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Studies Find Custodians at High Risk of Injuries on the Job

Lifting, overexertion, and repetitive motion are top causes of custodian harm

December 20, 2019

A series of studies conducted on custodians who clean commercial offices in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area of Minnesota found the workers face high rates of injuries, Minn Post reports.

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities has published the federally funded studies since 2018 to learn basic information about custodial workloads and direct future research on methods to reduce injuries in the profession. The research was part of a contract agreement between several cleaning companies and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26. Although the findings come from surveying SEIU members, the research was completed independently of the union.

One of the studies found that 34% of surveyed custodians reported having at least one work-related injury within a year of the survey, with 16% being admitted to a hospital. More than 25% of the surveyed custodians reported missing workdays due to an injury. The most common causes of these injuries were overexertion and repetitive motion.

A second study found that janitors with more difficult tasks, such as lifting large amounts of trash, were more prone to injuries. However, it found that even custodians with less difficult tasks were a risk of hurting themselves on the job.

A third study looking at awareness of workplace compensation laws among custodians found large gaps of knowledge. More than half of the respondents did not know about Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) injury-report logs and most were not aware of workers’ compensation.

Another study noted that custodians can be challenging to research, as there is high turnover in the industry. Many of the workers are not native English speakers and may be undocumented immigrants who are wary of participating in studies or reporting injuries.

A safety program can create a secure work environment for your cleaning team. Learn how to create an environmental health and safety team in your company.

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