Massage & Bodywork

May/June 2012

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technique BODYREADING THE MERIDIANS | @WORK | ESSENTIAL SKILLS | MYOFASCIAL TECHNIQUES Cleaning up Housekeeping Worker Injuries By Whitney Lowe Most of us think of housecleaning as a chore— we reluctantly scrub the bathroom, mop the kitchen floor, and vacuum the carpets. For those who work as professional cleaners, the demanding and repetitive nature of this work results in an exceedingly high incidence of musculoskeletal injury. Few people really think much about the physical workload that goes into keeping a hospital, hotel, or other facility in optimum condition. Yet, it is through the difficult and dedicated labor of housekeeping staff that these facilities are kept up. Reports of workplace disability indicate that injuries to housekeeping staff occur at a very high rate compared to other occupations. While a wide variety of injuries may occur, sprains and strains are the most common (and apply to those in the janitorial field as well). The daily activities of a housekeeper include lifting mattresses, pushing carts, dragging vacuum cleaners across carpeted floors, and bending into numerous awkward positions to clean bathtubs. Housekeeping workers have the highest injury rates of any hotel workers, and their injury rates are significantly higher than many manufacturing jobs.1 Ironically, unlike other hazardous industries, there are no existing safety standards for hotel housekeeping workers. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health 1 Reaching across larger beds puts the back in a vulnerable biomechanical position and leads to frequent muscular injury. and Safety, "A housekeeper changes body position every three seconds while cleaning a room. If we assume that the average cleaning time for each room is 25 minutes, we can estimate that a housekeeper assumes 8,000 different body postures every shift."2 This is an enormous number of movements to perform throughout the duration of a work shift and points to the sheer physicality of this occupation. As with many professions, individuals come into these jobs with little awareness of the importance of conditioning it requires. Physical conditioning is also rarely emphasized in the workplace once the individual is employed. In addition to the extremely high biomechanical and physiological demands of housekeeping work, psychological stresses and poor health care compound the problem. Because there is such a high rate of injury in this occupation, one would assume that these workers are being adequately cared for within the workers' compensation system. However, that doesn't 104 massage & bodywork may/june 2012

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