Ergonomic researchers consistently cite a lack of employee training among cleaning staffs with work-related injuries. Employers can ward off janitorial injuries by teaching employees proper mopping techniques. 

A common ergonomic mistake is holding the mop shaft too far in front of the body, which forces a person to bend over. This causes a person to grip the mop tighter, which causes additional strain. 

Besides making sure mop handles measure up to users, cleaning professionals say it is important to teach the “figure-eight” mopping method to employees.  Others debate that proper mopping techniques include side-to-side, then front-to-back motions. Regardless, these proper mopping techniques help keep the mop handle close to the body and keep elbows close to their sides. 

“The whole ergonomic theory is you don’t want people to extend their arms far away from their body,” says Silverman. 

Another mistake includes trying to cover too wide an area with one swing, says Zhang. Not only does this error reduce cleaning effectiveness, it also causes major back problems as users twist and contort to hurl the mop around. Consultants also recommend taking “mini-breaks” to reduce body fatigue. 

“When an individual injures their back, that individual is four times more susceptible to get injured again,” says Kerst. “It typically happens within 18 months.” 

The average claim is about $11,300 per incident. 

“It’s not just a cost,” Kerst reminds BSCs. “It’s a person.”

Since implementing proper mopping techniques and other ergonomic recommendations in 2011 throughout the University of California, Elton says one campus has experienced a 50 percent decrease in the severity of work-related injuries, and a significant reduction in missed work days (309 to 52). 

The system predicts a continuous reduction in workers’ compensation costs for janitors with ergonomic injuries, Elton says. 

Kerst says he expects similar trends to take hold in commercial cleaning businesses. 

“It’s working smarter, not harder — that’s ergonomics,” he says. 


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