Since we began our journey down the Green Brick Road of Safety, we have done a Hazard Analysis to identify safety hazards. Then further down the road, we met Scarecrow and his lack of knowledge of PPE as to what equipment is available to protect employees. Both are important factors in workplace safety, but can we still further protect our employees from injury? Yes, of course, we can and it’s up ahead around the bend where the poor Tin Man was left with the daunting task of Housekeeping. Granted, it’s not a very glamorous sounding name as it brings up images of maids and hotels who are sweeping, mopping, and dusting, but actually, that is a small part of Housekeeping.
Trips, slips, and falls – continue to be a leading cause of injury in the workplace and good housekeeping practices contain the usual suspects and greatly reduce the number of accidents. —Keep work areas, walkways, and entryways free of clutter and obstructions at all times placing scraps, cardboard, and plastic and used strapping in proper bins for bailing or trash bin. —You need to have a policy in place on drinks and containers allowed in the work area and if allowed, only containers with lids should be used. Make sure mops, pails, and wet floor warning signs are easily accessible to staff to deal with small spills and for larger liquid or chemical spills, have staff trained on how to respond and handle with containment booms and absorbent materials. —Work areas kept clean and organized. Tools, lubricants, oils, inks other items that are not needed or in use should be put away and stored in the proper cabinet. Window sills, machine tops, and computers are not proper storage areas. —Proper footwear is very important especially if you work in a wet or cold storage environment. You need the correct footing to keep steady and not flat on your back. –Inclement weather, (rain, snow) and not paying attention or distraction are issues that should also be addressed to help ensure fewer accidents.
Forklifts and other industrial motorized equipment – Yes, housekeeping can keep your forklifts and other motorized equipment working longer and spending less time in repair. When trash is left on the floor, especially plastic and paper a forklift can suck up the trash into its gears. Over time the plastic heats up, melts, and forms a large plug of plastic causing restricted airflow internally, resulting in other problems.
Sanitation – Another critical part of housekeeping especially in facilities that manufacture and/or store fresh perishables or frozen food products. Keeping the work areas clean to prevent contamination from bacteria or other foreign particles is a daily routine on consistent basis thanks to the use of a master sanitation schedule. The schedule breaks out exactly what areas are to be cleaned and the frequency. As part of the accountability the person assigned to the cleaning signs off that, it’s done. The cleaning and organizing of the facility also greatly reduces the chance of attracting outside visitors such as insects and vermin.
Upkeep – Is also included when it comes to housekeeping. Any part of the facility that is found to be in need of repair should be done immediately, since putting it off could lead to other problems down the road especially if it’s a hole in the floor where someone could fall into or as a gateway for the previously named insects and vermin. Flaking paint and rusted metal are also indications that immediate repairs are needed. Upkeep along with sanitation and other good housekeeping practices keep the facility a safe and clean place to work.
Workstation setup for maximum efficiency and ergonomics –
This is not an example of that. The cluttered workbench with spray paint was not put away in the proper storage cabinet, if not tossed as empty cans, tools, and other items were strewn about which wastes time trying to locate them when needed, unnecessary items also on the workbench adding to clutter and all surrounded by trip hazards and poor lighting.
A workstation should be set up to allow the least amount of repetitive movements, (bending, twisting, stooping, squatting, and lifting) by the employee to complete their tasks while operating machinery or working over a workbench. Everything is within reach and easy to retrieve and little time to stop to find what you need. A great example of this is something you probably use every day, the kitchen triangle. To achieve maximum efficiency in the kitchen it is set up with a clearly defined path so the chef can easily reach the three key areas; stove, sink, and refrigerator.
5S – This is a term you may or may not have heard in conjunction with housekeeping and productivity. If this is new to you, please allow me to introduce you to this concept. It is a discipline created in Japan to eliminate waste (wasted time, wasted moves, etc) in specific ways to keep your work area clean, free of debris, and organized to work safely and highly productively. The 5S are: Seiri – Clearing up. Seiton – Organizing. Seiso – Cleaning. Seiketsu – standardizing. Shitsuke – self-discipline. Like many other disciplines, there are also variations of 5S around like 6S (Sort, Straighten, Sweep, Standardize, Self-Discipline, & Safety). 5S could be a great tool and a way to introduce if you wanted to create a new workplace culture that develops disciplines even a mother would dream of. There is plenty of literature out there to read up on, just google it.
No matter what housekeeping program you decide to go with or what you call it, 5S, 6S, or No S, I think you can see now why keeping your facility organized and clean is so important.
A tip for you from my vast experience. When your warehouse looks clean, organized, and well-kept, you’re offering a fabulous first impression, and all visitors, whether internal inspectors or external inspectors, your boss, or the boss’s boss, usually don’t bother looking deeper for issues. The only problem you may have is the influx of management and corporate visitors wanting to see your facility.
So as you can see cleanliness is close to safety and you can be a large part of the solution. Don’t discard trash onto the floor, use proper receptacles. Keep your work area organized and free of clutter. Do not use chemicals or other harsh cleaners unless specifically instructed to do so and then make sure to wear the appropriate PPE. Thank you for joining us and hope to see you as Dorothy, Scarecrow and the Tin Man continue their journey on the Green Brick Road of Safety. Don’t miss an episode, sign up to get every new issue of Witzshared.com delivered right to you.
Safety is never pointless. If you feel that way you need to talk to someone. If necessary call the OSHA hotline 1-800-321-6742 and file an anonymous complaint. Never keep quiet about safety and always ask questions.