U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Housekeeping Safety
Establishing a Housekeeping Program
As discussed in the previous sections, Introduction and Benefits of Good Housekeeping Practices, good housekeeping is a necessary component of maintaining a safe work environment in shipyard employment activities. Housekeeping practices are among the easiest and most visible safety measures to implement in the workplace. Operations that are neat and organized help reduce potential hazards. Employers are responsible for establishing and maintaining good housekeeping practices as required by 29 CFR 1915.81(a)(1); they should have a written housekeeping plan or program that includes the following key elements:
- Worker training
- Routine maintenance and housekeeping schedule
- Assignment of worker responsibilities
In addition to training workers on the type, appropriate use, and care of PPE, workers should understand the potential hazards associated with poor housekeeping. A written housekeeping plan or program should include a training schedule for all workers at each facility including contractors. The schedule should include initial training and any refresher training that may be necessary due to a change in facility operations or change in worker assignment. Training records should be maintained at the facility and include the name of the worker, the date of training, and the material covered.
Important training topics for workers should include general housekeeping procedures, safe work practices, and hazard reporting. General housekeeping includes ensuring that all trash (e.g., recyclables and food items) is placed in proper receptacles during the work shift and at the end of the day. Safe work practices include such elements as ensuring that walkways and working surfaces are free of debris, including solid and liquid wastes, and other items such as tools that are not in use (29 CFR 1915.81(b) and (c)). Employers should ensure that workers understand that any potential hazards discovered should be reported to supervisors as soon as possible. Management and workers can implement corrective actions such as relocating items that are causing an obstruction, or making repairs to damaged equipment or machinery.
Routine Maintenance/Housekeeping Schedule
Developing and implementing a schedule for routine maintenance and housekeeping activities promote a safe working environment by incorporating safe practices into day-to-day activities. Safety meetings and worker training can also be used to engage workers and identifying areas that may need development or improvement for routine maintenance and housekeeping.
Areas to include in a routine housekeeping schedule include sanitation (29 CFR 1915.88), storage areas (29 CFR 1915.81), and maintenance of equipment and machinery (29 CFR 1915.89 and Subparts G, J and L). Routine cleaning and restocking of supplies in common areas (such as kitchens and bathrooms) reduce the risk of exposure to harmful contaminants (e.g., germs and hazardous or toxic substances) that co uld cause injury, illness and loss of work days.
Organized storage areas are also important to the safety of workers because they reduce physical hazards such as slips, trips, falls, or falling objects. Where it is not possible to eliminate slippery conditions on walkways and working surfaces, employers must restrict worker access to those areas or provide slip-resistant footwear (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(2)). Furthermore, there must be easy and open access to fire-alarm boxes, fire-call stations, fire-fighting equipment, and exits (including ladders, staircases, scaffolds, and gangways) (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(4)). Another concern is the improper storage of items such as flammable and combustible substances. Paint thinners, solvents, rags, scrap, and waste must be disposed of, or stored in a covered fire-resistant container, at the end of each workshift or when the job is complete, whichever comes first (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(5)).
Also, properly maintained machinery, equipment, and systems prevent malfunctions and ensure continued safe use. It is important that the proper lockout and/or tags-plus procedures are followed when servicing machinery, equipment, or systems (29 CFR 1915.89). For more detailed guidance on safety procedures during servicing activities, see SHIPS Documents - Control of Hazardous Energy Lockout/Tags-Plus and Shipboard Electrical.
Assignment of Worker Responsibilities
Housekeeping should be a team effort. Designated worker responsibilities will help engage all workers in good housekeeping practices. An established maintenance program should identify the responsibilities of each job or work area, and assign a frequency for conducting those tasks. For example, workers should be responsible for keeping their work areas tidy during their normal shift, as well as at the end of their shift, to ensure that the work area is clean, organized, and free of debris or obstructions. This is particularly important in areas where routine maintenance or cleaning may be conducted after regular working hours. It is also important that unused materials are returned to their proper storage location as soon as possible, but no later than the end of the work shift. Further, hazardous materials and waste products should be stored or appropriately discarded when they are no longer in use. Employers or their representatives should also inspect the facility at regular intervals and at the end of the work day to ensure that good housekeeping practices are effective.
Areas of Concern
Before employers can effectively establish a housekeeping program, they should first determine where potential hazards may exist for workers. Some areas of concern may include:
- dust and dirt removal
- sanitation facilities
- vermin control
- walkways and working surfaces
- hazardous waste and emergency response
- material storage