Housekeepers unite! It’s time we de-bunked. While bunk beds are common in many segments of the hospitality industry and serve to increase the occupancy of a room, they can be a real pain in a housekeeper’s day. This becomes even more important as summer camps open and more bunk beds are in use. Ask any housekeeper, “Which would you rather do, clean a bathroom or make up a bunk bed?” Inevitably, they will choose bathroom duty.
Bunk beds come in many shapes and sizes, but all have the same basic hazards:
- Awkward postures due to limited space and barriers to access
- Increased forces due to moving the housekeeping loads above the shoulders and below the knees (See Al Brown’s previous post regarding lifts in these zones)
These exposures increase the force it takes to do the same tasks as a regular bed, no matter the size. Using proper technique as allowed by the bed configuration, lifting the edge of a twin mattress on a top bunk can put more strain on the shoulder and back than lifting the edge of a king mattress on a bed positioned at the housekeepers waist.
While there are no national statistics on bunk bed injuries among housekeeping staff, their design alone places limitations on the controls that can be implemented. The best practice is transitioning to a “no bunk bed environment”. However, this is usually beyond the scope of most housekeeping teams, so here are a few quick tips to tame bunk bed tasks:
- Create space
- Move the bunk away from the wall so the team can work on both sides of the bed.
- No Bunk Monkeys - Assigning the smallest person to climb to the top bunk and do the work that can’t be reached from the open side is a widely used practice. However, this brings on its own set of exposures and is not recommended.
- Work as a team
- Two housekeepers are recommended to tackle the bunk bed tasks. Working together they can share the load and reduce the forces required.
- Remove the rails or work between them
- If the bunk has removable rails, take them down. This will allow the team to work without having to reach over it.
- If the rails can’t be removed, work between or under them when possible. This will also limit awkward postures.
- Consider custom tools
- Using a pole or board placed under the mattress and between the rails can provide needed space and limit the length of time the mattress must be held manually.
- Change positions to reduce sustained awkward postures
- Stand up to position the bedding.
- Kneel to spread, smooth and tuck.
- Because making up a bunk bed requires awkward postures, be sure to stretch neck, shoulder and back after the tasks.
- More great information on housekeeping staff stretching, ergonomics, and overall wellness can be found in previous posts such as Stretching for Fun and Profit or Improving Housekeeping Ergonomics. Additional resources are available to our customers at MEMIC.com within the Safety Director.