Some important safety considerations for work in the cleaning sector

Jul 07 2016

According to figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, upwards of 2.3 million people were employed as janitors and building cleaners as recently as 2014, with employment in the field projected to continue growing over the next decade thanks in large part to the growth of healthcare facilities.

While many people are drawn to work in this industry owing to the fact that it requires no formal education or work experience, it’s not without its drawbacks. Indeed, the DOL indicates that janitors and building cleaners must often work evening hours, and perform work that can be unpleasant, physically demanding and even dangerous.

Regarding the last point, statistics have long shown that janitors and building cleaners have rates of workplace injuries that are much higher than similarly compensated workers in the private sector.

As to the types of work-related injuries they are most likely to suffer, janitors and building cleaners are predisposed to everything from eye-related harm and back injuries to knee damage and hand trauma.

This naturally raises the question as to what workers in this profession can do to keep themselves safe and working.

Some safety tips offered by experts include:

  • Protective eyewear:  A significant number of the nearly 2,000 eye injuries that occur in the U.S. on a daily basis are caused by chemicals. Given the reliance of janitors and building cleaners on chemical cleaning products and the fact that protective eyewear can prevent up to 90 percent of these injuries, experts say it’s advisable to provide them with this safety equipment.
  • Hand protection: Statistics show that as many as 1 million people are treated in emergency rooms here in the U.S. for hand-related injuries every year, and that the majority of these injuries could be prevented by using simple hand protection like rubber gloves. Given this reality, experts say it’s advisable for janitors and building cleaners to be provided with this safety equipment.
  • Back injuries: Given that 46 percent of all cleaning-related injuries are back- related, and the physical demands placed on janitors and building cleaners, experts argue that it’s imperative for them to receive training on basic ergonomic principles and proper lifting techniques.
  • Footwear: Janitors and building cleaners frequently suffer injuries to the knees, back and neck in slip-and-fall accidents that occur while mopping or cleaning the floor in some capacity. As such, experts advise providing them with slip-resistant footwear.

The unfortunate reality is that no matter how much workers try to stay safe while on the clock, they can still suffer debilitating injuries. When this happens, it’s important for them to know that they can rely on workers’ compensation benefits and, if these benefits are denied, they can turn to a skilled legal professional.