If you’ve been keeping up to date with our events, you’ll know that we invited Olivier Girard, a posture therapist, to the last two aperitifs we organized for cleaning agents. During both events, one in Lausanne and the other in Geneva, he gave a demonstration on the correct techniques to use in order to avoid hurting oneself while cleaning.
Since we also care about our dear readers and don’t want you to miss out on these crucial tips, we asked him to write up a few of his secrets to help you avoid injury.
"85% of the working population has had pain (back, neck, knees, shoulders) over the last 12 months: These are called Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). For concierges and cleaning professionals, it is a veritable scourge. That being said, learning how to properly utilize one’s body can help reduce the risks."
Safety comes first, so illustrated below are a few major rules to know for cleaning.
1) Picking up a small object
This first technique is called "lift a foot’’: The leg acts as a counterweight to the torso, allowing you to keep your back straight. With this technique, you can reach down to pick up a small object off the floor, whether it's close to you or farther away. If necessary, you can bend your weight-bearing knee to allow you to drop farther down.
In order to stay stable, the best course of action is to hold yourself up with your hand on the same side you’re lifting your leg.
2) Emptying the dishwasher
When it comes to filling or emptying the dishwasher, it’s the same trick -- "lift a foot’’!
Mopping will allow us to demonstrate the second technique for lowering yourself: "Slide a foot back’’. This is the one that you’ll be using the most, so take the time to master it! This technique will allow you to lift most household items (and with a bit of training, up to 20-25kg of weight), and to work at waist level (cleaning the oven, for example).
Start by bending your neck, then lean your chest in and slide a foot back without it taking it off the floor. If you move your left foot back, your body will turn slightly to the left. Take note of the fact that your knee can be used to hold an object or even seat a child. Do not attempt to keep your back vertical as you will end up arching it.
If you have to work in this position for a prolonged period of time, think of folding a carpet or something similar to serve as protection for your knee.
To avoid overloading both your intervertebral discs and your neck, "slide a foot back’’ to change the head on your mop.
Start by walking the length of the walls, mopping the sides.
To finish, you should mop whilst walking backwards using the "pendulum’’ technique. This involves rocking from one foot to the other with your mop out in front of you, over a width of around 80 cm, without twisting your back. Be careful not to extend the mop out too far in front of you as you run the risk of having your back bent. The mop should stay only slightly in front of your feet.
4) Cleaning the toilets
As you might have guessed, when it comes to cleaning the toilet, "slide a foot back’’ will also be your go-to technique. Let’s explain in a little more detail:
- If the toilet is on your right, like on the photo, slide your right foot back. You’ll find that your body naturally points toward your workspace.
- However, you’ll notice that in this position, washing a vertical surface right in front of you involves bending your wrist, which isn’t neither ideal for your wrist (carpel tunnel), nor for your elbow and forearm.
You can minimize this issue by working from slightly to the side. If you’re able to do the job with a tool that has a handle, that’s even better!
You might have noticed that your back takes most of the strain when your feet are being lazy. Whether it be walking, doing the "pendulum’’, standing up or even using the "lift a foot’’ technique, you can minimize the strain on your back by properly utilizing your feet.
While vacuuming, then, it seems clear that you should be walking from spot to spot as opposed to leaning over to reach each individual area.
To hoover under furniture, you can once again use the "slide your foot back’’ technique. Try to work at an angle as opposed to face on. if you’re hoovering under a couch to your left then slide your left foot back.
6) Cleaning the bathtub
For the bathtub, you can use a combination of the two previous techniques. Place your shin on the edge of the bath and hold yourself up with one arm.
7) Cleaning windows
Let’s think about your shoulders and neck: When you’re working with your arms extended away from your body (to your front or to your side), the muscles in your neck contract, and the strain on your shoulders will increase significantly.
The goal, then, is to always strive to work with your hand below your shoulders, even if it means using a step ladder to reach surfaces that are up high.
Remember to alternate tasks! Doing all the windows in the morning, then all the floors in the afternoon, is a very bad idea. It is preferable to divide the work in order to alternate between windows and floor.
We hope that these tips will be useful to you in the future! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to post them in the comments: We will select the best questions and ask Olivier to answer them in his next article!
If this article has been useful, then you should know that Olivier has in fact written a book that has just been released, which contains all kinds of useful information and exercises. Find it here: www.trainyourposture.com/manuel-posture.html