Workplace Housekeeping and Safety

Workplace Housekeeping and Safety

When people think of housekeeping, they tend to think of the common phrase which says ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’. But housekeeping means more than this. Of all the factors contributing to job safety and health, good housekeeping often appears to be the least interesting and challenging. Yet good housekeeping can be of vital importance since it means having no unnecessary items about and keeping all necessary items in their proper places. It provides a clean and pleasant working environment.

Good housekeeping goes hand-in-hand with public relations. A clean and tidy workplace also enhances the image of the organization and provides immediate visible evidence of its commitment towards workplace safety and health. Both the exterior and interior of the plant need to be attractive is to project order, care, and pride. The condition of the plant makes a marked impression on all those who enter the plant, employees and visitors alike. Visitors’ first impression of the organization is important, and the image of the organization can greatly affect its sales performance.

Workplace housekeeping may be defined as activities undertaken to create or maintain an orderly, clean, tidy, and safe working environment. It is a necessary component of maintaining a safe work environment at the workplace. Housekeeping practices are among the easiest and most visible safety measures which can be implemented at the workplace. Operations which are neat and organized help reduce the potential hazards at the workplace.

Good housekeeping implies that a workplace is kept in an organized, uncluttered, and hazard-free condition. While this is a relatively simple concept, the benefits which can be realized from good housekeeping practices are far reaching, and affect not only safety at workplace but also the workforce health and productivity. These improvements, in turn, lead to lower operating costs thus providing benefits to both the employees and the management.

Housekeeping is crucial for the safety at the workplace. It can help prevent injuries by eliminating potential workplace hazards which are otherwise present and improve productivity and morale the workforce, as well as make a good first impression on the visitors visiting the plant. Poor housekeeping practices frequently contribute to accidents. In addition to reducing the chance of injury, a clutter‐free space is a more efficient, healthy and pleasant place to work. Working in a tidy and orderly space is simply safer and more enjoyable. Further, effective housekeeping procedures are essential part the safety and occupational health management system.

There are several signs of poor housekeeping. These include (i) cluttered and poorly arranged work areas, (ii) untidy or dangerous storage of materials such as materials stuffed in corners or overcrowded in confined spaces or shelves, (iii) dusty, dirty floors and work surfaces, (iv) items which are available in excess or no longer needed, (v) blocked or cluttered aisles and exits, (vi) tools and equipment left in work areas instead of being returned to their storage places, (vii) broken containers and damaged and scrapped materials lying, (viii) overflowing waste bins and containers, and (ix) spills and leaks.

If the workplace sight, which is having debris, clutter and spills, is accepted as normal, then in all probability there is the presence of serious safety hazards at the workplace. Good housekeeping not only results in a cleaner workplace, but makes it safer as well. In fact, it is also a basic part for the prevention of accidents as well as for the fire prevention. It also reduces illnesses and injuries and promotes positive behaviours, habits, and attitudes amongst the workforce. Neat and organized working conditions are essential to the safety of the workforce and is to be maintained at all times at the working areas. Good housekeeping involves the effective organization of the workplace activities and contributes to the better performance of the workforce, increased their productivity, and better quality control.  An organized and clutter-free work area also makes it easier to respond to or evacuate in the event of an emergency.

Housekeeping is not just only about the cleanliness of a workplace. In addition, it includes keeping work areas well-arranged and orderly, maintaining the passages free from slip and trip hazards, and removing of waste materials and fire hazards from the work areas. It lays the basic foundation for the prevention of accidents and fires at the workplace. It requires attention to details, such as the layout of the worksite or facility, identification and marking of physical hazards, ensuring the adequate number of storage facilities, routine maintenance and paying attention to important details such as the aisle marking etc.

Effective housekeeping is to be a regular practice and not a one-time or hit-and-miss cleanup done occasionally. Housekeeping which is effective can eliminate many workplace hazards and help get work done safely and properly. It results in (i) reduced handling to ease the flow of materials, (ii) fewer tripping and slipping incidents in clutter-free and spill-free work areas, (iii) decreased fire hazards, (iv) lower exposures of the workforce to hazardous products, (v) better inventory control of tools and materials, (vi) more efficient equipment cleanup and maintenance, (vii) better hygienic conditions leading to improved health of the workforce, (viii) more effective use of space, (ix) reduced damage by improving preventive maintenance, (ix) improved morale, (x) improved efficiency and productivity at the workplace, and (xi) improved quantity and quality of production.

The housekeeping at the workplace includes (i) clean and dry working floors which are free of hazards, (ii) unnecessary tools, equipment, parts and materials are removed from the work area, (iii) all the items are stored safely and properly at their respective assigned places, (iv) exits, walkways and work areas are clear of obstructions, (v) trash and scraps are placed in the proper assigned places, (vi) hazardous materials are well marked and stored safely, (vii) flammable materials are kept away from heat sources and electrical equipment, and (vii) tools are cleaned and put away.

Workforce likes neat and tidy workplace and wants to work in an orderly surrounding. The orderly surroundings enhance the positive attitude of the workforce. The improvement in the attitude is another advantage of god housekeeping since it gets reflected in the performance of the workforce. Also, when the attitude is translated into behaviour, the workforce feels better, think better, perform work which is better and safer.

Good housekeeping practices help ensure neat, organized, and safe workspaces, which can reduce stress and improve the morale of the workforce. An increase in productivity and lower operating costs normally result when the workforce spends less time in tracking down needed tools or other items.

Poor housekeeping can be a cause of such workplace incidents as (i) tripping over loose objects on floors, stairs and platforms, (ii) being hit by falling objects, (iii) slipping on greasy, wet or dirty surfaces, (iv) striking against projecting, poorly stacked items or misplaced materials, (v) cutting, puncturing, or tearing the skin of the parts of the body by the projected materials, and (vi) fire and chemical dangers duo to spills or presence of flammable substances. Additionally, poor housekeeping can create fire hazards which inevitably lead to increased fire risk.

There are many signs of poor housekeeping. Poor housekeeping leads to (i) cluttered and poorly arranged work areas, (ii) untidy or dangerous storage of materials, (iii) dusty and dirty working floors and work surfaces, (iv) items are kept which are in excess or no longer needed, (iv) blocked or cluttered aisles and exits, (v) tools and equipment are left in work areas instead of being returned to proper storage places, (vi) broken containers and damaged and scrap materials cluttered all over the workplace, (vii) overflowing waste bins and containers, and (viii) spills and leaks.

Japanese methodology of ‘Five S’

For good housekeeping many organizations adopt Japanese methodology of ‘Five S’ (5S). Five S is a system for organizing spaces so work can be performed efficiently, effectively, and safely (Fig 1). The system of Five S focuses on putting everything where it belongs and keeping the workplace clean, which makes it easier for the people to do their jobs without wasting time or risking injury.

Fig 1 Five S methodology for housekeeping

The term five S comes from five Japanese words (i) Seiri, (ii) Seiton, (iii) Seiso, (iv) Seiketsu, and (v) Shitsuke. These five Japanese words are often translated in English as (i) Sort, (ii) Set in Order, (iii) Shine, (iv) Standardize, and (v) Sustain.

In simple terms, the five S methodology helps a workplace remove items which are no longer needed (Seiri or Sort), organize the items to optimize efficiency and flow (Seiton or Set in order), clean the area in order to identify the problems more easily (Seiso or Shine), implement colour coding and labels to stay consistent with other areas (Seiketsu or Standardize), and develop behaviours which keep the workplace organized over the long term (Shitsuke or Sustain). A five S implementation programme focuses on (i) organization, (ii) creating visual order, (iii) cleanliness, and (iv) standardization.

Seiri or Sort means sorting of the materials, keeping only the essential items needed for completing the tasks. This action involves going through all the contents of a workspace to determine which are needed and which can be removed. Everything which is not needed to complete a work process is not to be kept in the work area.

Seiton or Set in order means ensuring that all the items are organized and each item has a designated place. Organization of all the items left in the workplace in a logical way so that it can make tasks easier for workforce to complete. This often involves placing items in ergonomic locations where people are not needed to bend or make extra movements to reach them.

Seiso or Shine means making of proactive efforts to keep workplace areas clean and orderly so as to ensure purpose-driven work. This means cleaning and maintaining the newly organized workspace. It can involve routine tasks such as mopping, dusting, etc. or performing maintenance on machinery, tools, and other equipment.

Seiketsu or Standardize consists of creating a set of standards for both organization and processes. In essence, this is where the organization takes the first three S’s and makes rules for how and when these tasks are to be performed. These standards can involve schedules, charts, and lists etc.

Shitsuke or Sustain means sustenance of new practices and conducting of audits to maintain discipline. This means the previous four S’s are to be continued over time. This is achieved by developing a sense of self-discipline in employees and participating in five S activities becomes a routine.

Benefits of implementing a five S in the organization include (i) workplace becomes clean and better organized, (ii) operations become more efficient and productive, (iii) product and/or service quality improves with lesser rejections or complaints, (iv) results are visible to everyone including the visitors, (v) employees become more aware of the importance of housekeeping and personal discipline, (vi) employees achieve a greater sense of pride in their work and workplace, and take on higher ownership of their work responsibilities, (vii) workplace becomes safer and healthy, and (viii) the image of the organization is enhanced resulting in more business opportunities.

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