If you are employed as a custodian or janitor with one of our local school districts, chances are good there have been many changes in the schools since you were a student walking the halls.
Some changes are for the better, like the increased ability of students to learn over different types of media, via computers in the classrooms that are connected to the internet.
Others, however, have not been as positive, such as the increased incidences of bullying -- both in and out of the classroom -- over the internet.
The job remains the same
But as much as some things change, even more remain the same, including many of the janitorial tasks you are expected to complete as part of your workday.
Problems develop when janitorial staff have not received the proper training to learn and understand the safest ways to complete their tasks. When this occurs, back injuries may develop.
About a quarter of all workers' compensation claims revolve around back injuries. Some of you may be wincing, remembering the last time you felt the familiar twinges of back pains that could signal injuries that will sideline you from your job.
That fear tends to make some janitorial staff determined to push through the pain and continue working. But doing so can turn an acute injury into a chronic condition that may become so debilitating that surgery remains the only viable option.
Reporting injuries can lead to benefits
Janitors should always report injuries as soon as they occur, as the longer one waits to make an official report, the more difficult it may be to tie the injury into a work-related claim.
A high number of back injuries stem from improper lifting techniques. Your employer has the duty to teach all janitorial staff proper ways to lift and transport heavy items to protect the employees' backs. It is to the benefit of all that janitorial staff are sufficiently trained, but even then, accidents can and do occur.
Duty of the employer
Depending upon the injury, an employer may be required to restrict a janitor to "light duty" tasks if that is the professional recommendation of the injured worker's physician. Restrictions might include:
- No bending
- No lifting more than a specific weight
- No lifting the arms over the head
- No twisting at the waist
If that sounds difficult, considering the normal breadth and scope of a janitor's job duties, you are indeed correct. It's far better to prevent injuries entirely than deal with the repercussions.
Protect your back while at work
Make sure that you use good posture while working, which means straightening your spine and relying on the muscles in your legs and upper arms to complete chores like sweeping, mopping and lifting.
Don't stand off-balance. Your feet should be placed at shoulder-width when assuming a stance for lifting. It's appropriate to place a foot next to the object and the other behind it.
Leg muscles are the ones to rely on when lifting as opposed to the back muscles. Remember to squat and not bend.
Problems with your claim?
Sometimes employers attempt to deny claims from staff injured on the job. When that happens, it's time to seek out legal guidance to ensure that your claim proceeds and benefits begin.