Slips, Trips, and Falls
Workplace slips, trips, and falls are common among housekeeping workers and others primarily due to exposure to wet floors. It's important to do the following to minimize exposure to slip, trip, and fall hazards:
- maintain floors in a clean and, so far as possible, dry condition, and mats should be provided where practicable;
- place warning signs for wet floor areas where they will be seen;
- immediately clean up floors that are wet, have spills, or are cluttered;
- use housekeeping procedures such as only cleaning one side of a passageway at a time;
- make sure good lighting is provided for all halls and stairwells can help reduce accidents;
- avoid undue speed, and to maintain an unobstructed view of the stairs, even if that means requesting help to manage a bulky load;
- eliminate uneven floor surfaces.
Ladders are often used by housekeeping workers in most workplaces. The frequent inspection of ladders is necessary to identify any that are damaged, need repair, or require disposal. To reduce the probability of housekeeping workers being injured by falls from ladders, employers should do the following:
- immediately remove ladders with defects from service. This includes broken or missing rungs or steps, broken or split side rails, corroded parts, or improper construction;
- ensure portable ladders are lashed, blocked, or otherwise secured as necessary to prevent displacement during use;
- ensure regular ladder inspection and reporting;
- provide warning cones or other warning devices to warn others while workers are using ladders; and
- train housekeeping workers on the safe use of ladders including the "Three-Point Control" method using only hands and feet to maintain stability.
Sharps and Containers
Housekeeping workers in healthcare may exposed to contaminated sharps and containers while performing tasks each day. Housekeeping staff in non-healthcare industries, such as those working in the hotel/motel industry or food service, may be exposed by accidental contact with contaminated needles, razor blades, knives, or other sharps while performing cleaning duties.
Healthcare employers should do the following to reduce the risk of exposure to sharps:
- implement work practice and engineering controls to help prevent exposure to sharps;
- dispose of contaminated sharps immediately or as soon as feasible into the appropriate containers that are closable, puncture resistant, leak-proof, and labeled with the biohazard symbol or color coded in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.1030;
- replace sharps containers regularly and make sure they are not overfilled; and
- train housekeeping workers in the proper handling/disposal of sharps and containers
Non-healthcare employers who employ housekeeping workers who have the potential to contact needles or other sharps, should:
- develop specific housekeeping procedures to prevent accidental contact with sharps;
- train housekeeping workers on the tasks, such as cleaning restrooms, and guest rooms that might expose workers to sharps;
- establish reporting procedures if housekeeping workers find, are exposed to, or injured by sharps; and
- implement safe disposal procedures.
During a training trip, I checked in to a motel room, and while checking the bathroom, I lifted the floor mat off of the bath tub and out flew an uncapped-needle and syringe. Luckily, I was not stuck by the needle, but I was still horrified and outraged. I immediately went to the front desk and told them what I had found, how upset I was, and demanded a new room. I also told them I worked for Oregon OSHA. They were happy to give me a new room. That's one incident I'll never forget. (Steve Geigle)
OSHA defines ergonomics as the science of designing jobs, equipment, and workplaces to fit the person. When effectively applied, it helps lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Click on the button below to see some examples of MSDs.
MSDs are injuries or disorders of the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and cartilage) and nervous system. MSDs include the following types of injury:
- pinched nerve;
- herniated disc;
- meniscus tear;
- sprains, strains and tears;
- hernia (traumatic and nontraumatic);
- pain, swelling, and numbness;
- carpal or tarsal tunnel syndrome;
- Raynaud's syndrome or phenomenon;
- musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases and disorders, when the event or exposure leading to the injury or illness is overexertion and bodily reaction, unspecified;
- overexertion involving outside sources;
- repetitive motion involving microtasks; and
- other and multiple exertions or bodily reactions; and rubbed, abraded, or jarred by vibration.
Janitorial and housekeeping tasks can cause ergonomic injuries if tasks are not performed correctly. For instance, some housekeeping tasks can put too much pressure on the discs in the back. Other housekeeping tasks can cause a lot pain in the neck and shoulders (e.g., irritated, swollen, or torn tendons).
Some examples of common housekeeping tasks that can cause ergonomic injuries to the back, neck, tendons, and muscles include:
- lifting, lowering, pushing, or pulling heavy mattresses, furniture, supply carts, or vacuum cleaners;
- twisting, especially while lifting supplies, equipment, furniture, or laundry;
- performing tasks requiring awkward postures such as while cleaning floors;
- bending at the waist while picking up objects or equipment; and
- prolonged repetitive motion using the same hand or arm while washing or dusting.
- increased grip force while using tools and equipment.
Reducing Ergonomic Injuries
To decrease ergonomic injuries when performing various housekeeping tasks, employees should:
- Alternate leading hands, if possible.
- Avoid tight and static grip and use padded non-slip handles.
- Clean objects at waist level if possible, rather than bending over them (e.g., push wheelchairs up a ramped platform to
perform cleaning work, or raise beds to waist level before cleaning).
- Use knee pads when kneeling.
- Use tools with extended handles, or use step stools or ladders to avoid or limit overhead reaching.
- Use flat head dusters when sweeping or dusting, and push with the leading edge; sweep all areas into one pile and pick up with a vacuum.
- Use chemical cleaners to minimize force needed for scrubbing.
- Frequently change mopping styles when mopping (e.g., push/pull, and rocking side to side) to alternate stress on muscles.
- Use equipment with wheels. Be sure buckets, vacuums, and other cleaning tools, have wheels or are on wheeled containers with functional brakes.
- Alternate or rotate employees through stressful tasks.
- Avoid awkward postures while cleaning (e.g. twisting and bending).
- Use carts to transport supplies rather than carrying.
- Use lightweight and adjustable equipment. Use buffers and vacuums that have lightweight construction and adjustable handle heights.
- Use equipment with trigger bars. Use spray bottles and equipment that have trigger bars rather than single-finger triggers.
Use Alternative Work Methods
Let's look at more best practices and methods while performing various housekeeping tasks.
Moving Supply Carts
- Store heaviest or most used items between your hips and chest. You have more body strength at this part of the body.
- Push carts using both hands. This keeps the body from twisting and distributes effort across both sides of the body.
- Empty trash from cart as often as possible. This makes it easier to push the cart.
- Align cart wheels in the direction of the movement. Carts with aligned wheels are easier to push.
- Replenish supply cart a few times over your shift. It takes less effort to push a lighter cart.
- Report cart problems to your supervisor. Repaired carts are easier to use.
Using Alternative Work Methods (Continued)
- Consider using different postures. Forward bending causes a twisted back; whereas, if you are closer to the bed, you won't be bending over.
- Regularly empty vacuum bag. It takes less force to move an empty vacuum, which causes less fatigue.
- Line up body with the path of the vacuum. If your body isn't lined up, it can cause stress to your shoulder and causes you to twist your back.
- Alternate vacuuming between your right and left hands. This will give your body a chance to rest frequently used muscles and body parts.
Using Alternative Work Methods (Continued)
- Stand inside the tub to clean wall tile. If you are outside the tub, you will need to stretch further.
That will cause stress to your shoulder.
- Keep dirty towels off the floor as much as possible. Repeated bending over to pick up towels from the floor
can cause muscle fatigue and stress.
- Do work at waist level as much as possible. Removing trash and replacing liners on the floor can cause back stress and fatigue.
- Alternate arms when cleaning surfaces. The demands of the task is spread to both shoulders and it also gives each arm and shoulder a chance to rest.
Keeping Yourself Injury-Free
- Wear comfortable shoes to work and do a few stretching exercises for your back, arms, and shoulders before starting
- Make sure you report any unusual aches and pains to your supervisor. You can also communicate ways you have found to make the job easier to your co-workers.