In addition to battery placement, backpack vacuum manufacturers are exploring the design and ergonomics of their harnessing systems. Some are actually taking their cue from the recent trends in hiking gear.

“Weight is transferred to the hips using a padded belt connected to the lower part of the backpack and secured around the user’s waist,” explains Morrison. “Shoulder straps keep the pack from twisting or rotating.”

While these harnesses help maintain balance and distribute weight equally to the body, staff should be trained appropriately to utilize these harnesses to obtain the maximum benefits.

“The biggest mistake most people make when using a backpack vacuum of any size is not adjusting the harness to fit them,” says Williams. “Unlike most upright vacuums, backpack vacuums need to be adjusted by the user. Most modern backpack vacuums have multiple adjustments that can be made to adapt to the user’s body type. The key is to use the waist belt to support the majority of the weight. This is where your body is meant to support heavy loads. Most people make the mistake of supporting the weight with their shoulders. This causes the weight of the vacuum to press down and shifts the user’s center of gravity, leading to discomfort and fatigue. All makes and models are different so it’s important to check the manufacturer instructions on how to properly fit the harness.”

Once properly fitted, there’s the correct way of using a backpack vacuum.

According to Rathey, “When vacuuming, the upper body should stay upright with little twisting. For maximum productivity without fatigue, the user should use a side-to-side motion, similar to how a windshield wiper works on a car.”

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) emphasizes the importance of training staff on how to properly fit and use backpack vacuums, including attachments.

In addition to harnessing, vacuum attachments and filtration are becoming more high tech. According to Bohlman, the newest trends in backpack vacuum wands include straight wands with swivel heads that help cover more area than the traditional two-bend wands. The goal is to improve worker productivity.

To minimize contaminants from the air, it isn’t uncommon for backpack vacuums to have four to five levels of filtration. Add to that high-quality paper bags or micro filters, which in some cases are treated with an antimicrobial inhibitor, and high-quality cloth bags, which are used around the paper bag, and departments have even more protection from redistribution of contaminants.

Motors are also protected by a foam filter media disk — just in case the paper or cloth bags get punctured. And, newer models use HEPA filters on the exhaust side to eliminate as much dust as possible from re-entering and contaminating the air quality of the building.

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