When we think of spring, we think of the end of a long winter, warmer weather and a fresh start. For many of us this is a time to clean out our closets, garages, and storage rooms of items that have collected over the last several months. But why should this annual tradition wait until spring? Why not create a culture where good housekeeping is a year round commitment?

Housekeeping is an essential, but sometimes left out, component of a company’s overall safety program. Some people may think this is a waste of time but when you look back through your business losses you will find that poor housekeeping, in many cases, was a contributing factor. 

Poor housekeeping practices create hazards that increase the probability of loss in many areas including, but not limited to, fires, slips or trips and falls, and cuts. It can also lead to delays in exiting a building in the event of an emergency.

The development of a housekeeping program can help ensure safe work practices are achieved year round.

The housekeeping program should, at a minimum, cover:

  • All work area surfaces (floors, desks, bench tops, shelves, etc.) and passageways.
  • All work areas such as, but not limited to, storage rooms, rest rooms, service rooms, locker rooms and offices.
  • Illumination requirements for each work area.
  • Proper storage and placement of supplies and equipment.
  • Trash collection and removal.
  • Chemical spill response procedures.
  • The need for maintaining clutter-free emergency exits and emergency egress routes.
  • The need to maintain a clutter-free space in front of electrical panels.
  • Employees’ responsibilities.
  • Supervisors/foremen responsibilities.

What else can you do?

  • If you see a mess that someone else left, take care of it. Don’t wait for the guy who left it to clean it up. Pick up anything you see lying around, especially if it could trip someone or fall on them.
  • If you find someone’s tools or equipment lying around, move them out of the way. Put them somewhere safe, but visible.
  • Immediately clear scrap and debris from walkways, passageways, stairs, scaffolds and around floor openings.
  • Make sure the ground is level and well-graded within six feet of buildings under construction.
  • Keep storage areas and walkways free of holes, ruts, and obstructions.
  • Clean up spills of grease, oil or other liquids at once. If it’s not possible, cover them with sand or some other absorbent material until they can be cleaned up.
  • Coil up extension cords, lines, welding leads, hoses, etc. when not in use.
  • Make sure there’s adequate lighting. If a light is out, report it. Replace it immediately if you can.

What about fire safety?

  • Make sure flammable material is always stored in separate closed containers.
  • Incompatible chemical products (which may cause a hazardous reaction if they come in contact) should not be stored together.
  • Smoking should be prohibited in flammable liquid storage areas.
  • Flammable liquids should not be stored near sources of ignition (sparks, electricity, flames or hot objects).
  • Flammable liquids stored outdoors should be at least 50 feet from the property line and 10 feet from any public way. (Requirements change for very large quantities.)
  • Outdoor flammable liquid storage areas should be graded to divert spills away from buildings.
  • Flammable and combustible scrap, debris and waste should be removed promptly from buildings or structures.
  • Covered metal waste cans should be available for oily and paint-soaked waste.
  • Appropriate cleanup materials should be available for leaks or spills of flammables or other hazardous materials.
  • Leftover hazardous products and waste should be properly stored, labeled and disposed of according to the instructions on the product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

A well developed and effective housekeeping program will:

  • Reduce accidents and the causes of fires.
  • Reduce time usage by keeping areas clear and orderly for easier movement.
  • Maintain optimum use of floor and shelving space.
  • Reduce property damage by eliminating the chance for exposed material to be damaged.
  • Maintain a good shop appearance, which will present a good first impression to visitors and customers.
  • Encourage better work habits by being more careful and conscious of your actions in a clean and orderly work area.
  • Minimize janitorial work.

Here at Society Insurance we believe that good housekeeping promotes a safe workplace. Contact our risk control department and let a risk control representative assist you with the development of a housekeeping program.

Housekeeping is everyone’s job – every trade, every worker, every supervisor. And it’s a job you should do every day, not just once a week or when a project is over. The first rule is to do your work neatly in the first place, and clean up after yourself.

Good housekeeping does more than prevent injuries – it can save you time, prevent a fire, and it can keep your tools from being lost, damaged, or destroyed. Spending just five minutes picking up junk and litter might keep someone from slipping or tripping. You could prevent an injury that keeps them off work for weeks or even months. Five minutes to save months off work is a good investment!  Keep in mind that next time it could be you.

-Pat O’Brien