A safe workplace must be the primary consideration of any employer to ensure the well being of their employees and their satisfaction, and also reduce workers’ compensation costs. Often, an unsafe workplace contributes to workers’ injuries and subsequent workers’ compensation claims. Injuries or illnesses contracted at the workplace are evaluated using the medical record review process, for which medical review solutions become valuable. Many factors work together to create an unsafe work environment and among these is housekeeping.
In a workplace, housekeeping is crucial to ensure safety for people who move around. Apart from preventing injuries and improving productivity, a neat and orderly workplace will also create a good impression on visitors. Whether a traditional office, or an industrial setting such as a factory, warehouse or manufacturing plant that could be more hazardous due to the presence of flammables, combustible dust and other dangerous materials, injuries or illnesses are likely. Therefore, there is no doubt that there should be a good workplace safety program and all such programs should incorporate housekeeping. Apart from cleanliness, workplace housekeeping also includes keeping work areas orderly and neat, removing waste materials such as cardboard and paper immediately, and keeping the floors and halls free of objects that could cause slip and trip hazards. Moreover, details such as the workplace layout, storage facilities, and maintenance should be given priority.
Poor housekeeping can result in the following accidents at the workplace:
- Being hit by falling objects
- Tripping over objects left on floors, platforms, and stairs
- Slipping on wet, greasy or dirty surfaces
- Bumping against poorly stacked or projecting items, or misplaced materials
- Being injured by projecting nails, or wire/steel strapping
Here are some useful tips that could help ensure good workplace housekeeping.
- Prevent fire hazards: OSHA’s Hazardous Materials Standard requires combustible waste to be stored in covered metal receptacles and disposed of daily. Workers are responsible for preventing unnecessary inflammable materials from accumulating in the work area.
- Combustible materials must be kept only in the amounts required for the job. When these are not needed, they can be moved to a safe storage area.
- Care should be taken not to store inflammable / quick burning materials near ignition sources.
- Stairwell doors should be kept closed, and it is best not to store items in stairwells.
- Passage ways and fire doors should be kept free of obstructions.
- Prevent slip and fall injuries: OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces Standard mandates all workplaces including passageways, service rooms, and storerooms to be maintained in a clean and orderly, and hygienic condition.
- Employers must ensure that the flooring is adequate and well-maintained using suitable cleaners.
- In areas that can’t be regularly cleaned, it is best to install anti-slip flooring.
- Any spills and leaks must be immediately reported and cleaned up.
- Exits and aisles should be kept clear of items.
- Ensure that there are no loose boards, holes, nails or splinters in the workplace.
- Prevent injuries from falling objects: It should be ensured that objects kept overhead do not fall on workers. A toe rail or net, or a toe board can help prevent heavy objects from falling and hitting the worker. It is best to keep heavy objects on lower shelves and any equipment should be kept away from the edges of tables and desks. Objects should not be stacked in areas that workers frequent, including aisles.
- Prevent accumulation of dust: Experts point out that dust accumulation of more than 0.8 mm, covering at least 5% of a room’s surface presents considerable explosion hazard. Dust can cause various illnesses, and also affect the equipment’s longevity and quality of products.
- Ensure proper storage of materials: OSHA’s Materials Handling, Storage, Use and Disposal Standard requires that storage areas should not have an accumulation of hazardous materials that could lead to trip and fall injuries, fire explosion, or pests. Materials should be stored in their right storage areas, and any unused equipment/materials should be stored out of the way of workers.
- Use personal protective equipment, tools and inspect them regularly: Many injuries originate from employees’ not wearing protective equipment when working. All tools should be regularly inspected, cleaned and fixed. Any damaged tools must be removed from the work area.
- Prevent ergonomics hazards: Many injuries in an office setting are associated with ergonomics. Office workers who spend most of their day seated at a desk and working on a computer are at risk of strains and injuries related to posture and repetitive movement. Therefore, work surfaces, chairs, monitor stands and other equipment should be adjustable to suit a wide range of employees. Investing in expensive ergonomic equipment is a wise move, considering the huge costs of workers’ compensation claims that could arise from not having these. Workers must be properly trained on how to set up and use the equipment.
- Have written rules in place: Ideally, housekeeping rules should be put down in writing so that they are well-defined and formal. There could be written protocols regarding which cleaners, tools, and methods to use.
Good housekeeping ensures the following benefits:
- Fewer slip and fall, or trip and fall incidents with work areas becoming clutter-free and spill-free
- Reduced fire hazards
- Improved control of tools and materials
- Lower employee exposure to dangerous products
- More efficient equipment cleanup and maintenance
- Excellent use of available space
- Improved sanitary conditions and therefore improved employee health
- Reduced damage to property
- Improved employee morale
- Improved productivity
All workplaces, whether industrial settings or office settings such as a lawyer’s office, physician’s office, or the office of a medical record review company, safety programs are essential and these should incorporate housekeeping, with every worker playing a part. Worker training is essential and they must be instructed on how to work safely with the products they handle on a day-to-day basis. Workers should also understand the importance of protecting their co-workers by reporting unusual conditions and posting appropriate warning signs when needed. Housekeeping should also have full commitment on the part of the management because only then will workers understand the significance of the program. Most importantly, housekeeping should be an ongoing process with regular monitoring and auditing.