A scattered office, indicating poor housekeeping

When we talk about a safe workplace environment it simply means having a workplace that is free from recognised hazards that cause serious injury or death. It also indicates maintaining working conditions that are safe and healthful for employees. And one of the surest ways of achieving this is through Housekeeping.

Effective housekeeping can eliminate some workplace hazards and help get a job done safely and properly. Poor housekeeping can frequently contribute to accidents by hiding hazards that cause injuries. If the sight of paper, debris, clutter and spills is accepted as normal, then other more serious health and safety hazards may be taken for granted.

What is Housekeeping

 Housekeeping is the general cleanliness, orderly arrangement and storage of equipment, tools and materials as well as tidiness on the worksite.

According to Safeopedia, an online safety platform for safety professionals, in the occupational setting, “housekeeping refers to the routine cleaning and organizing of the workplace. As housekeeping is an ongoing safety practice, orderly conditions in the workplace should be maintained on a consistent basis, not restored after orderliness has been allowed to slip.”

Housekeeping operations in the workplace are considered to be a fundamental tenet of occupational safety and are a mandatory workplace safety activity in most jurisdictions.

Good housekeeping means having no unnecessary items about and keeping all necessary items in their proper places.

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Summarily housekeeping evolves five “S” which leads to good housekeeping:

  1. Sort

Sort means getting rid of unnecessary items.

  • Look around your workplace. Are things lying around which are not useful any more
  • An example may be excess materials, old equipment, tools no longer useful, empty containers, old furniture, etc
  1. Store

A place for everything and everything in its place

  • Look at the way things are arranged in your workplace. Are they arranged according to certain system or are they just left all over the place.
  • Arrange necessary items in proper order so that they can easily be picked up for use
  • In deciding where to put things. You have to consider how often things are used and where they are most often used.
  • Once decided, areas should be identified to show what goes where by using signs etc
  1. Shine

Clean your workplace and equipment. Once the workplace and equipment has been cleaned, maintain it in a clean condition by

  • Continuous cleaning
  • Do not wait until workplace, tools etc really get dirty
  • Do not walk past rubbish, pick it up.
  • If you mess up a place. Clean it as soon as possible.
  • Ensure that cabinets etc are kept clean and do not store things on top of them.

4 Standardise

Set standard for housekeeping

  • Put in place a daily and periodic cleaning schedule for housekeeping.
  • Develop cleaning methods and checklist
  • Clearly define housekeeping responsibilities — Who, What, Where, When
  • Set cleaning targets
  • Use appropriate cleaning equipment
  1. Sustain

Train people to follow good housekeeping disciplines independently and monitor performance to ensure that standards are maintained

  • Find the sources of dirt and debris and eliminate them
  • There should be awareness training as to why good housekeeping is so important
  • Look for ways to make housekeeping easier e.g.
  • Are there things on the floor that could be stored above the floor

Management should train its staff and try to develop a culture within the company whereby good housekeeping becomes everybody’s habit

Importance of good housekeeping

Think about what could happen if a bunch of oily rags suddenly caught fire one night, or if, in an emergency, employees couldn’t get out of the work area safely because aisles were cluttered. Imagine those same employees unable to get out altogether because of a blocked exit. Experience has shown that good housekeeping is an essential part of your company’s health and safety program.

Benefits of good housekeeping

Good housekeeping at work benefits both employers and employees alike. Good housekeeping can:

  • Eliminate clutter which is a common cause of accidents, such as slips, trips, and falls, fires and explosions
  • Reduce the chances of harmful bacteria entering the body (e.g., specks of dust, vapours)
  • improve productivity (the right tools and materials for the job will be easy to find)
  • improve your company’s image (good housekeeping reflects a well—run business. An orderly workplace will impress all who enter its — employees, visitors, customers, etc.)
  • Help your company to keep its inventory to a minimum (good housekeeping makes it easier to keep an accurate count of inventories)
  • Make the workplace neat, comfortable and pleasant — not a dangerous eyesore

Signs of Poor Housekeeping

There are many signs of poor housekeeping. You may recognize some of these in your own workplace;

  • Cluttered and poorly arranged work areas
  • Untidy or dangerous storage of materials (e.g materials stuffed in corners overcrowded shelves, etc.)
  • Dusty, dirty floors and work surfaces
  • items that are in excess or no longer needed
  • Blocked or cluttered aisles and exits
  • Tools and equipment left in work areas instead of being returned to roper storage places
  • Broken containers and damaged materials
  • Overflowing waste bins and containers
  • Spills and leaks

Improving Housekeeping in your Workplace

Good housekeeping requires effort and teamwork, here are some general pointers:

Set housekeeping standards.  Make sure they are clear, objectives are attainable. Standards should make work easier, safer and healthier. it is best to involve employees when setting standards.

Measure how well the standards are met

Use checklists to help you to systematically measure housekeeping

Provide positive feedback by letting employees know how well they are doing and how to improve Encourage housekeeping as a way of life — not just a special activity when visitors are coming.



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