In a home environment housekeeping may bring to mind cleaning, dusting, and tidying. In a work environment, it means taking steps that can help prevent avoidable injuries and even fatalities. This article outlines 8 areas where good housekeeping in the workplace practice will protect a workforce from harm and therefore also contribute to the future growth and success of a business. So what do we mean by housekeeping in the workplace?
Materials and equipment must be stored properly and in the appropriate places. Every employee should be trained to keep their work area in order and return tools and equipment to where they belong once they are no longer needed. The location of the storage space is important as people are more likely to return things to the appropriate place if it is nearby and easily accessed.
Boxes, sacks and other containers should be stacked correctly and to an appropriate height to prevent them falling. Heavy objects should be stored at appropriate levels for lifting (if moving manually this is above floor level but below shoulder height) and equipment should be kept away from the edges of desks, benches and other surfaces. Guard rails and netting can be positioned to prevent falling objects from hitting workers or equipment.
Slip and Trip Hazards
Slipping, tripping or falling on the same level was the second most common type of recorded non-fatal accident in the UK between 2014/15 – 2016/17 according to the Labour Force Survey. Not only can these incidents cause injuries, but they can also lead to other types of accidents, like falls from height or into machinery.
Slips and trips are also behind half the reported injuries to members of the public in workplaces with public access, like shops, restaurants, and hospitals. Most slipping incidents at work occur when floors become wet or contaminated, and many trips are due to poor housekeeping.
All rooms, passageways, aisles, stairwells, exits, and entrances in the workplace should have flooring of the appropriate material and be kept clean and dry. Cleaning protocols that identify the use of the appropriate cleaning materials should be followed on a regular basis. Worn or damaged flooring and coverings like mats should be replaced, slip and trip hazards should be removed, and processes for reporting and cleaning up spills and leaks should be followed.
Any blockage of drains in areas where wet processes occur should be reported and cleared promptly. Floor openings like vehicle examination pits must be covered or fenced off when not in use.
If it is necessary to have cables or hoses running across pedestrian areas the trip hazard should be highlighted. Trip hazards involving trailing cables can be minimised by cable covers.
Restricting Hazardous Materials
Good housekeeping can help stop the spread of hazardous materials between work areas and also prevent transferring them outside the work environment.
Mats designed to remove substances from footwear should be kept clean and well maintained. Cleaning equipment should be allocated to specific areas where hazardous materials are handled to prevent cross-contamination.
If the hazardous materials are toxic protective gear and showering facilities might be required, in which case they need to be maintained correctly. Every employee working with toxic materials must safely deposit their work clothes for cleaning or disposal, and should never be taking their work clothes home.
Most fires are preventable. Good housekeeping practices can help. Flammable materials should only be used in the amounts needed. When these are not required they are to be safely stored in designated locations away from sources of ignition.
Flammable waste including paper and cardboard should be stored in designated areas and ideally disposed of daily so they do not build up. Employees must also be careful that stacking of objects does not encroach on space around fire sprinklers.
Plug sockets must not be overloaded and electrical equipment should be stored safely. Any electrical related hazards should be reported as soon as they are discovered and steps taken to fix them.
If a fire or other emergency that requires evacuation of staff does occur good housekeeping practices can make escape routes and emergency exits easier to identify and reach.
As already mentioned employees should get into the habit of returning tools, equipment, and other materials to storage after use and dispose of waste and other unwanted materials in the appropriate receptacles. Drawers and cupboards should be closed after use. Aisles, passages, stairways, exits and entrances, doors and access panels should be kept clear of clutter.
Absence of clutter can improve efficiency and suggest to staff that the workplace is organised and well managed, creating a sense of calm and order which helps productivity.
Looking After PPE
Some jobs require the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This includes items like safety helmets, gloves and gauntlets, eye protection like goggles and face shields, ear protection, safety footwear, high-visibility clothing, safety harnesses, and special respiratory protective equipment.
PPE supplied to an employee must be the correct size, fit and weight for them and must be regularly checked for faults and any problems reported. The equipment must be kept in good condition and correctly stored when not in use.
Lighting and Alarms
Faulty lighting in passageways, aisles, stairways, exits, entrances, and doorways and wherever people and vehicles are working should be reported and repaired promptly.
Faulty alarm bells or sirens, or faulty noise suppression systems that mean alarms are unable to be easily heard should also be reported and repaired.
Do You Have Good Housekeeping in the Workplace Systems In Place?
Housekeeping policies and protocols should be written, easily accessible and specify which cleaning materials, tools, and methods to use. Employees should be trained in housekeeping and also know how to report real and potential safety hazards. An adequate level of monitoring, reviewing and auditing should be in place with a regular inspection schedule and records kept. There should also be periodic refresher training courses to help employees remain aware of potential hazards and following good housekeeping practices.
Every employee should participate in housekeeping in the workplace and take responsibility for keeping their own work areas clean and tidy. The relatively small effort that goes into daily housekeeping can help keep them safe and the company they work for in business.