view of windows in study area at University of Washington

This is part two of a three-part article addressing worker ergonomics, improving cleaning processes and eliminating discomfort for custodians.

In order to find out if we succeeded in reducing task discomfort overall, we distributed a new survey. Following modifications and training in all four tasks, custodians reported an improvement in levels of discomfort.

The ergonomics team also discovered how essential custodian input, observation and participation are for the success of the program — along with the fact that all tasks are more complex than what is first apparent.

Once the grant ended in 2017, the team knew it only scratched the surface of reducing discomfort and preventing injuries for custodians. Because we were able to prove modifications reduced discomfort, we decided to continue the program using departmental funding.

Additional Improvements

As we move forward, we steadily nurture the ergonomic safety culture within BSD by involving custodians in weekly participatory ergonomic meetings. In addition to the top four tasks we addressed during the grant, we are currently implementing the following ergonomic and safety changes:

Waste/Recycle/Compost Handling: Staff experience pain in their shoulders and backs when tossing bags into Dumpsters using one hand, while also holding the lid open with the other.

Solution: Use props to securely keep Dumpster lids open. We also replaced select receptacles with easy-open Toters and waste handling carts that have doors (which eliminate the need to lift liners full of material).

BSD is also in the process of expanding its waste diversion program, which will help custodians avoid the repetitive motion of opening over 12,000 office doors and bending over to grab trash cans.

Key rings: Our custodians are required to carry a lot of keys, which causes constant weight and pain from traditional, heavy-duty key rings.

Solution: We provide lighter and sturdier key rings (also includes a built-in flashlight as a safety bonus).

Accident Prevention: On-the-job accidents are common, but many can be prevented.

Solution: A group of custodians developed a presentation on how to prevent slips, trips and falls and shared it with the entire department.

Surface Wiper: Staff had to stretch with their shoulders in order to clean difficult-to-reach areas.

Solution: Dual-purpose telescopic handles with a removable ball joint are used for cleaning surfaces such as white boards and elevator doors. Once the handle is removed, the ball joint becomes a handheld wiper to clean table tops.

Soap Dispensers: Replenishing liquid soap dispensers that fit underneath countertops puts strain on the entire body.

Solution: We switched to wall-mounted dispensers in over 50 restrooms that previously had countertop dispensers.

previous page of this article:
Reducing Cleaning Worker Injuries Through Improved Ergonomics
next page of this article:
Create A Culture Of Safety For Custodians