Cleaning work can be dangerous. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of 800 private-industry occupations, cleaners are invariably in the top 10 when it comes to work-related injuries involving days away from work.
Frequently reported injuries include the following:
• Slip and fall accidents
• Muscular strain from lifting and bending
• Eye and skin injuries, often from working with chemicals
• Respiratory problems, often the result of working with chemicals and equipment
• Accidental exposure to electrical hazards or biohazards
And while there has been some progress in the past 10 years in reducing cleaning-related injuries, there appears to still be a long way to go to make housekeeping a safer, less physically taxing job.
To help in this endeavor, Impact Products suggests the following ways to make cleaning and other service-related jobs safer:
1. Administrators should review every step in a work procedure to see if there are ways to make the task easier and safer, reducing the possibility of an injury.
2. Similarly, identify and evaluate “at-risk” situations; at-risk situations could include lifting heavy objects, repetitive movements, exposure to chemicals, and poor indoor air quality; even working alone could be considered an at-risk situation in some cases.
3. With these evaluations complete, determine which tasks require the wearing of protective gear, such as protective eyewear, gloves, face shields, sleeve protectors, aprons, and so on.
4. If mopping (or refinishing) floors, workers should wear “grippers” over their shoes to help ensure traction.
5. When floor work is being performed, warning signs should always be installed around the entire work area; equally important, the signs should be removed once the area is safe to cross. Warning signs lose their impact if not removed once a potential hazard has been eliminated.
6. Workers should inspect all electrical cords before using any electrical device and, very important, be trained to never tug or pull on a cord to unplug the device.
7. Any blood or bodily fluids should be viewed as contaminated and treated as biohazards; if the housekeeper has not been trained on how to handle biohazards, he or she should not touch the contaminated area.
“Housekeeping is a very physically demanding occupation,” says Vicky Adams, senior category manager for safety, gloves, and foodservice products at Impact Products. “Understanding how injuries occur along with taking protective measures and using proper tools and procedures will help lower the frequency of injuries within the housekeeping industry.”