Case study – Ergonomic assessment of office cleaning staff

Cleaning equipmentIssue: Manager concerned that the office cleaning staff had no training in correct manual handling skills in order to prevent possible injury. (None of the (Korean) staff spoke English, so assessment and training had to be facilitated by an interpreter.)

Step one: Ergonomic assessment of staff’s manual handling skills

After full assessment it was established that:

  1. Cleaning staff all worked full-time hours engaged in a variety of heavy and light cleaning tasks.
  2. Almost 100% of their work-time was spent standing and moving. Some kneeling and squatting was also noted.
  3. Some of the staff had pre-existing injuries, e.g.: chronic low back pain or knee pain
  4. Aggravating factors for both were lifting heavy buckets of water to mop, and emptying bins. Cleaning staff tended to work in pairs, allowing them to share heavy tasks.
  5. All staff were assessed in performing the tasks of mopping, vacuuming and cleaning low skirting boards. All staff were observed twisting and bending their backs during these tasks.
  6. Staff were not putting out any signage about slippery floors after mopping.

Step two: Recommendations

  1. Correct manual handling techniques for heavy cleaning tasks were explained and demonstrated to the staff. All were shown alternative ways to complete tasks by moving their feet more and keeping their backs more upright. They were also shown how to bend to reach low areas by squatting or extending one leg behind them.
  2. All staff then performed problematic tasks under supervision, to fine-tune their techniques.
  3. Staff were asked to monitor themselves and each other with these new cleaning techniques, in particular monitoring pain levels.
  4. Staff were encouraged to share or avoid any tasks causing pain, and to communicate such issues to their supervisor.
  5. Staff were also encouraged to transfer this newly knowledge to other environments and tasks e.g. when cleaning at home.
  6. A one-month then 6-monthly review of all staff was recommended.