U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Housekeeping Safety
Benefits of Good Housekeeping Practices
Good housekeeping implies that a workplace is kept in an organized, uncluttered, and hazard-free condition. While this is a relatively simple concept, the benefits that can be realized from good housekeeping practices are far reaching, and affect not only workers' safety but also their health and productivity. Improvements in worker health and productivity, in turn, lead to lower operating costs thereby providing benefits to both the workers and the employer.
Good housekeeping is not just about cleanliness; it lays the basic foundation for accident and fire prevention. It requires attention to details, such as the layout of the worksite or facility, identification and marking of physical hazards, ensuring the adequate number of storage facilities, and routine maintenance. Here are some of the many benefits that can be gained when implementing good workplace housekeeping:
Improved Worker Safety
- Fewer trip and slip incidents where walkways and working surfaces are free of clutter and spills.
- Decreased fire hazards as a result of the reduction or elimination of waste, dust, debris, and other flammable materials.
- Reduced number of workers being struck by objects through organized and careful storage of materials, tools, and equipment.
- Fewer worker injuries as a result of defective or malfunctioning parts through timely maintenance of machinery, equipment, or systems.
Improved Worker Health
- Reduced worker exposure to hazardous substances, such as dust and vapor buildup, by following a regular cleaning schedule.
- Improved working conditions and worker health through regular servicing, cleaning, and supplying sanitation facilities.
Increased Worker Productivity/Reduced Costs
- Safe work environments lead to healthier workers, higher worker morale, and increased productivity.
- Workplace cleanup and maintenance, including worker training, will ensure better control over tools and materials as well as the inventory of supplies.
- Tidy and clean work areas allow for more effective use of space.
- Improved preventive maintenance can reduce property damage.
- Increased worker participation in general housekeeping helps reduce the workload and cost of janitorial staff.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that slips, trips, and falls (STFs) account for approximately 15 percent of all accidental workplace deaths and are second only to motor vehicle accidents as a cause of worker fatalities. Good housekeeping practices can substantially reduce the underlying causes of STFs in shipyard employment. For example, good housekeeping practices can reduce the risk of tripping on equipment, tools, and other items that have been left on the floor or misplaced. One study published in the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics found that incidents in a shipyard were reduced 70-90% once steps were taken to improve housekeeping practices conducted at the facility (Saari et al., 1989).
Good housekeeping can also improve the health and safety of shipyard workers by reducing exposure to hazardous chemicals and unsafe conditions, including fires or explosions. Good housekeeping practices help ensure that containers used for hazardous substances are not only returned to their appropriate storage areas, but are also properly closed and sealed so that dust, fumes, or vapors are not released. Combustible dusts, when knocked from elevated surfaces or otherwise made present in the air, can result in fires and explosions. Certain materials or substances can pose a fire hazard when spilled or combined unintentionally; it is important to avoid leaving such materials unattended or in close proximity to ignition sources. Clutter in the workplace can obstruct walkways, which could make it more difficult to exit during a fire or other emergency.
The improvement of workers' attitudes is another advantage to maintaining good housekeeping. Good housekeeping practices help ensure neat, organized, and safe workspaces, which can reduce stress and improve morale. An increase in productivity and lower operating costs may also result when workers spend less time tracking down a needed tool or other item.
Reducing workplace injuries will also help lower costs. Workplace injuries result in substantial expenditures. Worker injuries lead to missed days at work, higher workers’ compensation premiums, and increased spending on the hiring and training of new or temporary workers.See OSHA's Safety Pays website to assess information on the impact of occupational injuries and illnesses on business profitability.
Saari, J., Nasanen, M., The effect of positive feedback on industrial housekeeping and accidents; a long term study at a shipyard, International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, Volume 4, Issue 3, November 1989, pages 201-211.
Dufort, V., Infante-Rivard, C., Housekeeping and Safety: An Epidemiological Review, Safety Science, Volume 28, Issue 2, March 1998, pages 127-138.