Musculoskeletal disorders (muscular aches, pains and discomfort) are the most common work-related ill health/ injury reported by cleaners.
Managing the risks effectively can significantly reduce the risk of work-related MSDs to those employed within this industry.
The term musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) describes a variety of strain, sprain, and overuse problems affecting the body's muscles, joints and nerves. The back, neck, shoulders and upper limbs are particularly at risk. Problems include everything from backache and slipped discs, to upper limb disorders, tenosynovitis, pain, numbness, swelling and tingling in the hands and wrists. These conditions are often caused or made worse by work activities.
Cleaning work is demanding and labour intensive. Many tasks involve using cleaning machines and heavy manual work, including mopping, wiping surfaces, polishing, moving rubbish bags, furniture and equipment, putting strain on the heart, muscles and other tissues. Cleaners are often required to work in awkward postures for long periods which may lead to long-term damage.
Cleaners work in buildings which are generally planned for other workers and not designed with cleaning in mind where issues such as access, the location of taps and storage facilities, and the use of unsuitable floor materials can also pose problems.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSW Act) requires employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees and to ensure that those affected by their activities are not exposed to risk. Health and safety law also applies to self-employed persons who create a risk for others.
Other legislation including The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 builds upon the HSW Act and includes duties on employers to assess and control risks.
Symptoms may occur suddenly, or there may be a more gradual onset often with initial tingling, then slight swelling or soreness, which may persist and gradually worsen.
Indicators of musculoskeletal problems in the workplace include:
Who actually does what will vary with the size of the organisation and whether or not cleaners are in-house or contracted. However the key tasks and responsibilities in various roles are as follows:
You have a legal duty to:
HSE’s Health and safety made simple site provides basic information on what employers must do to make sure their businesses comply with health and safety law.
In addition to their responsibilities as employers, in the tab above, contractors must also:
As a client you should:
Supervisors must be provided with suitable information, instruction and training to enable them to discharge their duties. Supervisors should:
Whether appointed by a trade union or by employees to represent them, you should:
You have a duty to take reasonable care for yourself and others who may be affected by your actions at work and to cooperate with your employer to allow him/her to comply with their legal duties. You should: