But, housekeeping is much more than that. It plays a pivotal role in maintaining workplace safety and health according to the OSH Acts (1970) norms and improves the working environment.
Without housekeeping, a company can potentially face lawsuits from its employees due to negligence as well as incur heavy fines from the government due to non-compliance. Housework isn’t just cleaning; it includes maintaining order in the workplace and the proper disposal of hazardous toxic materials without contamination. It is an essential part of incident and fire prevention. Mentioned below are some of the crucial elements of workplace housekeeping and maintenance.
SPILL CONTROL & MANAGEMENT OF SURFACES
Cited in OSHA: Walking-Working Surfaces Standard (1910.22(a)) “all workplaces should be kept clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition.” The best way to control spills is to avoid them altogether; this can be done by regular cleaning and maintenance of machinery and equipment where wet processes are involved. Proper and unclogged drainage systems must be provided so that the fluid by-products or waste can be easily collected and dealt with. Poor floor conditions are the second leading cause of non-fatal occupational incidents caused due to oil, grease and other liquids that reduce the coefficient of friction. Improper use of cleaning agents and disregard of protocols while cleaning oil and grease spills can further aggravate the problem by spreading the slipperiness everywhere. To prevent trips falls and slips it is advisable to follow the given steps:
- Instantly reporting spills and leaks and cleaning them up before it spreads.
- Replacing any worn, torn, ripped or damaged flooring materials.
- Provide dry standing platforms like mats and false floors.
- Audit regularly for trip hazards.
- Install anti-slip flooring wherever feasible and acceptable.
FACILITATE THE EMPLOYEES
Employees are the backbone of the company. Facilities for employees must be adequate and well maintained. Employee restrooms must be cleaned once or more every shift along with a proper supply of soaps, toilet papers, and disinfectants. The lockers provided for storing personal belongings need to be maintained as well. Decontamination showers and changing rooms must be made available in case the employees are tasked to handle hazardous and toxic materials. A designated lunch room or cafeteria must be assigned for eating and drinking. Plant natural trees near the common resting areas or install artificial outdoor trees to instill positivity and freshness. Red oak trees along with ferns and bushes tend to lighten the mood and take away the work stress.
ELIMINATION OF ANY AND ALL FIRE HAZARDS
“Combustible trash should be stored in covered metal repositories and disposed of daily.”- Cited in OSHA: Hazardous Materials Standard (1910.106). The given precautionary measures must be followed:
- Avoid unnecessary excess storage of combustible materials in and around the work area. When not in use, store these materials in proper storage areas.
- Store instantly flammable materials as far away as possible from ignition sources.
- “Materials must be kept at least 18 inches away from automatic sprinklers, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler controls. The 18-inch distance is mandatory, but 24 to 36 inches is the recommended distance. Clearance of 3 feet is required between pile material and the ceiling. If the stock is piled more than 15 feet high, clearance should be doubled.”- Government safety norms. Life Safety Code, ANSI/NFPA 101-2009 should be consulted.
- Report hazards in electrical areas as soon as they are detected, and issue work orders to fix them at the earliest.
DUST AND DIRT CONTROL
Dust and dirt accumulation of more than 0.8 millimeters (thick as a paper clip) covering at least 5 percent of a room’s surface poses an important explosion hazard. Sometimes, dirt, dust, fillings, and chips escape the enclosures and exhaust ventilation. Industrial vacuum cleaners are designed to clean walls, ceilings, machinery and ledges where there might be dust accumulation. Hazardous products like asbestos and fiberglass manifest as excellent particles and require specially equipped cleaners.
Correctly organizing the stored materials is essential. The location of stored equipment and stockpiles should be independent and away from the work area but should also be readily accessible as and when required. To avoid movement and falling, stack the cartons or drums on a firm foundation and cross tie them. Aisles and stairways should be clear at all times. Storing materials in stairs, aisles, exits, emergency exits or first-aid stations can be fatal in emergency situations. Hazardous, flammable, combustible and potentially toxic materials must be stored in designated containers in a secure and marked storage facility. Dispose of materials that are no longer required. Follow OSHA- Materials Handling, Storage, Use and Disposal Standard (1926.250) guideline: storage areas should not have an accumulation of materials that present dangers for tripping, fire or explosion.
IMPROVE HOUSEKEEPING AND MAINTENANCE IN YOUR WORKPLACE
Good housekeeping requires effort and teamwork, but it’s worth it. Here are some general pointers:
- Set housekeeping standards and goals for the company as well as the employees. Make sure they are clear, objective, simple, manageable, attainable and time-bound. Measures will make the work more comfortable, safer and healthier for employees.
- It is best to involve employees and incorporate their thoughts and views when setting standards.
- Monitor the standards and check to see whether they are met.
- Checklists will help you systematically measure housekeeping and maintenance procedures without causing chaos.
- Encourage everyone to accept housekeeping as a way of life – not just a particular activity before a government inspection.
BRING NATURE TO THE EMPLOYEES
Continuously staying in contact with noisy hard-hitting equipment makes the employees rather dull. Creating a garden or fountain where they can go to relax and unwind during their breaks will undoubtedly boost their mood and increase enthusiasm. Botanical gardens, flowers, shrubs, ferns, bushes, red oak trees, pine or deciduous trees, palms trees, potted plants, artificial outdoor trees, and plants are easy to maintain and create a clean and happy ambiance near the workplace.