56,000 Pounds of Force on Your Back. It’s Not Torture, It’s Housekeeping.

In honor of International Housekeeping Week, we would like to take a moment to recognize the professional housekeepers across the country working in hotels, hospitals, schools and many other facilities who maintain a cleaner, safer and healthier environment for us all. These professionals deserve the best safety and training services to maintain their health and productivity at work.

Few would say housekeeping is an easy job, but even those in the industry probably wouldn’t come close to guessing the heavy lifting it entails - try 56,000 pounds. Using a lumbar motion monitor, that’s how much force we found a housekeeper’s back is subjected to in the process of changing beds in just 18 rooms. We used this study, partnering with the Maine-based Olympia Hotel Management and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, to develop safety training for housekeepers that can help anyone avoid common injuries.

Take the guesswork out of your home or workplace housekeeping tasks by first asking yourself a few simple questions:

How heavy is this? Avoid lifting objects above shoulder height, especially heavy objects of more than 25 pounds. That means full heavy duty trash bags and even laundry bags, clothes get a lot heavier when they are wet. Keep weight in mind when purchasing appliances like vacuum cleaners and never move furniture alone, you’ll risk damage to both yourself and the furnishings.

Is there a better way to do this? “In general, the greater the force, higher the frequency, and more awkward the posture is while performing a task - the greater the risk of injury,” says our Safety Management Consultant Peter Koch. You should try to minimize twisting and reaching up or over, elbows going above your shoulders, bending your wrists, squatting or kneeling. Use proper tools like long- or short-handled scrubbers, dusters or sweepers as the job necessitates. Stand on a short stool to increase your height and decrease your overhead reach. Use towels or pads to soften the points of contact with hard surfaces when cleaning on your hands and knees.  

Where are the hazards? Be aware of power cords and wet floors as slipping and tripping hazards. Even in your own home, proper footwear is important to mitigate falling and objects falling on you. Always shut off and unplug appliances before unclogging or cleaning them. Make sure all plugs are three wire with an intact ground and do not smoke around cleaning supplies or in trash and recycling areas. Wash knives separately in a designated bin or bucket and use puncture resistant rubber gloves when washing glassware.

Where is my fire extinguisher and first aid kit? Make sure they are easily accessible, in working order and you know how to use them.

For more ergonomic housekeeping tips type "housekeeping ergo" into the search bar at the top of the page or visit the MEMIC Safety Director if you are a policyholder.