Helping Arizona’s janitorial and cleaning staff get the compensation they deserve after an injury
Janitors, custodians and housekeepers play a vital role in maintaining clean and safe environments in various settings throughout Arizona. However, behind the scenes of their essential work lies a range of risks and hazards that can lead to numerous injuries and illnesses. From wet surfaces to harmful chemical exposure, these dedicated workers face unique occupational challenges.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), janitors and cleaners had the third-highest number of non-fatal injuries in 2015, with 42,740 injuries reported. Surprisingly, janitors were injured at a much higher rate than even maintenance and repair workers.
Overexertion and bodily reaction accounted for the highest percentage of accidents, followed by falls, slips and trips and contact with equipment.
Fortunately, most janitors, housekeepers and cleaners who are injured in a workplace accident are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost income during their recovery.
Common job duties for custodians and other cleaners
Custodians, janitors and housekeepers are generally responsible for keeping an area clean, organized and safe. Accordingly, some common job duties may include the following:
- Cleaning and sanitizing restrooms and common areas
- Emptying the trash
- Sweeping, mopping, waxing and scrubbing floors
- Vacuuming and/or shampooing carpet
- Washing windows and mirrors
- Restocking and ordering supplies
The exact job description will vary based on the type of business in which a worker is employed. For example, housekeepers in the hotel industry are also responsible for making beds and changing linens. Those in a medical facility are required to sanitize surgical rooms in addition to cleaning patients’ rooms and waiting areas.
Learn when a work injury or illness may qualify you to sue your employer for damages like pain and suffering.
Common injuries and their causes
Janitors and other cleaning staff are constantly bending, reaching and lifting, thereby leaving them vulnerable to muscle sprains. Many also suffer adverse reactions to the strong chemicals and cleaners they routinely handle. Contact with bodily fluids is one of the occupational hazards some janitors may face as well.
All of these workplace duties leave custodians susceptible to injuries such as:
In the news:
Custodial worker accidentally trapped in a jail cell
In March 2023, a 72-year-old diabetic janitor was trapped inside a holding cell at the Orange County, Florida, courthouse while cleaning. She remained there for nearly 3 days until she was discovered by a deputy.
The employee is suing the security company in charge of the courthouse. She claims they failed to take action when she did not turn in her keys and sign out at the end of her shift. The company has enacted measures to ensure the same thing does not happen again. For example, security personnel are now required to walk all areas of the “janitorial footprint” on a regular basis, and the automatic closure device has also been removed from the doors.
Fortunately, the worker didn’t suffer any long-term injuries from the ordeal, but this incident highlights the many hazards faced by janitorial workers on a daily basis.
Overview of Arizona workers’ comp
Arizona law requires most business owners with 1 or more employees to carry workers’ compensation insurance, with only a few exceptions. Those exceptions include independent contractors, sole proprietorships and “casual employment” that is not in the usual business of a company. In addition, domestic housekeepers who work in private homes may also not be covered.
Workers’ compensation is “no-fault” insurance. This means that individuals are entitled to compensation even if they were partially negligent in causing the accident.
Furthermore, occupational illnesses, or medical conditions that arise over time from one’s employment, are typically covered as well. So janitors who develop lung cancer, emphysema, bronchitis or other issues from long-term exposure to chemicals or cleaning products are also entitled to compensation.
If you’re unsure if you or your injury/illness qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can explain your rights.
Learn when an illness or disease caused by your job qualifies for workers’ comp benefits in Arizona.
What benefits are injured workers entitled to?
Those filing a claim for workers’ comp benefits with the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) could be eligible for certain benefits, which include:
- Medical benefits, which include all necessary appointments, surgeries, hospitalizations, medications and equipment
- Lost wages, which are typically two-thirds of your average weekly wages while you recover
- Death benefits for certain surviving family members, including funeral expenses and lost income
Filing a workers’ comp claim in Arizona
A successful claim requires you to take certain steps and meet specific deadlines for filing. Therefore, as soon as you are injured you should do the following:
- Seek medical treatment. Ensure that your provider knows that your injury was work-related and documents it accordingly. This will make your injury claim easier to connect to an accident at work.
- Notify your employer of the accident or injury. Notify your employer of your injury as soon as possible and preferably in writing. Upon notification, your employer must then file an Employer’s Report of Industrial Injury with the ICA within 10 days.
- File a claim. In Arizona, you have 1 year from the date of the accident to file a Worker’s Report of Injury and have your doctor file a Worker’s and Physician’s Report of Injury. Failure to submit these necessary documents within 1 year will likely prevent you from obtaining any benefits.
- Wait while your claim is reviewed. Upon receiving your claim, the insurance company has 21 days to accept or deny it. If your claim is denied, you have 90 days to request a hearing to appeal the denial.
- Contact an attorney. If your claim is denied, you should contact a workers’ compensation attorney to assist you with the appeal process.
How to prevent custodial and cleaning staff injuries and illnesses
Below are some tips for preventing injuries and illnesses among janitors, custodians and housekeepers in the workplace:
- Use proper lifting techniques when handling heavy equipment or objects.
- Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, safety goggles and non-slip shoes.
- Follow established cleaning procedures and safety protocols.
- Take regular breaks and vary tasks to prevent overexertion and repetitive strain injuries.
- Use caution when working on wet or slippery surfaces, and promptly clean up spills.
- Properly store and handle cleaning chemicals, following safety guidelines and using appropriate ventilation.
- Practice good ergonomics by maintaining proper posture and using equipment that is adjusted to the worker’s height and comfort.
- Seek assistance or use mechanical aids when lifting heavy objects.
- Prioritize infection control measures to minimize the risk of illness.
- Follow proper procedures for the disposal of waste materials and hazardous substances.
- Stay informed about health and safety regulations and participate in relevant training programs.
- Maintain a clean and organized work environment to minimize trip and fall hazards.
Contact an Arizona workers’ compensation attorney
Arizona workers’ compensation system is meant to be a simple and easy way for injured workers to get the financial support they need after an accident. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t like paying these claims and often go out of their way to avoid doing so. Having an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer by your side can level the playing field and help you obtain the benefits you need.
If you live in Phoenix and have been injured on the job, the experienced work injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski are here to help. We specialize in workers’ comp cases and are proud to have been helping injured Arizona workers recover the compensation they deserve for more than 45 years.