A clean workplace is a safe workplace. This is why housekeeping is such an important part of safety. Most people think that housekeeping simply involves picking scrap material off the floor to prevent slips, trips and falls. While this is part of the process, a good workplace housekeeping policy will have more parts, and will help in the elimination of injuries at the workplace.
Benefits of Housekeeping
There are very few who could argue that cleaning up is a bad thing. Whether you are using a saw, painting, cutting wire to install a light, or crack filling drywall, you will be making a mess on a construction site. No one will want to see the debris left after the project is over, especially the owner of the building. The advantages to cleaning up for safety reasons must also be remembered. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety lists the following benefits:
- Reduced handling to ease flow of materials
- Fewer tripping and slipping accidents in clutter-free and spill free work areas
- Decreased fire hazards
- Lower worker exposures to hazardous substances (i.e. dust, vapours)
- Better control of tools and materials, including inventory and supplies
- More efficient equipment clean up and maintenance
- Better hygienic conditions leading to improved health
- More effective use of space
- Reduced property damage by improving preventive maintenance
- Less janitorial work
- Improved morale
- Improved productivity (tools and materials will be easy to find)
I want to highlight two of these points. Decreasing fire hazards through housekeeping has two components. One is removing material and debris to reduce the risk of fire. Boxes, wood and other flammable material should be removed from the workplace, and must be kept away from sources of heat that could cause them to burst into flame.
The second part is that the routes to fire exits need to be free so that it is easier to exit the building or area. Debris, or even furniture piled in hallways or lanes increase the risk of a bottleneck. A blocked door is makes it hard or even impossible to leave the building. Never block a fire door.
The other point I want to highlight is the more efficient workplace. It is hard to have a productive environment if you have to look for an item that is not where it is supposed to be, whether it is a tool or a part. By putting everything in its proper place, employees can get their work done faster and easier.
One item that was missed is that a good housekeeping plan can prevent falling objects. By not stacking items too high on shelves, and stacking them straight and balanced, you can prevent them from falling and striking staff, customers and other workers.
Like everything else in safety, planning is the key to workplace housekeeping. You need to outline the main focus points the plan must cover, as well as when the cleaning will take place and how it will be done. While housekeeping should be common sense, the expression “common sense is not that common” usually applies here as it does to other elements of a safety program.
The main elements of a workplace housekeeping plan are:
- Dirt and dust removal
- Floors to be kept clear of anything that could cause a slip, trip or fall
- Light fixtures maintained
- Aisles kept open enough for people and materials to pass through
- Stairways kept clear
- Spill cleaned up in a timely manner, based on manufacturers requirements
- Tools and Equipment properly stored
- Maintenance of building and equipment
- Waste Disposal, which will depend on municipal guidelines and provincial regulations
Remember that housekeeping is a constant factor, not a goal, of a productive business environment. Therefore, forepersons, supervisors and managers must enforce the policy. Checklists should also be created so that each item is check off after it is done and show due diligence
By keeping a workplace clean, all employees can benefit. No one should say that cleaning is no part of their job. Everyone needs to do their part to reduce the hazards that can be caused by a messy work environment. The safety and efficiency of the workplace will then be maintained. By creating a plan for everyone to follow, a routine can be created that will ensure compliance. Because with workplace housekeeping, you need to plan to stay safe