End of Year Preparation and Summer Cleaning Safety

End-of-Year Preparation and Summer Cleaning Safety

- Kevin Bartsch Assistant Director, WC Pool Operations, Brenda Koch, Risk Management Associate, and Annette Satterly, Risk Management Associate


There is no time like the present to start thinking about summer cleaning.  While it is beneficial to have staff and students assist prior to summer dismissal with this preparation, it is equally important that critical injury prevention strategies and expectations be in place and clearly communicated. Some topics to consider are below. 

Lockers: Designate a locker clean out time and provide extra garbage cans throughout the building. Students tend to keep just one or two items and then sweep the remaining materials into garbage cans.

  • Encourage students to keep more materials, recycle what they can (i.e., keep the colored pencils for next year), and notify an adult when the bins are full.
  • Remind all staff and students not to overload the garbage cans.
  • Encourage students to remove their own stickers, tape, etc., that they have taped to their lockers.
  • If staff are required to removed stickers, tape, etc., from lockers and elsewhere in the school, please train them on how to properly use and carry razor.

Clutter: Clutter is your enemy.  Everyone needs to pick up as they are packing up to avoid creating hazards for others.

Critters and Plants: Staff should take home class critters and plants. The summer crew is busy with other chores and do not have time to feed, water, and clean up after pets, fish, birds, and plants. Also, creatures that encounter strangers after being alone for an extended period tend to be more aggressive. (The same is said to be true of extroverted administrators and guidance counselors. It’s evidently the opposite situation for introverted librarians and dining services staff.)


  • Consult with your custodial staff on how classrooms should be left. It may be helpful for teachers and students to move all the chairs and student desks to one side of the room on the last day, as moving one desk or chair is far easier than moving twenty. This time saver will allow the cleaning and maintenance staff to work through their summer cleaning tasks more efficiently.
  • If painting or other such tasks are necessary in a room, have the teacher cover items to protect them.
  • Make sure items in the classroom are properly stored so summer custodial staff can move and clean without objects falling and injuring them.
  • Large items such as teacher desks, heavy tables, and bookcases should be left for maintenance and custodial staff to move with the proper equipment.

Ladders: When taking care of projects above one’s head and out of easy reach, use the correct ladder for the job.  Please DO NOT stand on chairs, desks, tables, countertops, or any other makeshift device when handling end-of-the-year chores such as removing bulletin boards, taking down artwork, or dealing with other items hanging on or from walls and ceilings. Have ladders readily accessible for use.

Outside: Remind staff that if they are hauling items or working outside to be mindful of the elements – i.e., heat, electrical storms, hail, high winds, etc.— and the many risks they can present.

Clean the Grounds Day: Consider having a “clean the grounds day.” This will help remove items that may otherwise be projectiles when lawnmowers and weed eaters are being used.

Injury Reports: Be sure staff are aware of the accident reporting process, should an injury occur.


Custodial and Maintenance Personnel Summer Cleaning: Avoiding Summer Injuries

The summer break is when the maintenance and custodial staff begin the “heavy lifting” necessary for the deep cleaning and many deferred maintenance projects.  It is important to understand the physical demands placed on the summer crews and be proactive in helping them avoid injuries. 


Some items to consider are as follows.

General Cleaning Demands:

    • Classrooms: In many districts, the custodial staff removes all the furniture from a classroom and then cleans it. This can include stripping and waxing the floors or shampooing the carpet.  Depending on the district’s rotation schedule, walls may need to be wiped down or painted, and student and staff desks and chairs will need to be wiped clean. Windows, file cabinets, and bookshelves will likewise need to be cleaned, and all furniture will be returned to the classroom. 
    • Other areas: Hallways, bathrooms, offices, and all the other areas of the school also need good scrubbing and often use the same methods of classroom cleaning. 

Additional Tasks:

    • Additional tasks may include painting, electrical work, plumbing, window cleaning and/or installation, and minor renovation of rooms and/or offices, which may include removing carpets.  Maintenance employees will routinely change out ceiling light bulbs in classrooms, hallways, and gymnasiums.  Heating systems, including boilers, will need annual upkeep prior to inspections.

Primary Potential Injuries: (1) Strains and repetitive motion injuries due to stress on joints and muscles in the shoulders, back, neck, arms, and legs. (2) Falls, slips, and trips.

Groundskeeping Demands:

  • Mowing, weeding, and maintenance of sprinkler systems.  

Primary Potential Injuries: Injuries from flying objects and debris, cuts, punctures, and other non-categorical injuries.


Preventive Strategies to Reduce Injuries and Potential Claims:

To prevent repetitive motion claims, it’s best to break up the repetition. Suggestions include using reverse motions or, after a set amount of time, engaging in another task to give that body part a break and return to the original task later. Also, don’t twist with any task. Rotate your whole body if you need to make a turn.

To prevent strains, use a hand truck, desk mover, hydraulic garbage can lift, etc., and/or ask for assistance when the load is heavy. 

If physical lifting is required

  1. The best position to lift from is in the shoulder-to-waist area.
  2. If lifting from a lower level is required, keep your feet apart and squat down as close to the object as possible. Keep heels off the ground and get a good grip. Set your feet shoulder-distance apart and gently lift the object using your legs, abdominal, and gluteal muscles, and keep the load as close to you as possible. Bend your knees and keep your back straight. Special caution is needed when lifting objects above shoulder level. Get as close to the object as possible by using a sturdy step stool or ladder.
  3. Reduce the amount of weight whenever possible by breaking the load down into manageable sizes.
  4. Make sure pathways are clear before moving items.
  5. And remember, the best lift is one you don’t do! 

When stripping and waxing floors, be sure proper signage is displayed because staff, students, and community members may be accessing the building before, during, and after working hours.  To avoid costly claims, when stripping and waxing floors, remember to wear “Stripper Boots.”  That got your attention, didn’t it?

Wear appropriate PPE for each task and avoid taking shortcuts.

Try to mow and trim grass when no vehicles are in parking lots or traveling past the school grounds.

Always make sure staff are trained to use proper operational equipment procedures and to use supplies as directed on labels.

Be sure that expectations to adhere to safety precautions are clear and consistent.

Staff needs to listen to their bodies and allow time for muscles and joints to recover from the physical demands of a manual labor-intensive job. 

If you are doing any renovations that require disturbing building material, ensure that that material has been tested for the presence of asbestos before the project begins.

Be sure staff have adequate safety training including injury reporting, bloodborne pathogens/hazardous communication training, asbestos awareness, etc.

Be cognizant of time constraints. Work with your staff to establish a timeline and priorities, and revisit it weekly to address concerns and make adjustments as necessary.

Take time to recognize and thank your summer staff for the hard work they have performed. 


This list is not all-inclusive, and your district may need to address other areas of safety based on recent claims and trends.  We encourage the custodial, grounds, maintenance, and trades employees to attend the MSGIA regional trainings provided by the risk managers. More information will be sent in the coming weeks. Back to newsletter