Good housekeeping isn’t just for the stay at home moms and dads anymore, it’s made its way into the workplace – and with good reason! Keeping a disorganized or unkept factory floor can present hidden dangers that wouldn’t have otherwise been a problem. For example, when I worked in a lumberyard while going to high school, the yard foreman always made a big fuss about sweeping up sawdust under the saw after each use. We all rolled our eyes; there wasn’t even much on the ground after just a couple of cuts. The problem was, we all adopted that attitude, and it didn’t change when the dust really did start to pile up. After a while, we heard about it from the foreman and cleaned up our act, literally.
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Why was that sawdust such a problem? For one, it wasn’t good to have customers follow us back to pick up lumber only to wade through an untidy warehouse. Sure, these guys were seasoned contractors and physical laborers with vans covered in paint, but that didn’t make our presentation any less professional. The underlying, and more important, risk was the fact that sawdust was slippery on the smooth warehouse floor, and presented a perfect slipping hazard that could have resulted in a nasty fall, especially for some of our older workers that might not have been as quick to brace themselves going down. Heck, that’s not a fair thought; any of us could have been easily injured. In a warehouse filled with boards leaned up on the walls and forklifts driving though, you want to be sure on your feet!
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a huge advocate for establishing a housekeeping regimen in the workplace. Much like each of us was meant to clean up the saw area after use, the OSHA recommends incorporating routine cleanup into workers’ job descriptions. Encourage them to clean as they go, making sure to seal and store materials safely after their use. When shifts are over, employees should also check around their work area for anything that should be cleaned up to prepare the space for safe work either for the next employee or for themselves the next day.
In addition, OSHA recommends making sure:
Any damaged flooring, be it from erosion, tears, etc., is immediately replaced and that a warning sign is erected in the area until materials arrive if it can’t be fixed right away.
Keep lights clean and dust free to keep areas well-lit and improve the efficiency of your lights.
Keep any aisles and stairways clear.
Improve line of sight by using mirrors or opening up spaces that are obstructive to view. This is especially important around corners where forklifts and other vehicles are driven and near any sudden drop offs.
Make sure to inspect all of your tools, equipment, and machinery regularly; don’t try to make damaged equipment last too long or work beyond capacity. Don’t take the risk, replace it right away.