The Invisible Army

Source: WorkSafe Victoria

Marissa Deeble from WorkSafe's Prevention Strategy Division focuses on the safety of workers who perform cleaning tasks.

Have you ever thought about the safety of the workers who clean your workshop or office and why are they referred to as the invisible army?

Often we focus on the workers who perform 'high risk' tasks such as operating guillotines, presses, angle grinders and bandsaws. The workers who do the housekeeping (including sweeping, vacuuming and removing rubbish and waste product) or clean the machinery and equipment are equally at risk of workplace injuries.

Injuries can be caused by hazardous manual handling tasks, and machinery and equipment which has not been shut down, de-energised or isolated.

Examples of how these workers have been injured include

  • maintaining an awkward posture such as bending whilst cleaning floors (sweeping, mopping or vacuuming)
  • exerting high force to remove stains or spills on benches, floors, machinery and equipment or moving waste from the collection bin to the disposal bin
  • becoming entangled or crushed by moving machine parts.

Most of these injuries could have been prevented by:

  • providing equipment or mechanical aids to enable the worker to maintain a neutral body position
  • isolating or de-energising machinery and equipment
  • providing training and supervision on safe manual handling techniques and how to use or isolate machinery or equipment.

WorkSafe has guidance to assist you protect the safety of your workers who perform cleaning tasks including -

So, as you sit and consider how safe your workplace really is, make sure you also take account of the cleaning tasks and take action to make them safer.