Housekeeping is not just about cleanliness. It includes keeping work areas neat and orderly and keeping aisles, floors and stairs free from slip and trip hazards. The removal of waste (paper, cardboard, containers, and used chemicals) from the work area is valuable in reducing accidents. Housekeeping requires focusing attention on important details in the workplace such as layout, aisle markings, adequacy of storage facilities and maintenance. Maintaining “order” throughout the day requires a great deal of planning and management.
Experience has shown that good housekeeping is an essential and effective part of a safety and health program. Effective housekeeping helps eliminate workplace hazards and promotes a safer, more efficient work environment. Poor housekeeping can contribute to accidents by hiding hazards that cause injuries.
Effective housekeeping at work benefits both employer and employees. Effective housekeeping results in:
- Fewer accidents by creating an orderly, clutter-free, spill-free work environment
- Decreased fire hazards
- Reduced exposure to hazardous substances
- Improved control of tools and materials
- Better hygienic conditions leading to improved health
- More effective use of space
- Less janitorial work
- Improved morale
A good housekeeping program ensures that work areas are not used for storage and materials required on a day-to-day basis are kept at a minimum and stored correctly. Insufficient storage results in materials being used, handled and stored in hazardous and dangerous ways. To implement a housekeeping program, you should understand the use and movement of materials through your agency.
Training is another component of a good housekeeping program. It is important to train employees on the proper use of materials and products they use on a day-to-day basis. Employees also need to be aware of the different means of warning co-workers about hazards they may encounter. Examples include posting of signs on wet, slippery floors and the procedures for reporting unusual conditions.
Housekeeping responsibilities should be included in all job tasks, helping the agency maintain an orderly and neat appearance. Reorganizing, cleaning up and removing clutter should be done immediately. Effective housekeeping programs address and assign responsibilities for the following:
- Cleaning up during the shift
- Day to day cleanup
- Waste disposal
- Removal of unused materials
- Inspection to ensure that cleanup is complete.
It is easy to forget about the out-of-the-way places such as shelves, basements, sheds, boiler rooms, electrical/mechanical rooms and under stairs. Remember to include these areas in your housekeeping program. Maintaining a neat and orderly arrangement of tools, equipment and supplies will help to make this possible.
In order to determine if your housekeeping program is effective, you must have a system in place to seek out and account for deficiencies. An inspection is the last and most critical step in developing a program. Attached is a general housekeeping checklist that can be modified for the needs at your agency.
Elements of a Housekeeping Program
As a safety officer, setting housekeeping standards will be the beginning of your program. Make sure to set clear, objective and attainable standards. Remember to follow safe work practices and any requirements that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may impose. (www.osha.gov)
Dust and Dirt Removal
Vacuum or wet sweep dusty areas frequently. A dampened floor or use of a sweeping compound prior to sweeping will reduce the amount of airborne dust a worker might inhale. These techniques will help reduce respiratory type irritations. If dust and dirt are allowed to accumulate on surfaces, there is a potential for a slip hazard.
Compressed air should not be used for removing dust or dirt off employees or equipment. Compressed air can cause dirt and dust particles to be embedded under the skin or in the eye.
Employee restrooms should be cleaned at least once during a work shift and should have a good supply of soap, towels, toilet paper, plus disinfectants, if needed.
Employee break rooms should be separate from the work area and should be cleaned daily. Remember, smoking, eating or drinking in the work area where toxic materials are handled should be prohibited.
Floors should be cleaned regularly and immediately if liquids or other materials are spilled. Poor floor conditions are a leading cause of accidents in the workplace. Areas such as entranceways that cannot be cleaned continuously should have mats or some type of anti-slip flooring. It is also important to replace worn, ripped or damaged flooring that poses a trip hazard.
Adequate lighting reduces the potential for accidents. Make sure that inoperative light fixtures are repaired immediately. Dirty light fixtures should be cleaned so that light levels are maintained.
Aisles and Stairways
Aisles and stairways must be kept clear and not used for storage. Warning signs and mirrors can improve sight lines in blind corners and help prevent accidents. It is also important to maintain adequate lighting in stairways.
The best method to control spills is to prevent them from happening. Regular cleaning and maintenance on machines and equipment is essential. Also, the use of drip pans where spills might occur is a good preventative measure. When spills do occur, it is important to clean them up immediately. When cleaning a spill, use the proper cleaning agents or absorbent materials. Be sure waste products are disposed of properly.
Tools and Equipment
Tools and equipment should be inspected prior to each use. Damaged or worn tools should be taken out of service immediately. Tools should be cleaned and returned to the proper location after use.
One of the most important elements of a good housekeeping program is maintenance of buildings and equipment. This means keeping buildings, equipment and machinery in safe and efficient working order and in good repair. When a workplace looks neglected – broken windows, defective plumbing, broken floor surfaces or dirty walls – these conditions can cause accidents and affect work practices. It is important to have a program in place to replace or fix broken and damaged items as quickly as possible.
Proper storage of materials is essential in a good housekeeping program. 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. Materials that are stored should not obstruct aisles, stairs, exits, fire equipment, emergency eyewash fountains, emergency showers, or first aid stations. Also it is important that all containers be labeled properly. If materials are being stored correctly, the incident of strain injuries, chemical exposures and fires should be reduced dramatically.
Many workplace injuries occur right in the employee’s workspace. This space is often overlooked when conducting general housekeeping inspections.
Implementing a good housekeeping program is an important element of any safety and health program. Remember: It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace free of recognizable hazards. With these steps in place, an effective housekeeping program can eliminate workplace hazards and decrease injuries.