Degree Name

Master of Science - Research


School of Health Sciences - Faculty of Health & Behavioural Sciences


This research thesis examined the risk of upper limb musculoskeletal disorders for cleaning workers while performing vacuum cleaning tasks in the normal course of their employment. The cleaning workers in this study were from three sectors of the workforce – government schools, hospitality and commercial office space. The vacuum cleaning tasks were divided into those performed with a back pack style vacuum cleaning machine and those using a canister/barrel machine. Three observational risk assessment tools were selected to measure the risk of these tasks to cleaning workers. The selected tools were the Manual Tasks Risk Assessment Tool (ManTRA) version 2.0; the Quick Exposure Check (QEC) (Li & Buckle, 1998); and the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment tool (RULA) (McAtamney & Corlett, 1993). Results of this thesis study demonstrated that vacuum cleaning is a risk to the musculoskeletal health of cleaning workers, with some variation between the tool ratings, reflecting the specificity and/or sensitivity of each tool. Differences were found between the three cleaning sectors in terms of overall risk posed by vacuum cleaning tasks. The sector with the greatest risk was found to be the government school cleaners, followed by the hospitality and then commercial office space cleaning sectors. The ‘risk experience’ difference between the sectors cannot be attributed only to vacuum cleaner characteristics, but also, the environment and length of shift worked by the cleaning staff. Further research is required to determine the difference in risk exposure between the two types of vacuum cleaner (back pack and canister).

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.