17 Oct Common Safety Risks Janitors & Custodians Face
Top 3 Injuries
Employee injuries cost a company in additional ways besides higher workers’ compensation rates. You also need to replace the injured person, plus injuries can lead to lower productivity and morale amongst other workers.
Several injury types are very common for janitors and custodians. These are the top three and what you can do about them.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports around 46% of injuries leading to absence are to the back. Another 15% of injuries are to the shoulder. OSHA estimates musculoskeletal disorders costs employers between $15 and $20 billion annually.
Many employers now use a warm up program specifically for janitors and custodians, because it serves several worthwhile purposes. First, it moves blood to the muscles needed for work and warms the body. Second, performing a warm up increases brain/muscle communication to reduce the risk of injury since the muscles are better prepared.
Custodians and janitors deal with many chemicals and just one mistake can lead to an injury. Workers may mix chemicals incorrectly or they may not dilute them sufficiently. Either of these scenarios can lead to burns, skin or eye irritation, asthma, dermatitis and allergies.
Fortunately, employers can drastically reduce risk through proper training. Workers learn to read product labels, use chemicals safely, limit exposure, store chemicals safely, proper personal protective equipment use, the importance of a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), and proper chemical disposal.
Workers in healthcare facilities or working anywhere with exposure to blood are also at increased risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. For instance, janitors working in patient care, a physician’s or dentist’s office, or labs may perform tasks such as cleaning blood spills and handling infectious wastes.
OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens’ training is mandatory for these workers. It teaches workers how to limit exposure, the use of personal protective equipment, and what to do if they’re inadvertently exposed.
Employers must ensure workers adhere to safety standards through regular inspections.
Slips & Falls
Custodial work often involves washing, vacuuming and polishing using heavy equipment, and sometimes chemicals that can increase the slipperiness of surfaces. It’s not surprising that slips and falls are the third most common injury for janitors.
Ensure janitors have sufficient time to complete their work and they understand how to use power equipment properly. Buy quality mats for outside the lobby and inside doors to prevent water and dirt from entering the building. Ensure workers wear non-slip footwear as a requirement of their job.
Create a Safety Culture
Encourage your custodial staff to report potential hazards and make it easy for them to do so. They’re the ones working in these locations and they are the most likely to spot safety issues. A safety log and a well-placed warning sign can prevent injuries.
When your company improves in these three areas it will increase employee safety, however a comprehensive safety program addresses all risks. Combine your program with employee training and active risk management and the likelihood of lower workers’ compensation costs increases dramatically.