Ergonomic concerns for housekeeping staff

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Previously on the SFC blog, we talked about ergonomic concerns for retail cashiers and potential solutions to the often-overlooked problems of that job. Another occupation in which ergonomic factors are often overlooked is housekeeping. Housekeeping staff are on their feet for the majority of the day and often have to maneuver in awkward positions as they clean hard-to-reach places. Long-term housekeeping work without a knowledge of proper ergonomics could lead to repetitive stress injuries or chronic pain.

Pain points
The University of California conducted research to see which daily activities cause housekeepers the most ergonomic trouble. The researchers found several areas that could use improvement. Using data based on the custodial staff throughout the University of California system, they were able to determine the six most troublesome tasks, which are, in order: trash removal, mopping, vacuuming, moving furniture, restroom cleaning and handling linens.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, housekeeping staff have the highest rate of cumulative trauma injuries within the hospitality industry. A cumulative trauma injury is one that occurs over time because of repeated actions – it can potentially build up over years without being noticed until it's too late. Housekeepers sustain these sorts of injuries most frequently in their backs, hands and wrists, and shoulders.

An overextended reach while vacuuming or mopping could cause chronic pain over time.An overextended reach while vacuuming or mopping could cause chronic pain over time.

Ergonomic best practices
According to California's Department of Industrial Relations, many housekeeping ergonomic issues can be prevented through proper training. Because many of the issues are caused by improper posture, staff can easily be trained to position themselves in the right way. For example, if a housekeeper is mopping a floor, they should avoid over-extending their reach to get into a corner. Instead, they should stand up straight and restrict their movements only to those that will not take their back out of an upright alignment. This is just one example out of dozens that could benefit housekeepers.

Wearing slip-resistant shoes will also keep staff from sustaining injuries on the job. Added cushioning in work footwear could reduce fatigue and make staff feel more comfortable at work. In the end, it all comes down to training and equipment – employers should take ergonomics seriously to keep their staff healthy and happy.

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