Most people would not think of cleaning as a dangerous job. However, custodial workers and janitors have very physically demanding jobs that can cause them to suffer injuries and develop occupational diseases as a result. This is a very large industry and many workers risk injuries requiring them to take time off work and file workers’ compensation claims. According to the CDC, 2.3 million people are employed in the janitorial and custodial industry. This number is expected to rise to 2.56 million by 2020.
Causes of Custodial and Janitorial Workers’ Injuries
Custodial workers and janitors play a vital part in maintaining and cleaning just about any nonresidential building. These employees work in many different types of buildings, such as:
- Government buildings
- Day care centers
- Food service operations
- Retail stores
- Office complexes
The nature of the work janitors and custodians perform on a daily basis cause them to suffer many work-related injuries. Some of the causes of these injuries include:
- Repetitive motion. Much of what these workers do involves repetitive motion. They spend many hours each day bending, lifting, reaching, pushing, and pulling.
- Slips and falls. Employees work around wet and slick floors they have just cleaned and waxed. As a result, they can suffer a slip and fall accident. In addition, janitors and custodian perform maintenance work, like changing light bulbs or making minor repairs, and can fall from ladders or other work surfaces.
- Electrical shocks. Custodial employees work with electrical equipment, like vacuum cleaners, floor buffers, and power tools. They risk electrical shock—especially dangerous if around water or spills.
- Toxic chemicals. Janitorial workers are exposed to many hazardous chemicals in the powerful disinfectants, cleaning solutions, floor strippers, and other chemicals they use. They can be injured through skin contact or absorption or through inhaling aerosols, vapors, dust, and powders.
- Blood-borne pathogens. Workers—especially in hospital or other health care settings—can be exposed to blood pathogens that could cause them to develop life-altering diseases
Common Injuries Custodial Workers Suffer
The physical demands these workers endure take a toll on their bodies, and they can suffer many injuries or illnesses. Some of these include:
- Musculoskeletal disorders like strains, sprains, muscle tears, spinal and back injuries, and chronic pain
- Asthma and other more serious respiratory track problems that can cause life-long changes in the worker’s breathing abilities, physical stamina, and day-to-day activities
- Skin irritations and burns and eye damage caused by exposure to toxic chemicals
- Skin allergies and loss of skin pigmentation from the use of certain gloves
- Serious fractures and broken bones
- Traumatic brain injury and other head injuries
- Hearing damage caused by the use of loud equipment like scrubbers, polishers, and vacuum cleaners
- Sleep disorders caused by changing work shifts and night shifts
- Hepatitis B that can cause liver damage, Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV) that causes AIDs, and other blood pathogen diseases.
Ways Employers Could Prevent Workers’ Injuries
Sadly, many of these workplace injuries are preventable if employers took safety more seriously. Ways to prevent accidents include:
- Providing personal protective equipment and having workers use it
- Training workers in safety hazards they face and how to handle them
- Implementing procedures for prompt spill clean-up and the placing of warning signs in these areas
- Having workers wear non-slip shoes
- Using extension tools when possible to avoid repetitive stretching and awkward positions
- Using mechanical loading devices to prevent workers from carrying loads that are too heavy
- Teaching and having workers use proper lifting techniques
- Keeping the work pace realistic so workers have sufficient time to be safety conscious
Get Help If You Need to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Because of the nature of your work, you could become injured on the job and need to make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits to pay your medical bills and wages while you must take time off work to heal. Sadly, you may need to fight to obtain the benefits you need and deserve. Hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who understands the strategies of employers and their insurance companies can give you an advantage and can help you maximize your settlement. Start an online chat with me today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.