9 High-Risk Housekeeping Tasks

Janitors, Custodians, and Housekeepers are amongst the highest occupational groups at risk for injury. This is due to the physical nature of their work that often involves awkward postures, repeated motions, and forceful exertion. The following is a list of high-risk injury tasks and the best practices to reduce the risk of injury and increase productivity.

By Jameka Carter

Janitors, Custodians, and Housekeepers are amongst the highest occupational groups at risk for injury. This is due to the physical nature of their work that often involves awkward postures, repeated motions, and forceful exertion. The following is a list of high-risk injury tasks and the best practices to reduce the risk of injury and increase productivity.

Share these instructions with your crew to keep them safe.

Moving Trash Cans/Carts

The more supplies loaded on the trash can or cart, the greater the force needed to push. Pay attention to uneven surfaces. It can cause the barrel to tip over. If it tips, let it go to prevent any strain on yourself.

Lifting Garbage Bags from a Trash Can

It is so easy to injure yourself while lifting heavy objects. Heavy lifting becomes more difficult when the contents of the bag have been pushed down. Use a trash can designed with vents for easier lifting and less back strain.

Taking out trash

Moving Furniture

Moving and rearranging furniture involves forceful exertions for one person. Use equipment and devices to help move furniture or call someone for help to prevent serious back injury.

Carrying Buckets

Some jobs require lifting and carrying heavy buckets. With prolonged use, a thin handle causes significant contact pressure on the hand. Avoid heavy compression on your hand by padding the handle or using a handle with a bigger diameter.

Scrubbing

A worker who cleans floors by hand uses rapid and repetitive hand movements while kneeling, crouching, or crawling. There is also sustained bending of the upper body and neck. Use knee pads if you must kneel or use adjustable long-handled scrubbers with pivoting heads to avoid extreme reaches.

Sweeping

Sweeping floors may involve awkward positions of wrists. In addition, the back and neck are often in an awkward forward bent posture. Do not bend your back. Use lightweight brooms, standup dustpans, and lobby brooms. They allow you to remain standing up straight. If needed, bend your knees, not your back.

Making Beds

Housekeepers forcefully lift and hold each mattress corner with one hand and tuck in the bedsheet with the other. Prolonged and repetitive bending is hard on your back. Do not bend your back. Instead, bend your knees and crouch briefly.

High Dusting

Reaching up while holding a duster for long periods of time requires awkward and fixed positions of the arms, shoulders, and neck. This task can lead to pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, arms, and upper back. Stand at an angle and not directly under the dusting area for improved posture.

Not Taking Breaks

Working intensely and rapidly while in awkward postures, exerting force, and struggling to keep up with workload are factors often associated with an increased risk of injury. Take breaks every two hours to allow rest and recovery from physical exertion.

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Expert Interview – Increasing Floor Care Productivity

Jim Lety shares tips to save time and money on floor care.

Expert Interview – Increasing Floor Care Productivity 

The New Year often brings new budgets and goals for reducing costs while improving productivity. For January’s Expert Interview I spoke with Jim Lety, Dade Paper’s Regional Director of Janitorial Sales and a champion of productivity initiatives. With over 25 years of experience in the janitorial industry, Jim has held positions with distribution companies, national marketing organizations, chemical manufacturers and a floor equipment manufacturer. For the last 11 years, he has been part of the Dade Paper team progressing through the sales management ranks to a senior leadership role.

LC: What are the major changes that you have seen in recent years that impact facility managers?

JL: Microfiber technology has been a game changer in the cleaning industry. These specialized mop heads and cloths attract and hold soil, absorb seven times their weight in liquid, are not susceptible to quaternary binding, and can be washed hundreds of times.

Another important advancement has been in battery technology. AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) batteries are now used in auto scrubbers. They are safer, lighter, and more reliable compared to standard lead acid batteries. They also charge five times faster. Lithium ion batteries are now used in many vacuums and have eliminated the need for power cords which increases productivity.

LC: Saving time is a big factor.

JL: Yes, facility managers are now required to do more with less. They have additional square footage to maintain yet their budgets have been cut and they have fewer employees. That is their biggest concern today.

LC: What can they do to address that issue?

JL: Understanding proper cleaning procedures, including the use of power equipment, to increase productivity is paramount. I often compare floor care to lawn care. Lawn care companies have a trailer full of equipment and just two people in the truck. They complete each job quickly and move on to the next. Now think about a janitor’s closet. In most you will find a lot of mop buckets and wringers and if you’re lucky a walk-behind scrubber. But cleaning 15,000 square feet of flooring with a mop and bucket takes a very long time. It would be like a groundskeeper using scissors to cut grass. The answer is to increase productivity with proper education on the use of chemicals and the introduction of rider floor care equipment.

LC: That makes sense, but what about the cost?

JL: Rider equipment pays for itself. There is a minimum 20% increase in productivity compared to a walk-behind scrubber and 500% productivity increase over a mop. New models are available in smaller sizes as well. Micro-riders have the same foot print as a 20 inch walk behind. We have productivity calculators that can determine the ROI based on square footage, frequency of cleaning, and the hourly wage of the crew. It is an investment that really pays off.

LC: Sustainability is a hot topic right now. How does floor care fit into a green cleaning program?

JL: Manufacturers of floor care equipment have been tasked with creating equipment that fits into a green cleaning program. The use of orbital technology prevents cleaning solutions from “slinging” out, or spraying into the area being cleaned. This type of equipment also uses 50-70% less water and chemicals compared to conventional scrubbers. Chemical-free stripping is another process that is ideal in education and healthcare facilities where indoor air quality is critical.

LC: What is something a facilities manager can do today to improve their operations?

JL: Consult with a knowledgeable supplier about their challenges. There are many new cleaning technologies on the market today that can save time and money and produce better results. Also, never trade service for price. Expect both and partner with a supplier that provides the overall best value.

Jim Lety and his team are available to consult with customers about floor care and facilities maintenance programs. Jim can be reached at jlety@dadepaper.com.

Expert Interview – Hotel Laundry Solutions

This month, I interviewed Billy White, Dade Paper’s Director of Hospitality Sales. Billy is an expert on hotel laundry and housekeeping products and procedures. He spends much of his time working directly with hotel housekeeping managers, helping them improve their operations and elevate guest satisfaction. The appearance, softness and cleanliness of towels, bedding and table linens can make a big impact on overall guest satisfaction, so it is important to ensure laundry practices deliver the best results.

LC: How many years have you been in the business of providing solutions to the hospitality segment?

BW: I have been working in the hospitality segment since 1976, so about 40 years. When I started in the laundry segment of the business, the majority of on-premises laundries were processing their linen with dry chemicals, that is to say powders. Powders were economical and effective. The problem was dosing. The operators were either pouring in too much, too little, or the product was not getting in to the wash wheel.

Right around this time, chemical suppliers started introducing liquid laundry alternatives. This allowed the operator to introduce the proper builders, detergent, bleaches, softeners and sours in the proper dosing at the correct formula time.

LC: So, procedures are just as important as the products?

BW: Absolutely. There are excellent products on the market but they must be used properly to be effective. As an experienced distributor, this is where we can help our customers.

LC: What are some of the challenges hotels are having today?

BW: Over the years, linen prices have risen dramatically. It is extremely important to get white, bright, soft, and pleasant smelling sheets, towels, pillowcases, wash cloths, etc. in one wash cycle. This reduces replacement linen cost, water, sewage, utility and labor costs. These costs represent 92% of the total laundry operations. The chemicals only represent 8% of the cost.

LC: What innovative solutions are available that can help operators reduce their costs?

BW: We have started implementing cold water washing cycles that reduce the temperature of the water to save on utilities. Also, using less water per cycle saves on water and sewage charges and shorter cycle times save on labor. New chemical formulas utilize neutral pH chemistry which does not harm the cotton fibers, prolonging the life of the linens. We have been able to save operators 30%-37% of their total laundry spend.

LC: What are some simple things hotels can do to make a big impact in a short period of time?

BW: The simplest thing is to provide training classes for laundry personnel in pre-spotting, sorting, loading and proper drying times. All of these procedures, when done correctly, save time and money and ensure the linens look and feel great.

Billy White can be reached at wwhite@dadepaper.com.  He is available to consult with all of Dade Paper’s current (and future) hospitality segment customers.