Effective housekeeping can eliminate some workplace hazards and help get a job done safely and properly. Poor housekeeping can frequently contribute to accidents by hiding hazards that cause injuries. If the sight of paper, debris, clutter and spills is accepted as normal, then other more serious safety hazards may be taken for granted. Housekeeping is not just cleanliness. It includes keeping work areas neat and orderly, maintaining halls and floors free of slip and trip hazards and removing of waste materials (e.g., paper, cardboard) and other fire hazards from work areas. It also requires paying attention to important details such as the layout of the workplace, aisle marking, proper storage facilities and maintenance. Good housekeeping is also a basic part of accident and fire prevention. What is the purpose of workplace housekeeping? Poor housekeeping can be a cause of accidents such as trips and falls, injury from falling objects and injury from projecting materials that have been improperly stored or stacked. To avoid these hazards, a workplace must maintain order throughout a workday. Although this effort requires management and planning, the benefits are many. How do I plan a good housekeeping program? A good housekeeping program plans and manages the orderly storage and movement of materials and ensures that work areas are not used as storage areas. Cleaning and organization must be done regularly, not just at the end of the shift. A good housekeeping program identifies and assigns responsibilities for day-to-day and shift cleanup, waste disposal and inspection. Don’t forget out-of-the-way places such as shelves, basements, sheds and boiler rooms that would otherwise be overlooked. The orderly arrangement of operations, tools, equipment and supplies is an important part of a good housekeeping program. What are the elements of an effective housekeeping program?
- Dust and Dirt Removal In some jobs, enclosures and exhaust ventilation systems may fail to collect dust and dirt adequately. Vacuum cleaners are suitable for removing light dust and dirt. Industrial models have special fittings for cleaning walls, ceilings, ledges, machinery and other hard-to-reach places where dust and dirt may accumulate. Dampening (wetting) floors or using sweeping compounds before sweeping reduces the amount of airborne dust. The dust and grime that collect in places like shelves, piping, conduits, light fixtures, reflectors, windows, cupboards and lockers may require manual cleaning. Compressed air should not be used for removing dust, dirt or chips from equipment or work surfaces.
- Surfaces Poor floor conditions are a leading cause of accidents so cleaning up spilled oil and other liquids at once is important. Allowing chips, shavings and dust to accumulate can also cause accidents. Trapping dust and debris before they reach the floor or cleaning them up regularly can prevent accumulation. Areas that cannot be cleaned continuously, such as entrance ways, should have anti-slip flooring. Keeping floors in good order also means replacing any worn, ripped, or damaged flooring that poses a tripping hazard.
- Aisles and Stairways Aisles should be wide enough to accommodate people and vehicles comfortably and safely. Aisle space allows for the movement of people, products and materials. Warning signs and mirrors can improve sight-lines in blind corners. Arranging aisles properly encourages people to use them so that they do not take shortcuts through hazardous areas. Keeping aisles and stairways clear is important. They should not be used for temporary overflow or bottleneck storage. Stairways and aisles also require adequate lighting.
- Tools and Equipment Tool housekeeping is very important, whether in the tool room, on the rack, in the yard or on the bench. Tools require suitable fixtures with marked locations to provide orderly arrangement, both in the tool room and near the work bench. Returning them promptly after use reduces the chance of being misplaced or lost. Workers should regularly inspect, clean and repair all tools and take any damaged or worn tools out of service.
- Maintenance The maintenance of buildings and equipment may be the most important element of good housekeeping. Maintenance involves keeping buildings, equipment and machinery in safe, efficient working order and in good repair. This includes maintaining sanitary facilities and regularly painting and cleaning walls. Broken windows, damaged doors, defective plumbing and broken floor surfaces can make a workplace look neglected; these conditions can cause accidents and affect work practices. So it is important to replace or fix broken or damaged items as quickly as possible.
- Waste Disposal The regular collection, grading and sorting of scrap contribute to good housekeeping practices. It also makes it possible to separate materials that can be recycled from those going to waste disposal facilities. Allowing material to build up on the floor wastes time and energy since additional time is required for cleaning it up. Placing scrap containers near where the waste is produced encourages orderly waste disposal and makes collection easier. All waste receptacles should be clearly labelled (e.g., recyclable glass, plastic, scrap metal, etc.).
- Storage Good organization of stored materials is essential for overcoming material storage problems whether on a temporary or permanent basis. There will also be fewer strain injuries if the amount of handling is reduced, especially if less manual materials handling is required. The location of the stockpiles should not interfere with work but they should still be readily available when required. Stored materials should allow at least one metre (or about three feet) of clear space under sprinkler heads. Stored materials should not obstruct aisles, stairs, exits, fire equipment, emergency eyewash fountains, emergency showers or first aid stations. All storage areas should be clearly marked. Flammable, combustible, toxic and other hazardous materials should be stored in approved containers in designated areas that are appropriate for the different hazards that they pose. Storage of materials should meet all requirements specified in the fire codes and the regulations of environmental and occupational health and safety agencies in your jurisdiction.