How to reduce Housekeeping Injuries

Cleaning hotel guestrooms can be dangerous to one's health. This is the conclusion of a study commissioned by the Canadian Center for National Occupational Health & Safety. The study determined that:

  • Hotel housekeepers clean at least 16 rooms per shift.

  • A housekeeper can finish an average hotel room in 20 minutes.

  • A housekeeper changes body positions every three seconds, or approximately 8,000 times in an eight-hour shift.

  • The workload, classified as moderately heavy to heavy burns up approximately four calories per minute.

Because hotel housekeeping and other types of janitorial work involve repeating the same tasks repeatedly, the study also evaluated repetitive motion injuries (RMI) associated with cleaning a hotel room.

It found the main RMI risk factors in housekeeping to include:

  • Heavy physical workloads, requiring excessive body motions, which can result in back injuries;

  • Forceful upper-limb motions, often in awkward positions, that can result in shoulder and arm injuries;

The study suggested a variety of ways to reduce RMI injuries when cleaning hotel guestrooms. Doing so not only protects the health of the cleaning worker, it also reduces absenteeism and workers compensation claims.

The Center made a number of suggestions:

  • Rotate cleaning duties — making beds, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming — among two or three housekeepers. The important thing is to have each housekeeper do something entirely different with each rotation.

  • Use teams to clean guestrooms so duties can be more easily rotated and the work moves along faster.

  • Provide training on how to properly lift and move items as well as ways to reduce awkward movements and bending.

  • Use easier-to-use vacuum cleaners.

Because vacuum cleaners play such a major role in hotel housekeeping, finding ways to make them easier to use can reduce injuries significantly. The study suggested:

  • Using vacuum cleaners that are quiet, light, and with reduced vibration during use;

  • Machines that have comfortable handles, ergonomically designed to conform to the user's hand;

  • Are moderately self-propelled;

  • Include adjustable handles to better correspond to the housekeeper's height.

The study concluded that incorporating these suggestions, along with easier-to-use tools (and vacuum cleaners), workers could avoid unnecessary stress and motion, significantly reducing the possibility of injury to the back, shoulders, and upper limbs.

David Stanislaw is an engineer with Tornado Industries, manufacturers of vacuum cleaners and a wide variety of professional cleaning tools and equipment.

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