After proper fitting is achieved, the custodian should be phased in to using a backpack vacuum. They should begin with vacuuming for about an hour and then gradually work their way up to their full shift, says Griffin.

“This way it wont be a shock to their body and they get a chance to gradually use those muscles that are normally not used,” Griffin says.

Even after the initial fitting, workers should be encouraged to adjust the backpack vacuum to his or her comfort. Some departments even allocate time for fitting of equipment each day, according to Poskin, who also suggests installing full length mirrors in dressing areas and locker rooms so that cleaning workers can visualize how the vacuum fits and make adjustments accordingly.

“They can see how it looks and how it feels,” Poskin says. “The analogy that we use in our training is that most people have two or three different sized pants in their closet because sometimes you feel skinny and sometimes you feel not so skinny.”

Experts also suggest storing the backpack vacuums on hooks or shelves, at a level that allows the user to easily slip it on without having to bend over.

During training, the custodian should be instructed that improper use and fitting poses health risks and could lead to muscle strains, pulls, fatigue and major back and shoulder injuries. If it is not properly secured, it can also swing and damage monitors, printers and other valuable items, leading to expensive claims against the department.  Not to mention, if worn incorrectly, it’ll be difficult for staff to operate the equipment in the proper side-to-side mopping motion that is required for the maximum efficiency, Merrihew says.

“If the vacuum is unsecured and you start to use that swinging motion, the vacuum tends to move around a great deal and becomes very uncomfortable,” says Merrihew. “The result is they wont operate the vacuum with maximum efficiency because, [to make it more comfortable], they go back to the back-and-forth motion.”  
Ultimately, training in how to correctly fit a backpack vacuum comes down to building a positive culture with the cleaning staff.

“Going through this exercise,” Woodard says, “showcases that we care about our workers, their comfort and their safety.” 

BRENDAN O’BRIEN is a freelance writer based in Greenfield, Wisconsin.

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Steps To Strapping On A Backpack Vacuum