down and make sure it’s properly cleaned also,” Gillentine said.
Associate Director of Facilities Management Donna Meyer said campus would not be as clean as it is without the hard work of Riedel’s staff.
“[Riedel] and his staff did an awesome job changing gears and figuring out what they had to do and getting it done with no complaints,” Meyer said. “People just stepped up and did their jobs. From my perspective, it was very easy and they just took care of things.”
Director of Facilities Management Craig Holan said he agreed with Meyer. He said was happy with the way his staff overall has handled the pandemic.
“My staff is excellent. I have [a staff that], all the way from individual building service workers up through management, overall [have] a very good commitment to the campus and students and what the university’s mission is. I couldn’t be happier to have a staff like this,” Holan said.
After working at SIUE for seven years, Gillentine said that the pandemic has brought along a new learning experience for everyone. Riedel said the pandemic has brought their work a new form of appreciation as well.
“We were always in the background so to speak,” Riedel said. “This has given us the opportunity to bring cleanliness and safety to the forefront of people’s [minds]. I think before, people just took for granted the facility was clean, but this kind of brought a heightened awareness of how important building service workers are to the day-to-day operations of campus.”
For more information about Facilities Management visit their website.