Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Preventing Ergonomic Injuries

Injury Types

OSHA defines ergonomics as:

“The science of designing jobs, equipment, and workplaces to fit the person.”

Janitorial and housekeeping tasks can cause ergonomic injuries, if you are not careful.

Some housekeeping tasks can also put a lot of pressure on the discs in the back, which are the “shock absorbers” between vertebrae.

Some examples include:

  • lifting or pushing heavy objects
  • twisting (e.g., cleaning tubs)
  • bending at the waist

Injury Types (Continued)


Other housekeeping tasks can also cause a lot pain in the neck and shoulders. (e.g., irritated, swollen, or torn tendons)

Some examples include:

  • scrubbing bathroom walls
  • cleaning mirrors
  • dusting
  • vacuuming

Risk Factors

There are several ways housekeepers and janitorial staff can experience muscle discomfort or joint pain on-the-job.

For example, forceful exertions, such as lifting heavy mattresses, pushing heavy supply carts and using vacuum cleaners can cause ergonomic injuries among housekeepers.

Awkward postures while cleaning the bathroom floors or tubs can cause problems as well.

Housekeepers and janitorial staff also can suffer muscle injures because they are doing so many tasks using the same hand or arm, such as washing windows and dusting.

Awkward Postures


Awkward postures can also occur with twisted, hyper-extended or flexed back positions.

Potential Hazards

Increased potential for employee injury exists when awkward postures are used when performing many housekeeping and janitorial tasks, such as mopping floors, leaning over to wash toilets, etc.

Awkward postures include:

  • twisting or bending over to lift
    • forces on the spine increase when lifting, lowering or handling objects with the back bent or twisted
  • lateral or side bending
  • back hyperextension or flexion

Other Hazards

  • More muscular force is required when awkward postures are used because muscles cannot perform efficiently.
  • Fixed awkward postures (i.e., holding the arm out straight for several minutes) contribute to muscle and tendon fatigue, and joint soreness.

Housekeeping Tasks

To decrease ergonomic stressors when performing cleaning tasks, employees should:

  • Alternate leading hand.
  • 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.
  • When sweeping or dusting, use flat head dusters 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.
  • Be sure buckets, vacuums, and other cleaning tools, have wheels or are on wheeled containers with functional brakes.
  • Alternate tasks 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 buffers and vacuums that have lightweight construction and adjustable handle heights.
  • Use spray bottles and equipment that have trigger bars rather than single finger triggers.

Using Alternative Work Methods


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)


Making Beds

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)


Cleaning Bathrooms

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 your shift.

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.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Stand _____ the tub to clean wall tile to reduce shoulder injuries.

2. Why should you push carts using both hands?

3. Fixed awkward postures contribute to _____ and joint soreness.

4. How often should you empty the vacuum bag to reduce fatigue?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.