Summer Moving & Cleaning
By Annette Satterly and Harry Cheff
The 2019-2020 school year is winding down for many staff members. For the maintenance and custodial staff, significant work is just beginning. There are several districts across the state where renovations are taking place. New schools are being or have been built, and staff is moving grade levels or between buildings. The custodial staff/janitors/engineers in every district will be stripping and waxing hallways, gyms, cafeterias, and other facility areas during the summer break.
Against this backdrop of change and necessary updates, the intent of this article is to shed light on the physical demands placed on the summer crews as well as to provide some safety reminders to staff going into the summer break. Although not an all-inclusive list, the following items and reminders should be considered in order to perform these critical summer duties safely and without incident:
- In many districts, the custodial staff removes all the furniture from a classroom in order to clean. This cleaning can include stripping and waxing the floors or shampooing the carpet. Depending on the District’s rotation schedule, walls may need to be wiped down or painted, and student and staff desks and chairs will be wiped clean. Windows, file cabinets, and bookshelves are likewise cleaned. Then, all the furniture is returned to the classroom. These types of cleaning chores put a great deal of stress on a person’s shoulders, backs, neck, arms, and legs.
- In addition to the classrooms, custodial personnel cleans the hallways, bathrooms, cafeterias, gyms, offices, and all the other areas of the school that need a good scrubbing. When doing so, they are using the same methods of cleaning used in the classrooms. Not surprisingly, MSGIA experiences an increase in strain- or injury- and repetitive-motion type claims due to this type of extensive and thorough summer maintenance.
- Staff who are moving to a different room or building need to make sure they pack their room and mark the boxes. However, given the possibility of costly claims, we recommend hiring a moving company to pack and move the staff, if the District can afford this optional expense.
To reduce or eliminate strain-of-injury and repetitive-motion type claims, here are some simple reminders for the custodial and maintenance personnel:
- Take some time to warm up and stretch before starting strenuous tasks.
- To prevent repetitive-motion type claims, break up the day. If you are doing the same motion for an extended period, remember to reverse or vary that motion. Another suggestion would be to break up the routine by doing other tasks that give that possibly overused set of muscles and joints part a break before returning to that job later.
- Remember, the best lift is one you don’t do at all! Ask for assistance when the load is heavy, or use a hand truck, desk mover, or hydraulic garbage can lift.
- If you can, reduce the amount of weight lifted by breaking the load down to manageable sizes.
- Make sure pathways are clear before moving items.
- The best position to lift from is in your shoulder-to-waist area. But if you need to lift from a lower level, position yourself by keeping your feet apart and squatting down as close to the object as possible. Bend your knees and keep your back straight. Keep your heels slightly off the ground and get a good grip. With your feet shoulder-distance apart, gently lift the object using your legs, abdominal and gluteal muscles, keeping the load as close to you as possible while lifting. Also, special caution is needed when lifting objects above the shoulder level. Get as close to the object as possible when doing so by using a sturdy step stool or ladder. And once you have the item off the ground and are carrying it to its destination, don’t twist; instead, turn your whole body when you need to go in a new direction.
- When stripping and waxing floors, be sure proper signage is displayed to warn staff, students, and community members who may be accessing the building before, during, and after working hours. To avoid costly claims when stripping and waxing floors, remember to wear slip-resistant boots, referred to as “Stripper Boots.” These boots can prevent nasty head, back, and neck injuries. (Given these various and necessary precautions that attend these particular summer tasks, we recommend that you contract out the stripping and waxing of the gym floor if your District can afford to do so.)
The time to avoid an injury isn’t when the injury often occurs but instead prior to undertaking the potentially dangerous activity. Further, the custodial and maintenance staff need to listen to their bodies, and they need to adequately stretch before beginning their shifts. They also need to allow time for muscles and joints to recover from the physical demands of a manual labor-intensive job. In general, they need to be reminded and encouraged to implement and practice the safety suggestions outlined above.
Districts that provide on-going training for staff experience fewer material-handling, repetitive-motion, and slip/fall type claims. MSGIA is available to provide training specific to claims related to your district, including stretches that will help prevent these injuries. Staff can also access the MSGIA website and view the Safe-Schools trainings available at http://msgia.org/safety-resources/training. Each district has been assigned its own Safe Schools page. We are also available to assist with accessing this information at the district. Return to newsletter