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Custodians are among the most underappreciated members of the workforce. Day in and day out, they work hard to make the office a usable space for every other worker.
But even though custodial tasks may look simple, janitors and cleaners face significant workplace hazards. They suffer an average of 50,000 injuries per year requiring days off from work and have the 16th highest rate of injury among all workers.
With such a high rate of injury, it’s time to talk about workplace safety for custodians. Here are three of the most common hazards your custodial staff faces and what you can do to protect them from harm.
Of the 8.9 million nonfatal occupational injuries in 2017 leading to days away from work, 26% of those injuries were related to slips, trips, and falls.
Unfortunately, custodial staff face an unusually high risk of these injuries because of the nature of their work. Wet surfaces and spills, especially when combined with improper footwear, are a recipe for broken bones, concussions, and sprains.
Since many custodial workers are tasked with mopping floors, this isn’t as easy to avoid for them as other workers (who can simply be told to avoid wet floors). The best solution for custodial staff is to pay attention to the essentials.
All of your custodial staff should wear well-fitted, slip-resistant shoes. They should also be trained to check for uneven surfaces or areas with objects scattered around the floor. For more office cleaning tips, and the benefits of applying safe cleaning practices, visit this article.
Your custodial staff is critical in maintaining a clean, sanitary workplace for the rest of your staff. Unfortunately, this also places them at risk of harm thanks to the cleaning chemicals required for the job.
There are two main risks here:
The best option here is to refer to the hierarchy of controls and eliminate hazardous chemicals or replace them with less harmful chemicals. If hazardous chemicals cannot be avoided, the next best option is to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as protective gloves and safety glasses.
In addition, your staff should only mix and work with chemicals in well-ventilated areas to minimize exposure to fumes.
Last but not least are overexertion injuries and ergonomic hazards.
Unfortunately, custodial work is not an ergonomic job by design. Tasks typically require long hours standing, heavy lifting, and bending in awkward positions. The cumulative effect of these movements (or a sudden movement outside your normal range of motion) is a significant strain on the muscles and skeleton.
The best way to address these hazards is to minimize activities that risk overexertion and poor posture. OSHA has ergonomic standards that can guide you, but a good place to start is to train your workers to work safer.
That means working with good posture, lifting from the legs instead of the back, and taking regular breaks to reduce strain.
Unfortunately, there are several other risks for custodians. Workplace safety for custodians is shaped by their work environment, and a custodian in an industrial warehouse faces different risks than a custodian in a law office.
The good news? We have solutions to protect workers across a dozen industries. Your workforce and the needs of your workplace are diverse, which is why we built solutions that can be tailored to meet your needs while still delivering the efficiency your EHS team needs.
Want to see how our software can help your entire workforce, from your custodial staff to your C-suite executives? Get in touch today to learn more.
Since 2009, the team at EHS Insight have been on a mission to make the world a better place. Join us by subscribing to our Blog and receive updates on what’s new in the world of EHS, our software and other related topics.
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