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Associated Risks and Control Measures in Cleaning

Introduction

The aim of this study is to analyze the site of a cleaning company in terms of the risks the environment presents to it. Over the course of studying risks and control measures, three objectives will be covered: understanding the general risks cleaning workers experience, understanding occupation-specific hazards, studying an occupational illness, and developing recommendations to mitigate these risks. This assessment will provide valuable insight into the health problems workers in the cleaning industry face and how to solve them.

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Ascertaining a specific vocational area is problematic since the cleaning site changes with each consecutive contract. Most of the work is conducted in office buildings, where cleaning crews decontaminate the area. Workers use a variety of equipment in order to remove dirt and contaminants. Naturally, all of them are required to wear personal protective equipment, which shields them from coming into contact with dangerous cleaning chemicals (Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work Act 2005, 2005). Therefore, meeting workers’ needs for personal protection and safety is vital for the area.

Potential Hazards

Four hazards are evident for cleaning workers. First, the coronavirus can be contracted by inhaling the air in the room where disease carriers are present. Second, cleaning chemicals are toxic and can damage the tissue of the skin and internal organs in the case of touch or inhaling (Suleiman and Svendsen, 2017, p. 150). Third, as cleaning jobs require a wide usage of tools, the equipment is susceptible to wear. At some point, it might malfunction and damage the environment as well as harm its users. Fourth, equipment and tools used in cleaning tend to be large and heavy. Constant repetitive movements may result in physical tiredness, stiff muscles, and other issues, which may precipitate health problems.

Appropriate Control Measures

Noise and sound

Aside from occupation-specific hazards, other risks threaten the well-being of workers. First, cleaning equipment produces a lot of noise, which can damage hearing. The control measure is taking breaks while cleaning in order to relieve the pressure of the ears (Weber et al., 2019, p. 74). Second, psychological discomfort born out of the lack of sufficient training, evaluation apprehension, or hazard anxiety can cause workers to lose concentration, forget key safety measures, and forego safety requirements (Feenstra et al., 2017, p. 655). The subsequent control measure is mixing newcomers with more experienced workers. Working in the same crew is a consolidating factor, which may help workers with less experience learn and stress less.

Stress

It is possible to notice that this occupation is highly vulnerable to different stress factors. Among the causes of adverse consequences to psychological health are: high job demands that might result in emotional exhaustion and low co-worker support that increases the amount of hard physical work and, therefore, might cause back, neck, and shoulder problems (Hsieh, 2020). The other stressors are low job control and high strain, which can result in increased risks for cardiovascular mortality and hypertensive morbidity, respectively (Hsieh, 2020). The prevention methods for the hazards are: to improve own competencies, work reliable on the essential tasks, try to see possibilities for initiatives, keep the contact with management, do physical exercise, and enhance time management (Hsieh, 2020). The stress factors cannot be eliminated, but there are approaches to reduce their negative influence.

Diet, exercise, and lifestyle

Another potential risk arises from the lifestyle of the workers. The less fit and physically strong the workers are, the more difficulties they have lifting the equipment, and the quicker they fatigue. The appropriate control measure is encouraging the workers to keep fit by offering free gym memberships. Finally, misuse of substances involved in cleaning is also a hazard. The solution is to equip cleaning crews with personal protective equipment and organize obligatory checks of the cleaning sites for the presence of any cleaning chemicals left after the crews’ work.

Substance Misuse

In some situations, especially in areas where a number of stress factors that influence workers are large, alcohol or drug misuse is used to assist in work-related difficulties managing. The staff who have an addiction to a substance is more likely to take time off and display poor performance. Employers may consider this a medical rather than a disciplinary matter and assist its overcoming through agreeing to a reasonable period off for recovery, and, for instance, contributing towards the cost of counseling (Alcohol, drugs and substance abuse, no date). In most situations, substance misuse can be managed, which will benefit both workers and the company.

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Occupational Related Illness

Overview

The occupational disease under focus is asthma, which is so commonly seen in workers that there is a separate term – occupational asthma. It is a respiratory disease, which manifests in spasms in the bronchi creating difficulties in breathing. Airflow obstruction is the result of the production of extra mucus in the airways. Asthma is a common condition, which has different experiences for everyone. While some people are barely affected by it, to others, it significantly lowers the quality of life. Asthma has no cure, even though it is possible to alleviate symptoms.

Causes

Occupational asthma is caused by prolonged exposure to chemicals. However, a more frequent cause is the natural rubber latex (NRL), which is the material used for protective gloves. Tarlo et al. (2018) argue that NRL “releases proteins that can cause allergic reactions” (p. 395). NRL-induced allergy can lead to the development of Asthma if not diagnosed early and treated properly. Gloves are an essential component of personal protective equipment. Subsequently, each worker is at risk of contracting asthma by inhaling or coming into dermal contact with NLR.

Symptoms

Asthma is characterized by coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and the lack of ability to breathe. Not every person with this illness experiences all symptoms. Neither is severity the same for everyone. The symptoms worsen after coming in contact with triggers, which are NLR gloves in this case. Asthma is similar to a cold and can be easily confused for a less serious condition. The difference in asthma cases is that it is long-term and cannot be cured completely. As the disease progresses, the patients may feel exhaustion, severe breathing impairment, and a lack of improvement after using an inhaler.

Impact on the Worker

Workers who have asthma may be constantly disturbed by coughing and wheezing. These reactions distract workers from their activities, causing them to instinctively cover their mouths, which may lead to skin contact with hazardous cleaning chemicals. Later stages are characterized by fatigue during activities, which are not physically demanding. As a result, the worker can tire even before the work or experience exhaustion while holding the equipment. Using the equipment is not a simple task since it makes demands physical effort. If asthma is prevalent, the workers’ endurance will be negatively affected.

Preventative Measures

The most definite way of preventing asthma is to avoid the triggers, which cause airflow obstruction. Prevention of asthma can be accomplished in two ways. First, it is possible to replace natural rubber latex with synthetics. The allergy-inducing proteins will be removed, which prevents allergic reactions in workers. However, if such substitution is not possible, the cleaning site managers can provide workers with “only low-protein powder-free latex gloves” (Tarlo et al., 2018, p. 399). Removal of latex-containing dust can also become an obligatory measure, which minimizes the chances of triggering the disease. Naturally, all workers have to use mild soap to wash their hands in order to decontaminate their skin.

Another option for preventing asthma encompasses working with the staff. First, managers can set stricter hiring criteria, which exclude people with allergies and asthma from the pull. Workers who already work should be screened regularly for the symptoms of asthma. Regular hygiene procedures should be an obligatory practice. Enhancement of teams is another solution, which will allow the workers to change each other, thus distributing exposure among the crews.

Recommendations

The first recommendation is to put a heavier emphasis on ascertaining the problem. Management should direct more attention to monitoring the workers’ health. The more frequent health screenings are, the more consistent the results will be. Such a measure will allow the managers to monitor and control the situation. Once workers start reporting symptoms, the crew will be ready to remove the worker from the contaminated environment and find medical help for them. In order for this strategy to work, the cleaning crew members should be properly educated. They should know what causes allergic reactions and be able to identify potential triggers of asthma.

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The second recommendation is to minimize the presence of triggers. First, people who already have asthma or NRL-induced allergies should not be allowed to participate in cleaning activities. Managers should force the job candidates to undergo health screening in order to ensure that they do not have allergies. Next, all equipment that can cause allergic reactions should be replaced. All gloves based on natural rubber latex can be substituted with synthetics, which do not emit proteins. If equipment cannot be changed, workers should be instructed to change each other to minimize the exposure.

The third recommendation involves attention to other hazards, which can as easily disrupt the workers’ health as asthma. In order to decrease the biological hazard of contracting coronavirus, it is possible to encourage the staff to vaccinate themselves. Toxic chemicals can be substituted with damp cleaning (Suleiman and Svendsen, 2017, p. 152). Cleaning tools can be substituted with equipment that produces less noise and vibration. Newcomer anxiety can be tackled by forming cleaning crews with both novice workers and veteran cleaners. Encouraging workers to maintain their physique will boost their stamina and lower the chances of contracting viruses.

Evaluation

Altogether, the assessment has showcased the wide variety of risks to the cleaning company crews are exposed. Ranging from occupation-specific, such as exposure to dangerous chemicals, to general problems, such as inadequate physique and stress, the extent of pressure on the cleaning workers is wide. However, the most problematic issue is occupational asthma, to which cleaning workers are particularly susceptible. The analysis has also drawn attention to possible ways of mitigating the dangers.

This investigation has been insightful in terms of uncovering the risks to health, which are not apparently immediate. Chemicals are a well-known problem, yet latex material is commonplace. It was particularly surprising to learn how natural rubber latex can cause allergic reactions, thus leading to occupational asthma. However, an even more eye-opening discovery was the variety of prevention measures available, which can save a person from contaminating a severe respiratory disease.

Reference List

Alcohol, drugs and substance abuse. (2021) Web.

Feenstra, S., Jordan, J., Walter, F., Yan, J. and Stoker, J. I. (2017) ‘The hazard of teetering at the top and being tied to the bottom: The interactive relationship of power, stability, and social dominance orientation with work stress’, Applied Psychology, 66(4), pp. 653-673.

Hsieh, Y. (2020) Managing Psychosocial Risks with Cleaning Workers. Web.

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, c. 10. Web.

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Suleiman, A. M. and Svendsen, K. V. (2017) ‘Presentation of an approach for risk characterization of exposure to chemicals in cleaning work’, Safety Science, 91, pp. 148-153.

Tarlo, S.M., Arif, A.A., Delclos, G.L., Henneberger, P. and Patel, J. (2018) ‘Opportunities and obstacles in translating evidence to policy in occupational asthma’, Annals of Epidemiology, 28(6), pp. 392-400.

Weber, D.J., Rutala, W.A., Sickbert-Bennett, E.E., Kanamori, H., Anderson, D. and CDC Prevention Epicenters Program. (2019) ‘Continuous room decontamination technologies’, American Journal of Infection Control, 47, pp. 72-78.

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