The cleaning staff at the University of Agder do an invaluable job of keeping campus clean and free of infection.
“When UiA went into lockdown, some of us continued to work. There were some exceptions to the closure, such as necessary laboratory work, which required extensive cleaning”, says Aud Skripeland.
She is the senior cleaning officer at Campus Grimstad and heads a department of 14 skilled cleaners. They start work at 06:00, cleaning the main hall, Gata, auditoriums and classrooms, which must be ready by 08:00. Then they clean the hallways, toilets, offices, stairs and common areas.
“When the country went into lockdown, some of us still had to work. We didn’t know as much then as we do now, so it was a bit scary to go around and clean. We were also called when infected people had been on campus, and in those cases we knew that infected people had been around”, says Marianne Barth Tharaldsen.
Fortunately, there have been no cases of infection among the university's cleaners. That would have led to the complete closure of UiA.
“Without cleaning services, we have to close campus. The work the cleaners do is absolutely essential for us to be able to keep the university open, both for students and staff. This is critical to the operation of our campuses, regardless of the pandemic”, says Director of Finance and Campus Management Kjetil Hellang.
The cleaning regime is more extensive now as a result of the pandemic. All high touch surfaces, such as railings and door handles, are thoroughly cleaned. This is something they will continue with.
“The pandemic has really put hygiene in focus, and those of us who work in cleaning are especially aware. We will continue to be so even after the pandemic. It is also clear that handwashing has improved on campus. We see that the same amount of paper towels are being used now as before the closure, even with lower numbers of people. That is good to see”, says Skripeland.
They have also placed cleaning products in meeting rooms, which staff can use to disinfect surfaces.
“I have noticed that people focus more on hygiene, and they also notice the work we do. We are clearly appreciated, which is very nice”, says Sigrid Karina Egeland.
As a result of the reorganisation at UiA, the cleaners are now part of the Division of Finance and Campus Management, and Finance Director Kjetil Hellang is their new boss. On Tuesday 7 September, he, and acting head of section Ane Fiskebekk, showed up on Campus Grimstad at 06:00 to join the cleaning staff on their round.
“Seeing it like this has been an eye-opener. It is demanding work and great to see the pride the cleaners put into their work. In addition they are important for the social environment on campus”, Hellang says.