House keeping is a major issue when it comes to safety in the workplace. Too often hazards are purposely overlooked due to a “that’s not my job” or “I didn’t do it – let someone else fix it” mentality.
The truth is, daily trips, slips, falls, cuts, and grazes are often outcomes from poor House Keeping. And the scarey thing is the statistic that slips and falls rank as the second leading cause of accidental deaths of 45 to 75 year olds. Not only is House Keeping important to you and your workmates, but also to your family, friends, and clients who visit your workplace.
Recently in an email I received from one of the Safety Concepts Subscribers, Les Hunter put the role of House Keeping in relation to Safety in the most straightfoward fashion:
“House Keeping is the benchmark for Safety:
Poor Housekeeping = Poor Safety.
Moderate Housekeeping = Moderate Safety
Good Housekeeping = Good Safety.”
Thank you Les, you said it perfectly.
Let’s consider the scenario: After a particularly heavy downpour, water has leaked through the ceiling creating a miniature swimming pool in the foyer of the shop/factory/office where you work. You’ve arrived early at your work before too much ‘people traffic’ begins only to discover the mess.
Being a Safety Conscious Individual you remember the steps involved with dealing with a hazard:
- Assess the hazard.
Which you have; there is water on the floor in an area where people will walk and more than likely slip. There are lights in that part of the ceiling and therefore quite possibly wet wiring.
- Find and implement solutions to those hazards.
You switch off the lights to avoid any possible electrical damage. With no one about to help you, but aware that someone may come in at any moment, you throw a towel down over the puddle to highlight it’s existance, while you go find a mop and bucket to clean up.
As you mop up the water and dry the floor, other work colleagues begin to arrive. Thankfully, one offers to contact the appropriate person to deal with the possible damaged ceiling and wiring (whether that be the building supervisor, an electrician, maintenance person, etc.)
- Assess whether the solutions have eliminated or reduced the hazard.
You are happy that the floor is now dry and that someone who is qualified to deal with the ceiling and electrical wiring is on their way. However, you notice there is still a slow drip wetting the floor.
- If a risk to health and safety still remains, implement sound work procedures, in depth training, and use personal protective equipment to further reduce the hazard.
You put an appropriate sign up notifying everyone that the floor is wet and slippery, and even send a memo round to staff asking them to take care. A bucket with a towel underneath is set up to catch the drips.
- Conduct regular inspections for other hazards and for further improving existing solutions.
You keep a copy of the maintenance report after the ceiling has been fixed, and electrical wiring given the ok. You decide that a thick, course mat would be a great idea to put at that particular entrance, as it often becomes slippery when people enter from outside with wet shoes. You forward your suggestion onto management. You also keep a record of all the steps that were taken to fix the hazard and suggestions to reduce any future risk.
Pat yourself on the back – job well done, and hazard efficiently dealt with.
Bathrooms too are notorious places for slips. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of people who wash their hands, and then flick the water from their hands all over the basin, mirror… and floor. As this accumulates, you now have a hazard. Even worse is the need to walk two metres across from the basins to the hand-dryer or towel dispenser, dripping water all the way.
Make towels available closer to the sinks, and ask other staff to wipe up any spills or drips immediately.
Even a request printed up, laminated and stuck to the mirror is a great reminder. We are all responsible for House Keeping and maintaining a safe workspace. If staff leave a hazard for the ‘cleaner or janitor’ to fix, it could escalate to a situation that may just ruin someone’s life. If you are under strict rules not to deal with a particular hazard (whether due to hygiene or other safety issues) then report the hazard immediately. Don’t wait for someone else to report it.
For more weight behind hazard identification and getting it fixed, put the details in writing and hand it to the appropriate person. Don’t think you’re being a nuisance or whinger – you might just save the company a lot of money in the future, as well as someone’s life. And I can almost assure you that you’re not the only person who is aware of the risk.
One work place’s bathroom was an accident waiting to happen. The bathroom floor was constantly wet due to poor design, and staff often grumbled about how slippery it was. A couple of comments were made to management ‘on the fly’ but nothing was put in writing and the WHSO (who overlooked several different outlets of this nation-wide company) was not notified of the extent of the danger. When someone did eventually slip and break their arm – who could have helped to prevent it?
I’d like to finish with another comment Les made in his email:
“The Definition of an accident: an avoidable occurence.
It puts every one involved on the same level as far as what to keep an eye out for.”
Thanks Les, I couldn’t agree more.
Now it’s up to you to ensure you create an environment at work based on the fundamentals of consultation. To help all our friends Safety Concepts now offers a nationally accredited training course in OHS Consultation. The course can be completed online with no classes or lectures to attend. That means you can complete the course anywhere and anytime. Best of all it is only $200.
No matter what our jobs are: IT Department, Janitor, Construction Engineer, Receptionist…
We are still responsible for a safe workplace, and House Keeping is a major part of that.