Manual task injuries prompt WorkSafe inspection program

WorkSafe inspectors will visit government and non-government primary and secondary schools in Perth and regional areas of the State throughout the remainder of the 2017/18 financial year to look at safety issues with cleaners in WA schools.

WorkSafe Acting Director Sally North said the safety watchdog was conducting the inspection following an increase in the number of manual task injuries suffered each year by school cleaners.

“Statistics show that manual tasks are the most common cause of injuries to cleaners in schools in WA,” Ms. North said.

“Cleaners often work in awkward positions and many of their tasks involve heavy manual work, often within a tight time frame, so they are exposed to many hazards.

“The most hazardous manual tasks being performed by school cleaners are vacuuming, mopping, wiping surfaces, polishing, and moving rubbish, furniture, and equipment.”

The injury hotspots for school cleaners include:

  • Arms – muscle strains from lifting equipment or from repetitive cleaning actions;
  • Back – muscle strains from lifting, bending or carrying or repetitive actions;
  • Forearms/wrists – muscle strains from repetitive activities, fractures from falling or tripping;
  • Shoulders – muscle strains from lifting equipment or repetitive actions;
  • Knees – Joint and muscle injuries from slips and trips, muscle strains from kneeling, climbing and pushing or pulling equipment such as trolleys.
  • Legs – fractures and other joint and muscle injuries from slips and falls; and
  • Hands/fingers – lacerations from sharp tools and equipment, needlestick injuries, exposure to chemicals and heat and cold.

WorkSafe says inspectors will focus on priority areas such as manual tasks, electrical safety, hazardous substances and slips, trips and falls.

The inspectors will also look at other areas specific to the industry including-

  • Language or literacy issues – including ensuring that workers with English as a second language or low literacy skills understand training and instructions;
  • Working alone – school cleaners usually work alone and outside class hours such as early in the morning, so looking at whether there is adequate lighting, means of communication, safe parking and so on;
  • First aid – kits and first aid trained person available and emergency procedures in place;
  • Controlling infectious diseases – including handling needles, syringes and other sharps;
  • Hand-arm vibration – from using equipment such as powered scrubbers, buffers and polishers; and
  • Contact dermatitis – from coming into contact with substances such as acids, alkalis, oils, and solvents.

Inspectors will use a checklist to ensure consistency and will take enforcement action such as issuing notices if they find breaches of workplace safety laws.

WorkSafe has notified key stakeholders within the education cleaners sector about the inspection program, which will be conducted where and when the cleaners are actually working.

“These proactive inspection programs aim to provide employers with information on how to comply with workplace safety laws and help them to identify risks to the safety and health of workers,” Ms. North said.

“We firmly believe that raising awareness with proactive inspection programs is the best way in which to lessen the risk of work-related injury and illness.”

Further information on workplace safety and health and the checklist and OSH Newsletter for this inspection program can be obtained on the website at www.worksafe.wa.go

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