U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Housekeeping Safety
Good housekeeping not only results in a cleaner workplace, but makes it safer as well. Good housekeeping reduces illnesses and injuries and promotes positive behaviors, habits, and attitudes. Employers are responsible for assessing each workplace before work begins to identify the potential hazards present, and determine ways to eliminate the hazards. An effective housekeeping program is an important element in workplace safety and health management systems.
Uncluttered working conditions are essential to the safety of all workers and should be maintained at all times in both work and office areas. Proper housekeeping management provides for an orderly arrangement of operations, tools, equipment, storage facilities, supplies, and waste material. Good housekeeping is evidenced by floors free from grease and oil spillage; properly identified passageways; unobstructed accesses and exits; neat and orderly machinery and equipment; well-nested hoses and cords; properly stored materials; removal of excess waste material or debris from the working area; walkways free from ice and snow; surfaces, including elevated locations, free from accumulated dust; and adequate lighting. Maintaining these conditions contributes significantly to lower incident rates.
While OSHA regulations require that each working surface be cleared of debris, including solid and liquid waste, at the end of each workshift or job, whichever occurs first, to fully realize the benefit of a clean workplace, it is recommended that good housekeeping be maintained throughout the course of the job and workday. For example, consider the following consequences that can result from poor housekeeping:
- A trip or fall over lines and leads in walkways and work areas
- A slip or fall on an oily or slippery facility floor, vessel deck or other working surface
- A trip or fall from a dock or vessel
- An allergic reaction to a spilled chemical
- An eye injury from falling grit left in the overhead of a work site
- A fire as a result of oily rags left in an area where hot work is performed, or due to the accumulation of combustible dust
- Illness due to the unsanitary conditions of restrooms
- Electrical shock as a result of poorly maintained equipment or energy sources, such as broken, cracked or damaged insulation and connections of wiring
- Lacerations and amputations when poor maintenance results in inadequate lighting
- Exposure to hazardous substances from poor storage and ineffective labeling of hazardous chemicals
- Slip hazards where snow, ice, or standing-water is left on walkways
In shipyard employment, trip hazards and slippery walking surfaces are two of the most hazardous housekeeping issues. In many of these instances, injury could have been prevented had the employer ensured cleanup prior to the start of work, or required more effective storage of materials, rerouting of hoses and cords, and inspection procedures. Every effort should be made to run air, gas, and electrical lines overhead or underneath walkways. However, such utilities may be placed on walkways, provided that they are covered by crossovers or other means that will prevent injury to workers and damage to hoses and cords. Frequent inspections and assessment of walkways and working surfaces should be conducted to address hazards before they become a danger to workers. Spilled materials, such as oil, grease, and water, must be immediately cleaned from walkways and working surfaces to eliminate slip hazards.
Even with a dedicated effort to keeping work areas clean, ship construction and repair requires that work be performed in tight and congested areas. A key to protecting workers from such obstacles and preventing injury is early detection and immediate action. Employers can keep workers safe by training all workers to:
- Take time to stack materials, boxes and packages properly.
- Clean up messes. Never let safety be someone else's job.
- Remove, repair, and/or report housekeeping hazards.
- Never jeopardize someone else's health and safety by obstructing the access to exits, electrical panels, or fire extinguishers.
- Avoid stringing cords, hoses or lines across walkways. Use "S" and "J" hooks and cable trees to keep lines out of walkways. If lines must cross walkways, cover the lines.
In addition, provisions contained in 29 CFR 1915.81 outline OSHA’s minimum housekeeping requirements to protect workers. Employers must:
- Establish and maintain good housekeeping practices.
- Eliminate slippery conditions, such as snow, ice, and grease, from walkways and working surfaces as necessary. Where removal is not possible, access to such areas must be restricted and an alternate route established, or slip-resistant footwear provided.
- Store materials in a way that does not create hazards for workers.
- Ensure easy and open access to all exits (including ladders, staircases, scaffolds, and gangways), fire-alarm boxes, fire extinguishing equipment and fire call stations.
- Dispose of oils, paint thinners, solvents, rags, scraps, waste, or other flammable and combustible substances, or store them in covered fire-resistant containers, at the end of each workshift or when the job is complete, whichever occurs first.
- Maintain walkways so that they provide adequate passage and are:
- Free from debris, including solid and liquid waste;
- Clear of tools, materials, equipment, and other objects; and
- Free from trip hazards as a result of the improper storage or placement of hoses and electrical service cords. Hoses and cords must be placed above or underneath walkways or covered.
- Cordon off any portion of a walkway that is being used as a working surface.
- Make sure working surfaces are free from all tools, materials, and equipment not necessary to perform the job in progress. All debris, including liquid and solid waste, must be cleared at the end of the job or workshift, whichever occurs first.
- Keep working surfaces dry, when possible. If a wet process is used, drainage must be maintained and dry standing places made available, or workers provided with protective footgear when such means are not practicable.
G-5, G-6, G-7