Most of us hate having to perform house duties such as vacuuming, making the bed, mopping the floors and emptying bins, yet many of us have to do this on a weekly or daily basis.  Performing these house duties is probably one of the most challenging things to do when you have a bad back or neck and often can be the trigger for starting someones back or neck pain.

Most of us forget to adopt good postures or technique when performing these manual handling tasks and instead of squatting or kneeling to pick things up off the floor, we simply bend from the spine.  Other common movements that we perform when carrying out these tasks that increases our risk of developing a musculoskeletal strain and sprain is twisting and bending, over reaching, lifting or holding objects away from our body instead of close to our torso and getting into awkward postures to perform tasks.

Some of the more commonly performed house duty tasks where an individual is likely to aggravate or cause an injury include:

  • Vacuuming
  • Mopping floors
  • Making beds
  • Cleaning the bathroom
  • Emptying bins
  • Cleaning windows

When individuals are required to perform these tasks within a work situation, often the employer will have carried out a risk assessment of these job tasks to identify the hazards and risks.  Once these manual handling hazards and risks have been identified, safe operating procedures are put into place regarding the manual handling activities to reduce the risk of injury.

I encourage all of my clients to be aware of these the hazards and risks associated with performing these tasks and I will encourage each individual suffering from an injury to be mindful of their posture and how these tasks are performed.  Some simple things each person can do to reduce the risk of developing an injury whilst cleaning the house include:

  • Avoid bending or reaching for item at ground level and try to do the majority of manual handling between knee and shoulder level.  The waist level is often the safest place to be manual handling from because it is closest to our torso.
  • Avoid over reaching and/or twisting or bending the spine.  Twisting and bending are two movements that can trigger off a back injury.
  • Use two hands where possible to perform manual handling tasks.
  • Use two people for manual handling larger, heavier or awkward objects such as mattresses and couches.  The key with performing a two person lift is to ensure there is good communication during the manual handling tasks.
  • When pushing or pulling objects, use two hands where possible and keep the arms close to the body where possible.  Avoid twisting and bending of the spine during pushing and pulling tasks.  Use the legs where possible to help with force generation.
  • Use equipment where possible that will make it easier and better for the body when performing a task i.e. use a vacuum with an appropriate length handle.  Use a mop or broom rather than a rag to reduce the strain on the body.

Worksafe Victoria have produced some great guidance notes with images for all individuals and workplaces regarding how to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal strains and sprains whilst performing cleaning duties.

Worksafe cover the following areas with regards to cleaning:

  • Cleaning baths and spatubs
  • Mopping
  • Cleaning mirrors and tiles
  • Cleaning showers
  • Cleaning tables and desks
  • Cleaning toilets and urinals
  • Collecting laundry
  • Emptying rubbish bins
  • Making beds
  • Moving furniture
  • Vacuuming

To read these guidance notes, please click here.

This blog was written by Osteopath Heath Williams.  Heath is the director of Principle Four Osteopathy and Corporate Work Health Australia.  Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD 3000 leading Osteopathic clinics.  The clinic is located in the heart of the Melbourne CBD at 29 Somerset Place (near the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St).  Appointments can be made by calling 03 9670 9290 or booking online @ www.principlefourosteopathy.com.

Corporate Work Health Australia is a nationwide Occupational Health & Safety Company that provides ergonomic and manual handling consulting, risk assessments and training.  All of our trainers and assessors are registered osteopaths and physiotherapists.  To find out more about our services, please go to www.corporateworkhealth.com.

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