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Ergonomics in Housekeeping

Dr Aditi Kulkarni, Consultant Physiotherapist and Ergonomist, Be Active Physiotherapy & Ergonomics Clinic, talks to Clean India Journal about the growing importance of Ergonomics in the field of housekeeping.

Day by day, the housekeeping industry is growing rapidly and is one of the major fields providing employment. Most of the housekeeping tasks are performed by human resources with the help of advance technology and machinery. For this reason, ergonomic training has become an integral part of housekeeping industry.

The employees working in this field are faced with serious musculoskeletal disorders due to prolonged working hours in the same posture, repetition in tasks, contact stress due to tools or postures, force and vibrations generating from machineries or using tools in awkward postures.

Ergonomics basically is a science of designing jobs, equipment and workplace to fit the person instead of forcing a person to fit the job. Throughout the day, every person in the housekeeping industry is using postures to be presentable and adaptive to the environment in which they are working or operating different tools and machineries.

Work tasks may vary from an employee using the computer in standing posture at front desk or the employees doing cleaning work in an awkward posture or just choosing right footwear at workplace. Everywhere muscles, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, nerves and spine along with other joints are in use for a prolonged period of time. If employees are not aware about best practices to perform tasks with the help of ergonomics and physiotherapy, ultimately they will land up in cumulative trauma disorders or as it is commonly referred to as Work- Related Musculoskeletal Disorders. These directly have an effect on the physical and mental performance of the employees and ultimately the institutions ends up facing losses on all fronts.

Some common postures that put unnecessary strain or stress on shoulder, knee, elbow, wrist and spinal structures are the reasons for Cumulative Trauma Disorders:

• Lifting heavy mattress
• Pushing or pulling heavy trollies
• Twisting to clean bathtub or mirrors or toilet
• Bending to lift various objects
• Cleaning bathroom or room floors with mops
• Dusting with long broom
• Doing reach-out movements
• Vacuuming in an awkward posture
• Putting on pillow covers

Due to all these there is unnecessary strain and stress on body. Initially the body tries to adapt, so one may or may not experience any symptoms. But later, there can be problems like:

• Nagging pain or tenderness at shoulder, neck or lower back that persists
• Muscular weakness or fatigue
• Reduced mental alertness
• Joint stiffness or reduced flexibility or reduced range of motion
• Pins/needles sensation or numbness in hands

Advantages of implementing Ergonomics:

• Makes housekeeping work easier by learning good postures to perform tasks
• Reduces discomfort or pain
• Lowers the risk of injury
• Helps to do jobs quickly
• Improves mental alertness & endurance of muscles
• Helps to keep musculoskeletal system healthy

Tips to avoid WMSD at workplace

• Warm up prior and post work
• Use proper footwear
• While bending, bend from knee
• Alternate the tasks
• Use both upper limbs to perform task
• Avoid reach-outs
• Avoid over exertion
• Maintain a healthy diet as per professional requirements
• Sound sleep; practice relaxation therapy

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