THE ECONOMICS OF ERGONOMICS IN COMMERCIAL CLEANING
The workforce is the backbone of the cleaning industry. They carry the load of a physically taxing job, and their bodies can suffer the consequences. But workers aren’t the only ones taxed by injuries at work. Work-related injuries cost employers nearly $60 billion a year, and one large claim can destroy a floundering company. The health of a contract cleaning business depends on the health of its workers.
So what can be done to prevent injury? Isn’t the stress and strain of physical labor unavoidable? Not once we understand the underlying science. Enter ergonomics. The field of ergonomics combines several sciences, such as psychology and physiology, to improve the interaction between worker and workplace. According to Wikipedia, ergonomics “considers the job being done (and) the equipment used – its size, shape, and how appropriate it is for the task.” With ergonomic tools and ongoing education, you may be able to prevent injuries before they occur.
REPETITIVE MOTIONS: THE SILENT ASSASSIN
The key to quality cleaning is consistency. However, consistent cleaning means repeating movements, over and over again. When a cleaner’s body absorbs these movements, repetitive motion injuries may develop.
According to EHS Today, repetitive motion injuries are a “more gradual, chronic development. They are injuries to the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, or spinal disc.” Repeating simple movements like kneeling and lifting may lead to any number of debilitating ailments. These injuries sap the workforce and slow a business.
Repetitive Motion Injuries Include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Ganglion cyst
- Radial tunnel syndrome
- Ulnar tunnel syndrome
- Trigger finger
ERGONOMICS PROVIDES RELIEF
According to ergonomic consultant, Steve Gray, most incidents are “100% preventable if the person is empowered with knowledge of the basic ergonomic guidelines.” When decisions are based on ergonomic data, small shifts can bring enormous results. Here are few common cleaning practices that can be replaced with a more ergonomic approach from Kaivac.
Wiping Down Toilets < No-Touch Cleaning
Kneeling down on a hard restroom floor to wipe off a toilet is both disgusting and uncomfortable. Workers face risk from repetitive awkward body positions and from exposure to restroom pathogens. Instead of kneeling to clean, a No-Touch Cleaning system addresses toilets and other restroom fixtures in a standing position with an indoor pressure washer and a powerful wet vacuum. Cleaners spray down restroom surfaces and fixtures, then vacuum up the spent solution, never having to touch contaminated restroom surfaces. While using the system, workers maintain an upright position, staying far away from restroom filth and cleaning chemicals.
Mixing Chemicals Manually < Chemical Proportioning
Manually mixing chemicals can be inaccurate and wasteful. Worse, if the user makes a mistake when mixing, they could face a dangerous chemical reaction. Chemical proportioning ensures the right amount of chemical for effective cleaning, eliminating manual mistakes. By using either preportioned chemical packets or a No-Touch Cleaning system with automatic chemical metering and injection, cleaners can also reduce their exposure to the chemical, helping to reduce the risk of injury.
Mopping < OmniFlex AutoVac
The age-old task of mopping is now understood to be an ergonomic disaster. While pushing and pulling a mop, both wrists flex back and forth, enduring sustained pressure and uncomfortable positions. These are the perfect conditions for a repetitive motion injury to form. Take the pressure off with the Kaivac OmniFlex AutoVac. While cleaning floors with the AutoVac, the cleaner maintains a straight spine and a neutral position of the arms and wrists. This lessens the risk of injury and leaves the cleaner with more energy at the end of a shift.
Harsh Cleaning Chemicals < Effective Cleaning with Water
For some tasks, chemical cleaners can be eliminated entirely. An independent NELAP-accredited laboratory conducted tests and found that a Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning system, when used with plain tap water only, removed more than 99.9% of targeted bacteria. This water-only method increases cleaning productivity while reducing the risk of exposure to harsh cleaning chemicals. When the situation calls for additional cleaning power, Kaivac systems minimize the amount of chemical that is required with precise chemical injection.
APPLY COMMON-SENSE ERGONOMICS
In addition to applying ergonomic tools and methods, frontline cleaners should also master basic ergonomic principles to help prevent injury. Management should educate cleaners about the risk they face and encourage them to bring symptoms to supervisors. When supervisors know about muscle tightness, cramping, or discomfort, they can take action to reduce them. Supervisors can also watch for awkward or sustained postures as cleaners work. If cleaners are slumping or hunching at work, a supervisor can take a moment to inform them.
STAND UP AND START YOUR PLAN TODAY
Ergonomic guidelines can reduce costs, increase productivity, and boost morale. An investment in ergonomic equipment today can help protect your business tomorrow. It’s time to aid your workforce and protect your bottom line by implementing an ergonomic improvement plan.
This article is part of our National Safety Month campaign. Click to read Four Ways to Improve Facility Safety.