Departments that are ready to start the actual fitting process should begin with adjusting the harness to match the height of the worker. Typically, a screwdriver is all that is needed to set the harness into one of the available height settings.

“It depends on the machine and the length of the worker’s torso,” says Woodard. “You can be a shorter person with a long torso.”

The next adjustment that should be made is to the strap/belt that goes along the worker’s midsection. Custodians should feel as if the weight of the vacuum is resting on his or her hips.

The last basic adjustment should be made to the shoulder straps. This determines how far the backpack comes off the upper back of the custodian.

Ultimately, the weight of the backpack vacuum should be resting on the hips and not on the back, with the shoulder straps loose so the vacuum hangs slightly off the shoulders. The fitting should be to the point where the wearer of the backpack vacuum will forget that it is on his or her back, says Tim Poskin, president of Cleaning Management Concepts, a consulting firm in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“If you have it tuned in just right, then it becomes just a working part of your body,” he says. 

Once the machine is properly fit, experts recommend marking the harness with a piece of tape or a marker. This way the custodian will not have to go back and refit the vacuum each time they put it on. Instead, they adjust it according to the markings.

“If you have two or three people using the backpack, you will have two or three markings,” Poskin says. “It will save them time so they will not have to tug, pull and push to get it tuned in.” 

Trainers and managers should also help the custodian properly fit the wand after the backpack vacuum is fitted on the back. Many models have length-adjustable wands that can be extended or shortened, depending on the arm length and height of the operator.

“You don’t want to be bending over or holding the wand too low,” says Woodard. “You want to be in the most neutral alignment as possible for all of your movements.” 

The length of the wand should be, according to Merrihew, long enough so that the custodian does not have to stretch or reach, and short enough so the hose to the container on the back is not too excessive.

“When you have an excessive amount of hose, that hose has to go somewhere,” Merrihew says. “That hose will tend to hook on things such as desks or hit things and just becomes a general nuisance.”

Another aspect of fitting and using a backpack vacuum that should be taught is cord management, including the best places to plug it in and how to maintain control of the cord so that it does not get caught on fixtures, chairs and desk legs. Effective cord management can reduce work stoppages that tend to cause the custodian to remove the backpack vacuum more often and thus lead to the likelihood of more improper wearing of the vacuum. 

During the initial fitting process, the custodian should wear the backpack vacuum and use it for a short period of time to test the feel of it on his or her body. After 15 to 20 minutes, the worker should readjust the straps and harness, if needed.

“You want to be able to recognize if something feels different after about 20 minutes,” Woodard says. “If you feel something in your back after 20 minutes of use, maybe it needs an adjustment. Otherwise it could lead to discomfort and that could result in muscular skeletal injuries.”

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