29 Jul , 2021

General good housekeeping is everyone’s responsibility, whether it’s at your factories, offices, or business premises of your clients. It’s important to make clients aware that managing risk and safety in the workplace will help avoid injury, liability claims and business interruption. Occupational Health & Safety Act has a specific section for housekeeping to promote a safe, clean, and healthy working environment that reduces the likelihood of accidents and unsafe practices in the workplace.

Good housekeeping also impacts on the safety of the public, especially in the retail sector. Slip and trip incidents are numerous and can be costly, especially as lawsuits following such incidents are on the increase.

Poor housekeeping can result in serious injury or death to members of the public (especially to children, frail or weak persons), which is why business owners must ensure good housekeeping standards at all times.

Good housekeeping practices have numerous positive benefits, such as:
  • Clean, clutter-free and spill-free work areas
  • Decreased fire hazards
  • Awareness for tripping and related hazards
  • Proper waste management and control of hazardous substances
  • Better hygienic conditions leading to improved health
  • More effective use of space and improved employee morale
  • Improved productivity and better control of what can go wrong.
Good housekeeping practices could also avoid the following kinds of consequential loss:
  • Emotional and financial suffering of families of workers who are injured or killed.
  • Permanent disablement of workers, which has profound impact on them and their families.
  • Loss of market share.
  • Loss of skilled employees due to competitor action following a lengthy loss.
  • Loss of customer base size (permanently or temporarily) and loss of supplier base.
  • Breaches in contract due to the loss occurring, resulting in penalties.
  • Depending on the circumstances, potential lawsuits.
  • Business interruption, both in terms of financial loss and loss or reduction of human capital.
  • In some cases, businesses never recover and end up in liquidation, with dependents of the business suffering equally.
  • While business interruption insurance is effective, it only accounts for the financial aspect.

How to protect employees

Employers have duties in terms of the OHS Act to ensure the safety of employees. Good housekeeping requires a systematic approach, training, proper communication, and formalised systems, which are regularly reviewed and improved.

Worker training is an essential part of any good housekeeping program. Workers need to know how to work safely with the products they use. They also need to know how to protect other workers such as by posting signs (e.g., "Wet - Slippery Floor") and reporting any unusual conditions.

Housekeeping order is "maintained" not "achieved." Cleaning and organization must be done regularly, not just at the end of the shift. Integrating housekeeping into jobs can help ensure this is done. A good housekeeping program identifies and assigns responsibilities for the following:

  • clean up during the shift
  • day-to-day cleanup
  • waste disposal
  • removal of unused materials
  • inspection to ensure cleanup is complete

Do not forget out-of-the-way places such as shelves, basements, sheds, and boiler rooms that would otherwise be overlooked.

Maintenance involves keeping buildings, equipment, and machinery in safe, efficient working order and in good repair. It includes maintaining sanitary facilities and regularly painting and cleaning walls. Broken windows, damaged doors, defective plumbing, and broken floor surfaces can make a workplace look neglected

Keeping aisles and stairways clear is important. They should not be used for temporary storage.

When spills do occur, it is important to clean them up immediately. Absorbent materials are useful for wiping up greasy, oily, or other liquid spills. Used absorbents must be disposed of properly and safely.

Tools require suitable fixtures with marked locations to provide an orderly arrangement. Returning tools promptly after use reduces the chance of it being misplaced or lost. Workers should regularly inspect, clean and repair all tools and take any damaged or worn tools out of service.

The regular collection, grading and sorting of scrap contribute to good housekeeping practices. It also makes it possible to separate materials that can be recycled from those going to waste disposal facilities.

Flammable, combustible, toxic and other hazardous materials should be stored in approved containers in designated areas that are appropriate for the different hazards that they pose. Storage of materials should meet all requirements specified in the fire codes and the regulations of environmental and occupational health and safety agencies in your jurisdiction.


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