Color Coding for Health

Color coding is not just important for hospitals and assisted living facilities. How about schools, offices and factories? Is it any less important in those facilities to keep cleaning materials used in restrooms separate from those used in the cafeteria? Of course not!

  1. Contract cleaners can demonstate their ability to clean for health in a highly visual way
  2. School systems can identify the color coding system in posters placed where staff and students can see and support
  3. In factories where turnover in cleaning personel is high, color-coding assists in training
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Janitorial Near Top of Labor Department's Most-Injured List

The U.S. Department of Labor reports something worth noting in your cleaning regimen. Custodial workers end up making a lot of the insurance claims for work-related injuries in the United States. They rank fifth among all the worker groups identified by the Department.

The good news is, there has been a lot of attention paid to ergonomics, chemistry makeup and noise/decibel levels of equipment in recent years.

If you have a cleaning staff, chances are that your people costs are between 90 and 95 percent of your budget. Because workers compensation insurance is affected by your experience rating, you have a financial incentive to address when it comes to injuries. Many have felt these types of claims are simply to be expected and there is nothing to do about them. 

You probably can reduce these types of claims, while improving quality and speed of cleaning at the same time. Here are a few thoughts on the issue of custodian injury:

  • Jobs performed repeatedly or for long periods need to be investigated first in your cleaning regimen.
  • Weight of tools being moved in the cleaning process and the positions they require the body to remain in while working are two areas where you can probably make gains.
  • Custodian education about your efforts to improve their work processes almost always elevates morale and cooperation.
  • Some safety training is required to meet OSHA guidelines, but is not always practiced, particularly in smaller organizations.
  • New workers should be trained about Bloodborne Pathogens and receive Hazard Communications Act information and education before being released to work alone.
  • Poor and older designs of tools and equipment, harsh chemistry and loud machinery don't just lead to injury, they also cause fatigue. Fatigue leads to boredom, job dissatisfaction and poor performance. Investing in better design can have payoffs in job performance and lowered turnover.
  • When so much of your budget goes into people, it makes sense to equip them well. 

Options to Consider in your Mix:

Switch from string mops - Microfiber not only does a much better cleaning job, the mops are much lighter. They are designed to pick up dirt and germs instead of transporting water back and forth.

Use ergonomic handles - Many manufacturers have designed handles that help reduce strain, fatigue and allow for proper posture.

Incorporate improved chemistry - Many sustainable or "green" products are now outperforming their traditional counterparts while being safer to employees at the same time.

Low-decibel vacuums - Manufacturers offer quieter models now that are easier on hearing when used for long periods and less objectionable to building occupants, medical patients or assisted living residents.

Workers should be using appropriate PPE - which can include ear protection, eye protection, respiratory protection, hand protection and back support.

Grabbers save backs - Bending over to pick up trash can be reduced, saving fatigue and back use.

Back packs - Designed into mop systems and vacuums, back packs can reduce bending and fatigue.

Look for swivel mounts - Various products now incorporate swivel mounts, or provide them as adapters, so that the product does most of the turning instead of the custodian.

Extension dusting and window washing systems - can eliminate or reduce ladder use and climbing. Newer window systems allow for two-and three-story cleaning.

Risk Factors

Here are the top nine risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders listed by the University of Arizona department of Risk Management Services: 

  1. Forceful exertions - placing high loads on muscles or the skeletal system
  2. Repetitive motions - a class of injuries that result from long-term misuse of joints
  3. Awkward postures - body positions that deviate from the norm for repeated or long times
  4. Static postures - holding the same position for long periods, even a comfortable one
  5. Compression or contact stress - contact between sensitive body tissue and hard or sharp objects
  6. Lighting - inappropriate lighting that leads to vision problems
  7. Vibration - longer exposure to vibration can result in injury like numbness and loss of sensitivity
  8. Noise - in addition to contributing to hearing loss, noise can also distract and cause accidents
  9. Cold temperatures - workers in cold environments experience a host of elasticity and force exertion issues 

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