According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, janitors and building cleaners experience a high number of nonfatal injuries requiring days away from work, over 42,000 in 2015. Cleaning managers have a responsibility to mitigate risk and protect their staff from preventable injuries. Here are the top 3 ways that cleaning pros are at risk of injury along with some practical prevention tips to improve workplace safety.
Occupations with high numbers of nonfatal injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work:
- Laborers, freight, stock, and material movers – 59,010
- Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers – 49,260
- Janitors and cleaners – 42,740
- Nursing assistants – 37,370
- Maintenance and repair workers, general – 30,020
1. Ergonomic Injury
Also called repetitive motion injuries or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), ergonomic injuries are common and frequently result in time away from work. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), these injuries can affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and even blood vessels.
“Workers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors at work, such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases a worker’s risk of injury.”
Heavy lifting and mopping make cleaning pros at risk for ergonomic injury.
Prevention: Conduct an Ergonomics Training
The good news: you can reduce ergonomic risk through training and awareness. When cleaning pros learn about the risks they face along with basic ergonomic principles, they can adjust their behavior and identify early warning signs. So start the conversation about ergonomics with your staff and brainstorm solutions together. (We love this story about how one university custodial team does warm-ups together before their shift.)
2. Chemical Burn or Inhalation
Cleaning professionals may be routinely exposed to harsh chemical concentrates that require dilution or mixing. Improper dilution or handling of these cleaning chemicals may result in rashes, burns, or irritation of the skin, eye, nose, and throat. Improper mixing of chemicals can create volatile reactions causing physical harm. For example, something as seemingly innocuous as mixing together two cleaners containing ammonia and bleach can result in the creation of a toxic chlorine gas which can lead to severe lung damage or even death.
Cleaning workers are regularly exposed to toxic chemicals.
Prevention: Choose Safer Solutions and Ensure Proper Training
One way to protect employees is by choosing safer alternatives to harsh cleaning chemicals. For example, PathoSans technology creates safer non-toxic cleaning solutions onsite and on demand. For more information on safe and non-toxic electrochemically-activated solutions, click here.
If cleaning professionals use harsh chemicals, cleaning managers should provide training on the proper handling and storage of chemical concentrates. They should also give guidance on how to read chemical labels and material safety data sheets (MSDSs). Lastly, cleaning managers must provide training on personal protective equipment required by the chemical label. For more information on how to protect workers who use cleaning chemicals, please see this info-sheet provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
3. Slips, Trips, and Falls
Cleaning professionals frequently work on or around wet surfaces. They’re often tasked with cleaning up spills and keeping floors dry during wet weather conditions. This puts cleaners at increased risk for slip-and-fall accidents. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there are 11.3 slip and trip injuries resulting in a loss of work for every 10,000 janitors and cleaners.
Cleaning workers have an increased risk of slip-and-fall accidents
Prevention: Use the Right Tools and Procedures
Slips occur when insecure footing results in a loss of balance. Cleaning managers can prevent slips by clearly defining spill response and wet weather cleanup procedures. Wet floors should be cordoned off, and caution signs should be placed. Remember that dirty mop water makes a floor more slippery than fresh cleaning solution, so make sure to start with fresh solution and empty and refill when solution becomes soiled. To reduce risk of slip-and-fall injury, consider investing in floor cleaning technology that shortens or even eliminates dry time.
Trips occur when loss of balance results from contact with an object. Electrical cords are a common tripping hazard for cleaning professionals. To eliminate this hazard, consider investing in cordless cleaning technology. Be sure to keep work areas free from clutter.
Falls occur when a failed or missing support results in a fall on the same level or to a lower level. Falls from ladders caused 887 fatalities in 2017. Cleaning managers can prevent falls from ladders by simply eliminating the need for a ladder. Extendable tools for dusting and vacuuming high areas can keep cleaning pros safely on the ground instead of perched precariously on a ladder. For more information on the prevention of slips, trips, and falls, click here.
Learn how PathoSans can help make cleaning pros safer.