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May 09, 2005
Keeping Housekeeping a Safety Issue

"Your mother doesn't work here, so please clean up after yourself." Signs with these or similar words are frequently seen in employee lunchrooms and work areas, as a way (not always successful) to remind employees not to leave a mess for others to deal with. Encouraging employees to follow good housekeeping practices isn't only about being neat, clean, and considerate of others—it's also a serious safety issue. If there were any question about that, one need only to read OSHA's rule on "housekeeping" (29 CFR 1910.22(a)), which starts out with the blunt statement, "All places of employment, passageways, storerooms, and service rooms shall be kept clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition." There is no room for exceptions in a rule like that.

Hazards of poor housekeeping—how many can you name? As an exercise in a general training session on housekeeping, try asking the group to name all the possible safety hazards that might be associated with poor housekeeping in general. Some general hazard categories are below, but encourage your group to be as specific as possible.

  • Fire—from ignition of paper scraps, wood shavings, dust, or puddles of flammable liquid
  • Slipping and falling—on wet floors
  • Tripping and falling—from objects left on the floor
  • Cuts and puncture wounds—from sharp objects left exposed on floors or other surfaces
  • Injuries from tools or other objects falling from work surfaces

Some jobs have specific housekeeping requirements. Beyond discussing general good housekeeping practices to prevent accidents, remind employees that certain types of jobs require them to follow specific housekeeping practices. Depending on your workplace, these jobs might include:

Why It Matters...
  • In FY 2004, OSHA issued more than 1,100 citations for violations of Subpart D ("Walking and Working Surfaces"), which includes the housekeeping rules.
  • Penalties for these violations totaled more than $550,000 in FY 2004.
  • Enforcing good housekeeping practices helps encourage employees to maintain an alertness to hazards and a good "safety attitude."
  • Cleanup and removal of hazardous dust, such as lead or asbestos
  • Containment and cleanup of small spills or leaks of hazardous liquids (a major release of hazardous chemicals, of course, requires specialized personnel, equipment, and procedures)
  • Proper storage or disposal of empty or partially used containers of hazardous substances or of tools used for applying these substances (such as brushes or cleaning equipment)

Cleanup and other housekeeping practices for hazardous substances may require separate training sessions with more detailed descriptions of proper procedures.

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