Janitors keep our facilities in tip-top shape and are often unseen. The safety hazards janitors face are unseen as well and can range from biohazards to slip and falls on the job.
Wondering what hazards come with the janitorial job position? Let’s take a closer look at some of the things janitors face every day, and how some of them can get prevented.
Topical Chemical Exposure
Chemicals are a necessary part of a janitor’s job. They use chemicals in every aspect of cleaning.
Yet, they are dangerous and can come into contact with their skin by splashing, spilling, or getting sprayed.
Chemical burns happen when strong chemicals come into contact with our skin, eyes, mouth, or nose. When a chemical has a corrosive property it can eat through the layers of the skin creating a burn, especially when not rinsed off right away with cool water.
The eyes, mouth, and nose are more susceptible to damage from chemicals because they are open areas. The skin burns easily but is not as vulnerable as an open area because it acts as a protective barrier.
Chemicals that can burn are usually acid-based. Potent chemicals such as drain cleaners, paint thinners, oven cleaners, ammonia, bleach can also burn the skin.
Inhaling Toxic Chemicals
Mixing chemicals without knowing the reaction can be very dangerous. Without even touching the chemical mixture you can sustain permanent damage to your eyes and lungs, it can even cause death.
Mixing certain chemicals creates dangerous gasses and can cause a variety of issues from fluid in the lungs to burning of the eyes, nose, and throat. Bleach should never get mixed with any other chemicals, especially acid-based chemicals.
Dangers in the Garbage
We throw all types of things in the garbage. Items that contain pathogens and bodily fluids such as tissues and sanitary feminine items.
We can limit the danger of our body fluids harming another person by disposing of things like that properly. Wrapping items in another container before throwing them into the garbage help by putting a barrier between your germs and another person.
Even our used plastic utensils from eating and straws and cups from drinking get covered with our bodily fluids. This can be a hazard to a janitor if they contain viruses or communicable diseases.
Coming into contact with these items with unprotected hands can transfer the bacteria from the garbage to the janitor.
It’s not just germs in the garbage that are a hazard. There are also sharp items such as glass, metal, and sharp plastic that can break through the garbage bag and cut whoever is handling it.
Heavy Duty Lifting
Janitors often life-heavy items and can injure themselves even if they are using a back brace and using proper body mechanics. Equipment, bags of garbage, and pieces of furniture are heavy items that are regularly lifted and can cause injury.
Musculoskeletal issues get caused by repetitive motions such as pushing or pulling and lifting heavy items. Janitors do a lot of repetitive motions and suffer from musculoskeletal issues that cause pain and permanent damage.
Applying ice or heat and using anti-inflammatory pain medications are short-term resolutions for musculoskeletal injuries. Surgery and physical therapy are treatments that may be done for serious musculoskeletal injuries.
Types of musculoskeletal injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, muscle sprains and strains, fractures, fibromyalgia. Some of these injuries are treatable, and some can only get managed with proper care.
Slips and Falls
Slips and falls are some of the most common safety hazards janitors face. Sometimes slips and falls can be a result of being clumsy or not paying attention but are often unpreventable.
Wet floors after mopping, or through spills they didn’t know where there are dangerous. And walking through dark areas with tripping hazards they can trip and fall injuring themselves.
To keep floors looking shiny, janitors will apply a wax coating to flooring and use a machine to buff it out. Until the wax gets buffed out it can be extremely slippery and dangerous.
Falls can also occur where it is uneven or loose flooring. Proper lighting and slip-proof footwear can help to minimize slips and falls.
Molds and Mildews
People who frequent a place of business or building may not realize that there is mold growing in the building. Yet, a janitor who is in charge of making sure that the facility gets cleaned and stays clean will definitely come into contact with the growths.
If there is a damp area, it can grow mold and mildew. The difference is that mold is fuzzy in appearance and mildew flatter.
Neither are really harmful when touched, yet can be very dangerous when the spores are inhaled through the nose or mouth. However, both mold and mildew can be harmful when inhaled especially if they are hidden and go unnoticed.
Biological Hazards in the Bathroom
The bathroom of any facility is one big biological hazard, especially for a janitor who has to touch every surface in there. Even if gloves are worn (which they should be) cleaning the bathroom is undesirable for anyone.
The sink area where everyone washes the bacteria off of their hands is obviously a biological hazard. They then drip it all over the sink, counter, faucet handle, and floor.
The toilets need to be cleaned and they are the biggest hazard of them all. Even the garbage and the door handle are biological hazards to janitors.
Covid-19 and Other Disease Contact
While we are all being mindful of what we touch and avoiding areas where other people have frequent contact, janitors have to touch those places. While they say that Covid-19 may not be spread from touching surfaces that an infected person has touched, we can’t be sure of that.
In addition to Covid-19, there are plenty of other illnesses that can be spread from contact with an infected person’s germs such as the flu, a cold, and other viruses.
A bloodborne pathogen is a microorganism that is infectious and carried in the blood. This microorganism can be passed from one person to another simply by being in contact with the infected blood.
If the janitor has an open wound on their hand or body and comes into contact with infected blood, the bloodborne pathogen can infect them.
What is bloodborne pathogen training for janitors? Training in how to handle coming into contact with human blood is essential for janitors because they can come into contact with blood at any given time especially when working in a medical facility such as a hospital or doctor’s office.
Because janitors usually work after hours, they are out of sight of most of the employees of a facility that they clean and maintain. When someone is unseen, and the effort that they put into their work is unseen, they can get taken advantage of.
It is not always deliberate, but employees can get busy with their own work and end up leaving a huge mess behind for the janitor to handle on top of their already heavy workload. This can make the janitor feel overwhelmed, and mistreated.
A psychosocial hazard is anything at the workplace that may lead to psychological harm or even physical harm. Work-related stress is real and it can cause damage to a person.
The Many Safety Hazards Janitors Face
It is a common misconception that working as a janitor is an easy job, where it is demanding physically and presents a variety of safety hazards every day.
They are often in the building alone late at night, early in the morning, or working in an area of the building when no one is around as not to disturb anyone. Working in such solitude makes the safety hazards of the job that much more dangerous.
How Bloodborne Pathogen Training Helps Janitors
Training for bloodborne pathogens is not a requirement for janitors, yet it is highly recommended. Especially for janitors that work in healthcare facilities.
Those employees that work in healthcare facilities, even those without direct contact with infected patients have the highest risk of becoming infected with bloodborne pathogens.
Training will educate staff on different types of bloodborne pathogens. Bloodborne pathogens range from HIV to Hepatitis, and from Scabies to Ebola.
Bloodborne pathogen training educates staff on ways that they should protect themselves not only when blood is known to be present, but in coming into contact with frequently touched surfaces especially in a healthcare facility.
The training will cover how to handle and properly dispose of needles and other medical equipment that has come into contact with blood and body fluids.
This OSHA-approved training program is recommended for doctors, nurses, aides, assistants, first responders, and anyone else that works in a healthcare facility.