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Understanding Ergonomics and How it Affects Your Cleaning Business
By Steve Hanson

Ergonomics has been a “buzzword” throughout many office buildings these days, but it is an area that many in the cleaning industry have not addressed. Understanding ergonomics along with using ergonomically designed products and procedures in your cleaning business can prevent injuries and help your employees perform their routine tasks better and more efficiently.

The U.S. Department of Labor statistics suggests that of all types of labor in America, cleaning personnel were fifth most likely to be injured on the job. In the janitorial industry, many of the injuries that occur are muscle and joint pain and other related injuries. These injuries can be caused by the constant, strenuous activity that is placed on cleaning workers. Problems can occur as workers use awkward postures and positions that are sustained for long periods of time. Rinsing out heavy mops, washing down floors and walls, and lifting heavy trash barrels can strain the back, neck, shoulders and wrists. The problem intensifies as much of the work your employees do is repetitive.

So what is an ergonomic product? Ergonomic products are designed to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker to fit the equipment. The objective of using ergonomic products is to reduce stress on the body. Plus, using ergonomic products and performing cleaning tasks properly can help minimize injury.

By incorporating ergonomic equipment and techniques in to your business procedures, you can help your workers stay injury free and increase their productivity.

* When buying a vacuum make sure the handle is comfortable to the grip and conforms to the user’s hands. The vacuum should also be lightweight. Brush assisted movement helps reduce stress and makes vacuuming easier. The vibrations of vacuums is a risk factor as it affects arms and wrists. Large wheels help cut down on vibrations.

* Noise can cause fatigue and lower productivity. Look for quieter operating machines when purchasing vacuums and floor machines.

* Buckets and mops should be lightweight. Consider using a microfiber flat mop as they are lighter and easier to handle than the traditional string mops.

* Sprayers should have ergonomically designed handles that fit well into a user’s hand. Textured grips improve handling.

Cleaning workers should also be trained on how to perform cleaning tasks properly. This will help to minimize injuries. Following are a few key concepts to incorporate into your training program:

* When mopping workers should move their feet from side to side to reduce upper body strain.

* When cleaning, workers should stand upright and practice looking up – as opposed to always looking down at the surface being cleaned. Looking up will help to stretch the neck. Workers should also take breaks at regular intervals.

* Workers should bend at the knees, not at the back.

* A relaxed grip should be used when handling tools and equipment to reduce hand and wrist strain.

* Use carts to transport heavy trash. Bags should be lifted and put into dumpsters and not tossed or thrown.

The cleaning industry as a whole has been slow to improve on the ergonomics of cleaning equipment and in training their employees on proper cleaning techniques. Those businesses that do start to integrate ergonomics into their procedures will have a major advantage over other cleaning firms. Making a few simple adjustments in purchasing and training, will help your employees be more productive and contribute to the success of your business.

Steve Hanson is co-founding member of The Janitorial Store (TM), an online community for owners and managers of cleaning companies who want to build a more profitable and successful cleaning business.

Article Source: Steve Hanson

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