Online Program

Effect of industry-wide speed up on health & safety among commercial janitors

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 10:46 a.m. - 11:02 a.m.

Nancy J. Simcox, MS, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Carlos Dominguez, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Bert Stover, PhD, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Noah Seixas, PhD, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background: Commercial janitors are a large group of low wage, often immigrant workers who face significant risks at work. Anecdotal reports from a janitors' union in the Seattle area suggest an increase in workload over the past few years, which has potentially led to increased injury and illness. Methods: A labor union, a labor advocacy group and a research team collaborated on the cross-sectional questionnaire based study. Participants include union (n=275), non-union (n=75), workers, and a control group (n=75). A range of exposures including musculoskeletal stressors, chemical use, and psychosocial risks and outcomes including injuries, musculoskeletal pain, pulmonary and dermatological symptoms, and stress was administered by trained worker-interviewers. A workload scale was developed to assess changes in work intensity over a three-year period. Results: Initial results indicate a significant increase in workload with 28.5 % reporting >7 on a 10 point scale two years ago, up to 35% in 2012. An associated increase in injuries was similarly observed. Approximately 70% of union and non-union workers reported performing tasks with repetitive motion on all days. Moderate to severe stress more than doubled among both groups over time. The percentage of union workers with moderate back pain has doubled over the three-year period, increasing from 15.3 to 30.4%. Union workers had a 2-fold higher disability status as compared to non-union and the general population. Conclusion: Work safety and health concerns associated with heavier workload among janitors continue to increase, and preliminary findings show poor negative health outcomes.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe a range of exposures including musculoskeletal stressors and psychosocial risks and health outcomes, such as injuries, musculoskeletal pain, and stress, among commercial janitors. Explain how a workload scale was used to assess changes in work intensity over a three-year period. Compare exposures and health risks among union janitors, non-union janitors and a control group.

Keyword(s): Occupational Exposure, Health Disparities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am research industrial hygienist with over 20 years of experience in providing industrial hygiene assessments and interventions in workplaces and for academic research projects. I am a co-investigator on this study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.