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28 Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Many of us have heard the term ergo- nomic but may not know what it really means. According to the Occupation- al Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an ergonomically designed machine is “one that seeks to fit the job to the person rather than the per- son to the job.”* In other words, the machine is de- signed to work with the user, making his or her job safer with less stress to the body. When it comes to cleaning, using an ergonomically designed ma- chine invariably results in enhanced worker productivity, reduced clean- ing costs, and happier, healthier workers. The cleaning equipment that may

have received the most ergonomics- related research and design atten- tion is the backpack vacuum cleaner. Backpacks proved their value more than a decade ago when ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, found that they can significantly in- crease worker productivity when compared to upright vacuums. According to ISSA studies, a backpack vacuum with a 14-inch tool can clean over 7,000 square feet per hour, more than double what is possible with an upright. The problem with early backpacks was

their bulky design. Many had steel bod- ies and attachments, were attached to clumsy and difficult-to-wear


and weighed over 30 pounds. Today, some systems have durable molded bodies that reduce the weight of the backpack to about 11 pounds. Wands and attachments are made of aluminum or durable plastics and can adjust to the height of the user. Some of the biggest ergonomic advances, how- ever, have come in ways to increase har- ness comfort. Harnessing Comfort When workers are wearing a vacuum on their back, maintaining balance and prop- er distribution of weight are paramount. Early advances in harness design made the harness lighter with more padded and contoured shoulder straps and waist belts. Making the harness more adjustable also allowed users to customize the harness to fit more comfortably. Shoulder straps were designed so that the machine essentially would hang from users’ shoulders. However, further research into harness design revealed that hanging the machine from the shoulders was not necessarily the most ergonomic option. The comfort of wearing the backpack had more to do with how it rests on the hips than how it

rests on the back. Transferring weight from the shoulders and back to the hips,

vis, some users have a tendency to lean forward and shift their bodies from side to side when using backpacks. Instead, users should keep their upper body upright and twist as little as possible when operating the machine. Because moving an upright forward and backward is the customary way to vacuum, many new backpack users move in the same way. “To prevent fatigue, us- ers should move the wand from side to side using a fanning technique. This also allows for much more rapid vacuuming,” adds Davis.

One of the benefits of using a backpack is that it typically can get into confined spaces and hard-to-reach areas that are often not accessible with an upright. How- ever, users should always bend their knees rather than their backs when vacuuming to prevent injuries. Finally, users should always give them-

Las Vegas

selves time to learn and become accus- tomed to using a backpack vacuum clean- er. “Some of the most hesitant users of backpacks have become, over time, their most adamant supporters,” Davis says. “Some even say they would never go back to an upright, which is probably the best possible endorsement of a backpack.” By Robert Kravitz, a frequent writer for the professional cleaning and building industries. He may be reached at info@

*The definition goes on to say, “the aim [of an ergonomically designed item] is to prevent the development of occupational disorders and to reduce the potential for fatigue, error, or unsafe acts through the evaluation and design of facilities, envi- ronments, jobs, tasks, tools and equip- ment, processes, and training methods to match the capabilities of the specific work- ers.” n

Spartan Chemical Promotes Cox and Johnson to Regional Manager

Spartan Chemical Company, a rec-

typically by using a hip belt connected to the lower part of the backpack and secured around the user’s waist, more securely at- taches the machine to the user, allowing it to work with the user more efficiently and ergonomically. Today, backpack users are benefitting

from new advances in harness design. For instance, according to Debby Davis, prod- uct manager with Powr-Flite, makers of professional backpack vacuum cleaners, some systems have the following features: • Adjustable shoulder straps are ana- tomically shaped to fit the user’s shoulders, and have been redesigned so that they are essentially stabilizer straps, allowing for better positioning of the machine on the body. • The hip belt, which we now know is

crucial to user comfort, has been rede- signed on some backpacks so that it is contoured with more and higher-quality foam for added comfort. • Some harnesses have “mesh” back

panels, which help increase airflow be- tween the machine and the user’s back, keeping the operator cool. • To enhance the overall stability of the machine, the harness may have aluminum “stays,” which help direct the weight of the machine directly onto the hips. Using an Ergonomically


Backpack Even the most ergonomically designed machine can cause an injury if it is not used or worn properly. According to Da-

ognized leader in the formulation and manufacture of sustainable cleaning and sanitation solutions for the indus- trial and institutional market, today announced the promotion of Patrick Cox and Todd Johnson to the role of regional manager, effective June 16, 2013. Mr. Cox, who has responsibil- ity for the Minnesota region, was previously employed with Bank of America in Seattle, WA as a person- al banker. Prior to that, he worked with Buckeye International as an international representative for the Northwest region. Patrick received a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design with a minor in Business Administation from North Dakota State Universtiy in Fargo, ND. Before joining the Spartan team, Mr.

Johnson, who has responsibilty for the Mississippi region, represented Proctor and Gamble in the Madison, MS market.

Patrick Cox

Todd Johnson

He also held a sales management position at US Smokeless Tobacco corporation in Madison, MS. Todd holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Univer- sity of Mississippi in Oxford, MS. n

DPA Announces New Industrial Supply Division

The DPA Buying Group, a member-driven marketing & procurement organization, has formed a new industrial division. “Many of DPA’s distribu- tors are already selling tools, fasteners and other industrial supplies, so this is a natural progression for our organization,” says Zachary T. Haines, DPA Executive Director. DPA already has established divisions in the Janitorial, Safety, Packaging and Res- toration markets, and now seeks to become

one of the nation’s premier industrial tool groups. DPA Janitorial distribution members will have access to all of the group’s Indus- trial Tool programs. For more information about the DPA Buying Group and membership benefits please visit or contact

DPA’s Director of Business Development, Jarred Kennedy at jkennedy@DPABuy- or (800) 652-7826. n

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