The association between janitor physical workload, mental workload, and stress: The SWEEP study

Adam Schwartz, Susan Goodwin Gerberich, Thomas Albin, Hyun Kim, Andrew D. Ryan, Timothy R. Church, Deirdre R. Green, Patricia M. McGovern, Arthur G. Erdman, Rony F. Arauz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Approximately 2.38 million janitors are employed in the U.S. While high physical workload may explain a lost-work days rate 2.7 times greater than other occupations, little is known about the association between janitors' physical workload, mental workload, and stress. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to assess the associations between physical (ergonomic) and mental workload exposures and stress outcomes among janitors. METHODS: Questionnaire data, focused on ergonomic workload, mental workload and stress, were collected from Minnesota janitors for a one-year period. Physical workload was assessed with Borg Scales and Rapid Entire Body Assessments (REBA). Mental workload assessment utilized the NASA Task Load Index (TLX). Stress assessments utilized single-item ordinal stress scale (SISS) and Perceived Stress Scale-4 (PSS-4) measures. Descriptive and multivariable analyses, including bias adjustment, were conducted. RESULTS: Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for ergonomic workload (task frequency) effects on SISS were: REBA (1.18 OR, 1.02-1.37 CI); Borg (1.25 OR, 1.00-1.56 CI); combined REBA and Borg (1.10 OR, 1.01-1.20 CI). Mental workload was associated with higher PSS-4 levels (0.15 Mean Difference, 0.08-0.22 CI) and a 3% increased risk for each one-unit increase in the SISS scale (1.03 OR, 1.02-1.05 CI). CONCLUSIONS: This research demonstrated a moderate effect of physical and mental workloads on stress among janitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-846
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety (MCOHS), Education and Research Center, Pilot Projects Research Training Program, supported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (OH008434). The contents of this effort are solely the responsibil-

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 -IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved.


  • Ergonomics
  • Perceived Stress Scale
  • injury epidemiology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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