When a worker falls and hits their head or damages their back, we respond immediately since it is obvious there has been an injury. We are less prone to listen to workers complain about symptoms that may have occurred over time since we do not always connect the dots in cause and effect. You should always encourage your workers to report symptoms to you immediately and you should take prompt, documented response. This may require a medical exam or simply reassigning the worker to different tasks. 

It also may require re-training the worker so that they are correctly using the equipment or tool as it was intended. One example is that oftentimes a worker will complain that a backpack vacuum unit “hurts their back” and upon investigation of how it is being used, they are correct. Another point to consider is that if a worker simply does not want to use a back pack vacuum cleaner they will find some way to quit using it. Don’t set yourself up for failure and possible litigation when they claim “I told you so.”

Symptoms to watch for include:

• Complaints about constant fatigue. If the worker is coming in from a primary job to perform custodial tasks they may be overloading their system no matter how much they need a second job.

• Cold hands can be another symptom that a doctor may need to evaluate since many people are simple “cold natured.” The cold hands here are more to do with nerve damage.

• Swelling, numbness and tingling of hands or feet can be evidence of joint or nerver damage.

• Changes in skin color of hands or fingertips should be taken seriously.

• Weakness or reduced grip strength may not be just a sign of old age.

• Decreased range of motion may indicate the need for more exercise or a sign of injury.

• Aching, burning or shooting pain should be dealt with immediately.

Remember that every worker is different and it is very difficult to determine whether a person is injured or just developing a case. Always err on the side of caution. Please note the preceding is suggestive only since regulations will vary by government entity. It is highly recommended that reader consult with local SME (subject matter experts) on any safety related topic and use the preceding as a starting point. 

Go to www.osha.gov for more information or use a search engine for local and state regulations. Your comments and questions are always welcome. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean…


Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678.314.2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.