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Evaluating Housekeeping Cleaning Tools

The Problem

Those working in the hospitality industry have injury rates considerably higher than all other service sector employees.  Among hotel workers specifically, housekeepers experience the highest injury rates, and over 90% of those surveyed report having pain associated with their jobs.  This is due to a multitude of physical work demands.  Housekeepers must routinely lift heavy mattresses, push supply carts from room to room, vacuum carpet, and rapidly move, bend, and twist their bodies to clean bathrooms and dust furniture.  Although numerous work improvements had been proposed to reduce these work requirements, there was a lack of objective evidence showing their impact.

Action Taken

Housekeepers typically clean hotel room surfaces using a cloth, which results in movements across a wide range of vertical and horizontal locations.  The SRI-Ergonomics team studied the effect on back motions of using long-handled tools to clean bathroom surfaces (i.e., floor, bathtub, and shower walls) and to dust (nightstand and armoire) furniture.  The length of the tool could be easily adjusted to the preference of the housekeeper and its need for the task. 

A total of 12 female housekeepers who worked in a full-service Southern California hotel, wore the Lumbar Motion Monitor (LMM) as they performed these cleaning tasks.  The LMM is a wearable sensor that was developed by Ohio State researchers.  It tracks movements of the back in its three planes of motion and determines trunk position and speed required to perform the work.  Specific trunk motions are known to be linked to increased loading and subsequent injury risk to the back.

Each housekeeper performed all bathroom-cleaning and dusting tasks, using both their usual method and with a tool whose handle could be extended.

Outcome and Impact

Data from the LMM found that use of long-handled tools significantly reduced important trunk kinematic measures – forward bending of the back (sagittal flexion) and speeds when moving both side-to-side (lateral) and twisting.  This outcome was consistent across bathroom cleaning and furniture dusting activities.  In addition, the likelihood that these tasks would contribute to a low back injury (“LBD Risk”) also was significantly lower when these tools were used.

 

The findings from this effort were used as part of the successful efforts by Cal/OSHA to implement a statewide regulation to protect the health of hotel room cleaners.  Effective on July 1st, 2018, the State of California's Hotel Housekeeping Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention order was released.  It is intended to control the occurrence of musculoskeletal disorders to housekeepers working in hotels and other similar environments.