Good housekeeping is paramount. If good housekeeping practices are not enforced, other administrative control measures implemented will never be fully effective.
It has often been said that safety and housekeeping go hand in hand. This is extremely true, especially when addressing office safety. If your facility’s housekeeping habits are poor, the result may well be employee injuries, ever increasing insurance costs, and regulatory citations. If an organization’s facilities are noticeably clean and well organized, it is a good indication that its overall safety program is effective as well. In addition to safety, disorderly work environments can negatively impact the morale of employees who must function in a job site that is dirty, hazardous, and poorly managed.
- Keep wiring organized and out of walking areas to prevent tripping.
- Don’t put wiring under carpets. This conceals frayed cords and increases the risk of fires.
- Keep desks in good condition (i.e., free from sharp edges, nails, etc.).
- Ensure that desks do not block exits or passageways.
- Ensure that glass-top desks do not have sharp edges.
- Ensure that desks with spring-loaded tables function properly. The table should not spring forth with enough force to cause an injury.
- Do not climb on desks. Use an approved ladder.
- Keep desk drawers closed when not in use.
- Repair or report any desk damage that could be hazardous.
Filing Cabinets and Shelves
Because filing cabinets and shelves tend to support heavy loads, treat them with special care.
Follow these safety guidelines for filing cabinets.
- Secure filing cabinets that are not weighted at the bottom. Either bolt them to the floor or to the wall.
- Ensure that filing cabinet drawers cannot easily be pulled clear of the cabinet.
- Do not block ventilation grates with file cabinets.
- Open only one drawer at a time to keep the cabinet from toppling.
- Close drawers when they are not in use.
- Do not place heavy objects on top of cabinets. Be aware that anything on top of a cabinet may fall off if a drawer is opened suddenly.
- Close drawers slowly, using the handle to avoid pinched fingers.
- Keep the bottom drawer full. This will help stabilize the entire cabinet.
In addition, follow these safety guidelines for office shelves.
- Secure shelves by bolting them to the floor or wall.
- Place heavy objects on the bottom shelves. This will keep the entire structure more stable.
- Ensure that there is at least 18 inches between top shelf items and the ceiling. This space will allow ceiling sprinklers (if present) to function properly if a fire occurs.
- Do not block ventilation grates with shelves.
- Never climb on shelves (even lower shelves). Use an approved ladder.
- Do not leave food or popcorn unattended in microwave or toaster oven.
- Never run an electrical cord by the sink.
- Always plug a cord into a GCFI-approved outlet (the kind with reset/test buttons).
- Place a rug in front of the sink to help soak up any water spills that might occur.
- Wash any plates or cups immediately. Do not leave in sink where they might get broken.
- Coffee machines should have a timer to ensure that the power is turned off.
- Coffee pots should not be left empty on a hot burner.
- A fire extinguisher should be readily available.
- Create a cleaning schedule that is spread around all in the office.
- The Golden Rule: If you make a mess, you CLEAN it up!
Here are some tips for proper material storage.
- Never store boxes, papers, and other materials on top of cabinets — materials may fall and may cause the cabinet to tip.
- Boxes and cartons should all be of uniform size in any pile or stack.
- Always stack material in such a way that it will not fall over.
- Store heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Store materials inside cabinets, files, and lockers.
- The location of the stockpiles should not interfere with work, but they should still be readily available when required.
- Office equipment such as typewriters, index files, lights, or calculators should not be placed on the edges of a desk, filing cabinet, or table.
- Aisles, corners, and passageways must remain unobstructed.
- Do not stack materials near fire equipment, extinguishers, fire door exits, and sprinkler heads.
- Materials should be at least 18 inches away from sprinkler heads.
- Storage areas should be designated and used only for that purpose. Store heavy materials in close proximity so you don’t have to reach across something to retrieve them.
- Flammable, combustible, toxic, and other hazardous materials should be stored in approved containers in designated areas that are appropriate for the different hazards 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.
Step Stool and Stepladder Safety
When climbing, use a step stool or stepladder designed for the purpose. Characteristics of a safe step stool or stepladder include the following:
- The steps are deep enough to fit the length of your feet.
- Each step is covered with a non-skid surface.
- The edge of each step is marked with a contrasting color.
- There are side “hand” rails which extend above the last step and around to the front.
- The base is wider than the top to prevent tipping.
- The legs are sturdy and are fitted with rubber tips.
When using a step stool or stepladder, follow these rules:
- Check the label to ensure it is strong enough to hold your body weight.
- Make sure it is the correct height.
- Place firmly on an even surface, free from clutter.
- Lock it into place.
- Climb facing the steps.
- Never stand on the top step.
- Do not lean forward or stretch.
- Only reach for items that are directly in front of you.
- Do not wear high heels when climbing.
Proper housekeeping should be a routine. It is an ongoing procedure that is simply done as a part of each worker’s daily performance. When each individual does his/her part to keep work areas clean, then a successful housekeeping program will be the result.
Every workplace is subject to either good or bad housekeeping. Factories, warehouses, laboratories, kitchens, hospitals, and offices … the list is endless. In all of these diverse areas, good housekeeping can be achieved by establishing a simple three-step program.
- Plan Ahead – Know what needs to be done, who’s going to do it, and what the work area should look like when you’re done.
- Assign Responsibilities – If necessary, a person should be specifically assigned to clean up (although personal responsibility for cleaning up after him/herself is preferred).
- Implement a Program – Establish housekeeping as a part of the daily routine (an ongoing procedure).