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Many a time, newspapers have reported workers who get down to the drains for cleaning, choke to death. Parched fingers or feet, skin disease, respiratory disorders, damaged backs or knees… most workers are silent sufferers of these health ailments and more.

Lack of proper safety gadgets and low awareness levels are two of the major causes for housekeeping workers’ sufferings today in India. Safety norms differ from industry to industry and can broadly be devised for – hospital, industries and hotels.

Some of the basic tools for safety include:

Gloves: Different gloves are used for food handling, washroom cleaning, chemical handling, drainage cleaning and waste handling.

Mask: Especially in enclosed surroundings where there are chances of toxic fumes like in the sewer lines, chemical factories, cotton/textile manufacturing units, clean rooms, food industry, etc. Masks are worn for two reasons – for protection against breathing in anything hazardous and from spreading infection, especially while handling food.

Boots: While cleaning drainage lines, washrooms, chemical factories, etc., proper boots protect feet and legs from getting damaged.

Head gear: When cleaning a heavy engineering workshop, head gear protects the worker from any mishap. Similarly, a different headgear used in the food or pharma industry.

Besides safety gadgets, safety in handling equipment & chemicals and also proper posture while cleaning are equally important.

Between a quarter to a third of all accidents are due to lifting objects incorrectly. Bending over to lift an object is dangerous – remember you have to lift the weight of your upper body as well as the item you are picking up, says G4S Facility Management Manual. Injuries can include a fully or partially ruptured disk and /or ligament, tendon or result in muscle damage.

What can increase the risk?

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Bad posture due to cramped and restricted areas.
  • Heavy loads, twisting while lifting.
  • Repetitive lifting.

Points to remember

  • Bend your knees when you are lifting – this will help to keep your back straight
  • Push or pull objects close to you where possible – don’t reach over other objects to lift a vacuum, buffer, etc.
  • Keep load close to you when carrying
  • Be careful when pulling out plugs; this can combine twisting with bending
  • Seek help when lifting a heavy load and assess the weight of the load before you lift.

Finally, is it necessary to lift the load manually? Can you use mechanical aids or trolleys to lessen the load?

Confined Spaces

Oxygen is vital for our body – every breath of air we take in contains 21% oxygen. We use this to keep our organs healthy and alive. At least 16% is exhaled each time we breathe out.

At 19% we become sleepy and confused. At 17% the air is totally unfit to breathe.

So, if you ever have to clean a tank, a duct or have to use chemicals in any confined space or where there is poor ventilation, watch out for:

  • Lowering of oxygen level;
  • Accumulation of fumes from chemicals;
  • When entering the confined space, wear a harness with a rope attached. Remember that many fumes such as chlorine from bleaches are heavier than air, so there will be a greater concentration of them the nearer you get to the bottom of the confined space;

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