Eliminate The Clutter

There are a whole variety of potential workplace hazards that could be eliminated with just one thing – effective housekeeping. It may be a dirty word for some, but keeping your jobsite or facility in top shape can help you avoid injuries and make your operation more productive.

Housekeeping is not just about keeping things clean. It includes maintaining orderly work stations, reducing clutter, eliminating trip hazards and removing waste materials. Additionally, it requires paying attention to important jobsite details such as the layout of the workplace as a whole, site access and exits, aisle marking, the adequacy of storage facilities and overall maintenance. Good housekeeping is also a fundamental part of accident and fire prevention.

Why it’s Important

Statistics show that the highest percentage of injury claims, lost days and even deaths can be attributed to slips and falls in the workplace alone. Often, these incidents are avoidable and are a result of workers tripping over loose objects on floors, stairs and platforms. Poor housekeeping practices can also lead to:

  • Being hit by falling objects
  • Slipping on greasy, wet or dirty surfaces
  • Striking against projecting, poorly stacked items or misplaced material
  • Cutting, puncturing, or tearing skin on projecting nails, wire or steel strapping
  • Injuries caused through interaction with unlabelled or mislabeled toxic substances
  • Mishaps with machinery due to clutter and obstructions
  • Increased fire hazard through an accumulation of debris or flammable items

To avoid these types of hazards, a workplace must maintain order throughout each workday. Effective housekeeping is an ongoing operation and shouldn’t be approached as a hit-and-miss clean-up which is only done occasionally. If the sight of tools, debris, clutter and spills becomes accepted as normal, then other more serious health and safety hazards may be taken for granted. Employers must also consider all of these factors, as the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires an active and ongoing reduction in workplace hazards for all staff.

Aside from the physical risks that can occur through a cluttered and disorganized workplace, there is also a very real affect on resources and productivity. You know how frustrating and inefficient it can be when you can’t find what you’re looking for in your own garage or workshop at home. Well multiply that by all your staff and you can see where you might have a problem. On average, workers waste 2 -4 hours per week just looking for the things they need to do their jobs. Do the math.

A clean and well-organized jobsite can provide:

  • Reduced handling & more efficient flow of materials
  • Better control of tools, materials & inventory
  • More efficient use of space
  • Increased productivity & work quality
  • Reduced property and equipment damage
  • Less stress and improved morale for workers

Develop a System

In a lot of cases, businesses will build-up and leave clutter and dirt until it becomes a real problem, and then conduct a knee-jerk clean-up out of necessity. Both employees and supervisors will differ in their organizational skills and their tolerance for clutter, but it’s up to management to put a plan in-place and for EVERYONE to maintain it.

Proper housekeeping should be a routine that is simply done as a part of each worker’s daily performance. Think of housekeeping as being ‘maintained’ rather than being ‘achieved’ and it will help to position it as more of a sustainable part of your business. Your plan may include:

  • Assigned responsibilities for who performs what tasks and at what intervals
  • Inspection & record keeping procedures
  • A determination of which tasks happen on a daily, weekly and monthly basis
  • A material flow plan to ensure minimal handling & proper staging
  • The creation of dedicated storage areas for tools, equipment & supplies
  • Waste removal & recycling protocols
  • The return of unused materials at the end of a shift
  • Worker training

Housekeeping Basics

The nature of your jobsite or facility will clearly determine the types of housekeeping elements that you need to put into place. From office locations to construction sites, there will be some specific tasks to account for, but a number that can apply no matter where you work.

Aisles, Walkways & Platforms

Having loose items, scrap, boxes, tools, cords, hoses etc. underfoot is one of the leading causes of trips and falls. For any work environment, it’s critical to keep all areas clear to avoid these types of injuries. This is doubly important where elevated work areas exist. Not only can a fall be more devastating, but items can be knocked down onto co-workers below.

Reduce Wet or Slippery Surfaces

Like clutter, slick surfaces are one of the worst offenders when it comes to causing falls. Think of traction control as an ongoing process that includes the immediate cleaning of spills and wet floors, the use of anti-skid tape, mats or paint in troublesome areas, and the display of warning signs.

Reduce Clutter

If it’s not around, then it likely won’t become a problem. Don’t be a pack-rat with old equipment, stock or broken items that you’re not likely to ever use again. These things might have had value at some point, but now they’re just in the way. Use it or lose it.

Create & Maintain Proper Lighting

Don’t create situations where poor visibility can cause an accident. Be sure to have adequate and well-maintained light sources in all areas of your facility.

Spill Control

The best way to control spills is to stop them before they happen. The regular cleaning and maintenance of machines and equipment is one way. Another is to use drip pans and guards where possible spills or equipment throw-off might occur . When spills do happen, it’s important to clean them up immediately and to use specific spill control kits or absorbent materials where necessary.

Tools & Equipment

Tool housekeeping is important if you want to keep track of what you have and to keep it all in good repair. Tools and equipment require suitable storage fixtures with marked locations to provide orderly arrangement, both in storage areas and near work stations. Returning them promptly after use also reduces the chance of being misplaced or ending–up on the floor somewhere.

Maintenance & Cleaning

Along with everything else you might do to keep your workspace clear and safe, the repair and cleaning of buildings, equipment and machinery needs to be part of the overall plan. From equipment and facility repair, plumbing, electrical and ventilation systems to dust control and general cleanliness, these efforts go a long way toward maintaining a safe environment and a positive company image.

Waste Disposal

The regular collection and sorting of scrap material is one of the most important things you can do on a daily basis. It’s always better to stay on top of it and collect as you go, rather than letting materials build-up over the course of a shift. As discussed, it creates obstructions and trip hazards and is one of the easiest things you can do to keep your work area clear. Be sure to keep bins accessible and label them appropriately.

Storage

Seems simple enough, but how you store your materials can make a big difference in how efficiently you operate. A solid organizational plan for the storage and management of tools and supplies can really help with overall access, inventory control and safety. Apply some logic based on staff needs and daily workflow, creating ‘zones’ for like items and rotating stock wherever it applies. Flammable, combustible, toxic and other hazardous materials should be stored in approved containers in designated areas that are appropriate for the different hazards that they pose.

Remember, both employers and employees share the responsibility for maintaining a healthy and safe work environment. Once you have a plan in-place, make housekeeping and all of its elements an integral part of your business culture.

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