Cleaning - ergonomics

(Under construction 17.10.17)

Guide for cleaning personnel about functional cleaning equipment and good working techniques that prevent problems due to muscle and bone stress.

Norsk versjon - Renhold - ergonomi

Topic page about HSE  | Pages tagged cleaning 

Working as a cleaner involves a lot of movement that is good for the body, but also involves movements that are one-sided and repetitive, as well as work above shoulder height, below knee level or bending forward, which is a strain on the body.

To prevent musculoskeletal disorders, thorough training in cleaning methods, cleaning equipment and work techniques is important.


The employer has a duty to ensure that cleaning personnel and senior cleaning officers receive professional training. The employee is responsible for working according to the health safety and environment (HSE) guidelines in effect.

To prevent musculoskeletal problems, it is important to have information about personal protective equipment, cleaning products, the inventory of chemicals (stoffkartotek), etc. as well as knowledge of ergonomics.


To avoid working positions that can cause problems, it is important to use suitable and lightweight equipment that can be adjusted to suit the individual.

Mop handle/mops

  • The mop handle should be lightweight and it should be easy to adjust the length. A starting point for a good working technique is to adjust the handle so that it reaches your nose.
  • The handle should be comfortable to hold. A good diameter is 2.3 – 2.5 cm.
  • Different types of mops are available, and must be adapted to the type of surface and location (floor covering/tiles, floor/stairs). Choosing the right mop can make your workday much easier.

Cleaning trolley

  • Must be stable with large wheels that roll over thresholds easily.
  • The height of the handle should be adjustable.
  • There should be plenty of space for the equipment needed for a work session.


  • The vacuum cleaner must be light and stable, with an adjustable handle.
  • The hose must be long enough to hold it behind your back so that you can use one hand to pull the vacuum cleaner and the other to move the handle. For heavy carpets, hold both hands on the handle.
  • Use good weight transfer – the muscles in your legs take the strain off your arms.

Cleaning machines

Various types of cleaning machines are available, and they clean and maintain floors best. Cleaning machines take the strain from the body and make the work day easier. Alternating between manual work and use of machines is good for the body.

You need to be able to operate the machines correctly and ergonomically, and to be aware of the value of a well-maintained floor. NTNU’s Campus Services Division organizes courses in using machines, with theory and practical training.

Work technique 

To avoid overload or an unbalanced load on your body, be aware of your working positions and movements.


Cleaning work often includes mopping. The right mopping technique is essential to avoid problems:

  • Choose a mop handle and mop to suit the task.
  • Adjust the height of the handle depending on whether you are going to mop a floor or stairs.
    • On an ordinary floor, the top of the handle should be at the height of your nose when the handle is slightly slanted towards you.
    • On stairs, to adjust the handle to the right height, place the mop on a step, then walk down two steps and adjust the handle to the height of your nose.
  • Place your hands on the mop handle at hip height and chest height, which is a good starting position for your neck, shoulders and arms.
  • Your grip on the handle should be loose and relaxed to maintain good circulation in your arm muscles.
  • Switch between hands during the day to distribute the load.
  • Using your legs actively will take some of the load off your upper body.
  • Work with relaxed shoulders at a steady and gentle pace.

Different mopping techniques

Figure-8 technique

This technique is suitable for mopping smaller surfaces.

  • Spread your feet slightly apart and shift the weight from one leg to the other. You can complete much of the mop’s Figure 8 pattern in this way.
  • Good weight transfer using your legs will help to reduce the strain on your arms.
  • Keep a loose grip on the handle and alternate between a closed hand for dragging the mop and an open hand for pushing it.
  • Alternate between pushing and pulling the mop in Figure 8 patterns.

Watch the video on the Figure 8 technique (48 seconds, Norwegian audio):

[Instruksjonsvideo som viser korrekt 8-tallsteknikk]

Technique for pushing a mop

This technique is suitable for mopping surfaces without obstacles, such as corridors.

Hold the mop handle at an angle in front of your body.
Hold the mop handle in a loose grip with relaxed shoulders and arms.
“Go for a walk with the mop”. Using the large muscle groups in your legs will take the load off your arms.
Push the mop where this is possible.

Watch the video about the pushing technique (44 seconds, Norwegian audio):

[Instruksjonsvideo om skyveteknikk]

Mopping stairs

Take advantage of the mop’s functions on both stair treads and risers.

Adjust the handle to height suitable for stairs.
Hold the handle in a loose grip
Weight transfer using your legs will help to reduce the strain on your arms.

Watch the video about work techniques for mopping stairs (51 seconds):

[Instruksjonsvideo om trappevask]

Cleaning blackboards with a mop 

Suitable for cleaning large blackboards

  • Position the mop in the top corner of the blackboard.
  • The grip closest to the blackboard should be at shoulder height, while the other hand supports the handle at hip height.
  • Use your body weight towards the mop handle and go to the opposite side.
  • For the top part of the blackboard, you need to hold the front of your body towards the blackboard while walking sideways by crossing one foot over the other. This is to keep the pressure against the blackboard and to prevent a poor work position for your back and shoulders.
  • For the middle and lower part of the blackboard, it is easier to walk straight with your side towards the blackboard.

Watch the video about work techniques for cleaning a blackboard with a mop (1.23 minutes, Norwegian audio):

[Instruksjonsvideo om vask av tavle med mopp.]

Sanitary cleaning

Follow the cleaning procedures and be conscious of the way you work.

Toilet/washbasin: Work close to the toilet/washbasin - bend your hips and knees.
Take some of the load off your back by using the washbasin/toilet or your thigh to support yourself.

Watch the video about work techniques for cleaning toilets and washbasins (2.58 minutes, Norwegian audio):

[Instruksjonsvideo om rengjøring av toalett og vask.]

Work habits

To avoid overload or an unbalanced load on your body, be aware of your working positions and movements.

Work at a gentle pace with a good rhythm, flow and variation. A hurried pace contributes to poor work techniques and musculoskeletal disorders. Take regular short breaks. Vary between manual work and using cleaning machines.

Use good work shoes

The right choice of work shoes is important to avoid problems. Tests show that the shoe "guides the foot". So it is important to use shoes that allow you to walk with a gait that is as normal as possible.

Repeated unbalanced postures or walking/standing on a hard surface can cause great strain on the whole body, which may lead to problems affecting the feet, knees, hips, back and shoulders. 

Work shoes should fit well, with:

  • Fixed heel support or heel strap
  • Laces or Velcro closure over the instep
  • Your toes should be able to move freely
  • Good shock-absorbing sole
  • Non-slip sole
  • People with alignment problems affecting their feet should use custom inserts in their shoes
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Målgruppe: Medarbeidere Tema: HMS