Safety column: Good housekeeping makes for a much safer workplace

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By Chantal Blais

Ottawa Construction News special feature

Why should every worker watch out for housekeeping details in keeping the workplace safe?

Effective housekeeping safety checks can eliminate some workplace hazards and help get a job done safely. Poor safekeeping/housekeeping can contribute to accidents by hiding hazards that cause injuries. If the sight of paper, debris, clutter and spills is accepted as normal, then other more serious health and safety hazards may be taken for granted.

Housekeeping is not just cleanliness. It includes keeping work areas neat and orderly; maintaining halls and floors free of slips and trip hazards; and removing of waste materials (e.g., paper, cardboard) and other fire hazards from work areas. It also requires paying attention to important details such as the layout of the whole workplace, aisle marking, the adequacy of storage facilities, and maintenance. Good housekeeping is also a basic part of accident and fire prevention.

Why is this so important?

Poor housekeeping can be a cause of accidents, such as:

  • tripping over loose objects on floors, stairs and platforms;
  • being hit by falling objects;
  • slipping on greasy, wet or dirty surfaces;
  • striking against projecting, poorly stacked items or misplaced material; and
  • cutting, puncturing, or tearing the skin of hands or other parts of the body on projecting nails, wire or steel strapping.

To avoid these hazards, a workplace must “maintain” order throughout a workday. Although this effort requires a great deal of management and planning, the benefits are many.

Special note: Workplace inspections should be done daily/weekly/monthly to ensure a safe work place.

Inspections help prevent incidents, injuries and illnesses. Health and safety committees can conduct and monitor the process of doing these inspections and addressing all related issues..

Regular workplace inspections are an important part of the overall health and safety program.

What are the benefits of good housekeeping practices?

Effective housekeeping results in:

  • reduced handling to ease the 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 (e.g. dusts, vapours);
  • better control of tools and materials, including inventory and supplies;
  • more efficient equipment cleanup 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; and
  • improved productivity (tools and materials will be easy to find).

Chantal Blais is the operations manager at LaborTek Personnel/Safety Training Services. For more information, see www.labortek.com.

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