We talk a lot about how effective workplace housekeeping can help prevent injuries and improve productivity and morale, as well as make a good first impression on visitors. We don’t often talk about how it can help an employer avoid potential fines for non-compliance.
Effective workplace housekeeping practices span from offices to industrial facilities, such as production lines, commercial kitchens, retail outlets, warehouses and manufacturing plants (especially those that present special challenges such as hazardous materials and flammables. Safety experts say that safety programs should incorporate some form of workplace housekeeping, and every worker should play a part. In addition, housekeeping should have management’s commitment so workers realize its importance. Here are 11 tips for effective workplace housekeeping.
Prevent slips, trips and falls
Property owners / tenants should choose appropriate flooring for their business (e.g., cement, ceramic tile or another material), as different flooring performs differently under different circumstances. Fall hazards are a bid deal at work. Slips, trips and falls are a major cause of nonfatal injuries which caused days away from work. Spilled materials on harder floor surfaces should be wiped promptly, trip hazards avoided so that passageways are free and clear. Things like oils and grease – without appropriate cleaning processes will just spread slippy stuff around.
To help prevent slip, trip and fall incidents, the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety recommends the following:
- Report and clean up spills and leaks.
- Keep aisles and exits clear of items.
- Consider installing mirrors and warning signs to help with blind spots.
- Replace worn, ripped or damage flooring.
- Consider installing anti-slip flooring in areas that can’t always be cleaned.
- Use drip pans and guards.
In addition, provide mats, platforms, false floors or “other dry standing places” where useful, according to OSHA. Every workplace should be free of projecting nails, splinters, holes and loose boards.
Gray added that employers should audit for trip hazards, and encourage workers to focus on the task at hand.
Just 0.8 millimeters of dust which covering 5 percent of a room’s surface (that’s about as much as a dime) can pose a significant explosion hazard. Vacuuming is the “preferred” method of cleaning. Sweeping and wet wash-down are other options.
Avoid tracking materials
Work-area mats – which can be cloth or sticky-topped – need to be kept clean to prevent tracking dirt or materials to other work areas. Check all mats to ensure they are not tripping hazards.
Additionally, separate cleaning protocols may be needed for different areas to prevent cross-contamination, Norton notes. Avoid using the same mop to clean both an oily spill and in another area, for example.
If the materials are toxic, industrial hygiene testing, uniforms and showering facilities might be needed, Gray said. Employees who work with toxic materials should not wear their work clothes home, Ahrenholz added.
Prevent falling objects
Gray noted that protections such as a toe board, toe rail or net can help prevent objects from falling and hitting workers or equipment.
Other tips include stacking boxes and materials straight up and down to keep them from falling, said Paul Errico, a Fairfield, CT-based safety consultant. Place heavy objects on lower shelves, and keep equipment away from the edges of desks and tables. Also, refrain from stacking objects in areas where workers walk, including aisles.
Keep layout in mind so workers are not exposed to hazards as they walk through areas, Norton added.
When an area is cluttered, you’re create more potential not only for trips, but also cuts or lacerations. You’re not going to have as much room to set up your workstation like you should and move around. You’re going to be twisting your body rather than moving your whole body. Best practice is to put things away once they have been used. Keep aisles, stairways, emergency exits, electrical panels and doors clear of clutter, and purge untidy areas and empty trash receptacles before they overflow.