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Sweeping in India

Indian Sweeping

Assessing the exposure of street sweeping and potential risk factors for developing musculoskeletal disorders and related disabilities: a cross-sectional study

by Pradeep S. Salve, Praveen Chokhandre

This study aims to assess the exposure of those involved in street sweeping to the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and related disabilities and tries to identify the individual risk factors thereof.


The occupation of sweeping is a vigorous task that involves sweeping of assigned areas such as roads, footpaths, parks, markets and open settlements with the help of long-handle brooms and wheelbarrows and deposition of the waste in nearby community dustbins. This whole process requires continuous physical tasks such as manually sweeping in the standing posture for long durations, bending while collecting the swept waste, pushing and pulling the wheelbarrow, and manually lifting the baskets to deposit waste. A similar process is followed in other cities in India and other developing countries.

Numerous studies have concluded that the occupational exposure of sweeping is associated with the development of chronic respiratory diseases, skin diseases, eye irritation, asthma, tuberculosis and hypertension among workers. The other non-fatal injuries identified are mostly musculoskeletal in nature. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are defined as pain, ache or discomfort in any of the anatomical areas of the body, namely neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, elbows, wrists or hands, hips or thighs, knees, and ankles or feet.

Study Design

The study authors are affiliated with the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. For the study design, a cross-sectional survey was conducted among street sweepers together with a comparison group. A modified Standardized Nordic Questionnaire was adopted to measure the prevalence of MSDs and related disabilities. The impact of the occupation of sweeping on the development of MSDs and related disabilities was assessed using the propensity score matching (PSM) method. A multivariate logistic regression model was employed to identify the individual risk factors.


Street sweepers (n=180) and a comparison group (n=180), working for at least a year as formal employees of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), were randomly selected from 6 municipal wards.


The prevalence of the MSDs was significantly higher among the sweepers for shoulders (32%), wrists/hands (29%), elbows (27%) and neck (17%) compared with the comparison group, in which the prevalence was 11%, 19%, 9% and 11%, respectively. The disabilities too were significantly higher among the street sweepers for the lower back (27%), upper back (27%), wrists/hands (26%), shoulders (24%) and elbows (23%) compared with the comparison group, for which the figures were 18%, 19%, 13%, 9% and 6% respectively.

The PSM method highlighted that the occupation of sweeping raised the risk of developing MSDs and disabilities particularly for the shoulders (1716%), wrists/hands (14% each), elbows (13% each) and the upper back (1213%). After adjusting the age, body mass index and the caste of the street sweepers, the number of years of engagement in street sweeping and the location of work emerged as potential risk factors in the development of MSDs and, thereby, related disabilities.


The study concluded that the occupation of street sweeping raises the risk of MSDs and related disabilities. This study recommends preventive and curative measures to deal with MSDs among street sweepers. To see the entirety of the study click here. Note that the study is also available as a PDF file here.

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