When considering cleaning most facility and building managers will focus on what type of cleaners to use, the traditional ones or green cleaning products. (One example of safe and ecofriendly solution are the cleaners and janitorial tools found in the CleansGreen® Green Cleaning Startup Kit by Green Cleaning Products LLC.) Additionally it is important to also provide a safe environment for the occupants.
OSHA (i.e., Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has rules, but none that specifically include housekeeping requirements. That said while no one OSHA standard addresses housekeeping, embedded in the regulations, however, one can find clear guidance. For instance nearly every facility inspection requirement includes a provision that will relate to poor housekeeping. This is predominantly because keeping an orderly workplace is a project that is never finished and oftentimes will be as low on the task list as filing in an office. While necessary it is not enjoyable and becomes a primary basis of procrastination.
Despite the common stereotype of the messy bachelor with a week (or so) of dirty dishes and laundry strewn everywhere the workstation can easily replicate this scenario; there are valid reasons for a tidy workplace.
As stated by George Bernard Shaw, “Better keep yourself clean and bright. You’re the window through which you must see the world.” There is value for a and clean workplace that people are proud of, even to the point of increasing employee morale.
While OSHA does not a single regulation that is dedicated specifically to housekeeping or require training dedicated to cleaning chores, understanding why it is valuable to have an orderly workplace will help maintain a diligence for neatness. Additionally OSHA rules outline some housekeeping oriented requirements. Some of them are for the purposes of:
Evacuating a building in the case of an emergency in itself demands good housekeeping it is easier and safer for everyone. OSHA’s rules for exit routes requires a continuous and unobstructed path of exit travel from any point within a workplace to a place of safety (including refuge areas).
Exit routes (defined as at least 28 inches wide at all points) must remain free and unobstructed. As such no materials or equipment may be placed, permanently or temporarily, within the exit route. Certainly storing materials where they block an exit route is an obvious housekeeping-related violation of these requirements!
Similar to evacuation considerations, fire safety and the fire protection systems are equally important! OSHA’s requirements for portable fire extinguishers and automatic sprinkler systems include some housekeeping requirements, including:
- Fire extinguishers must be mounted, located, and identified so that they are readily accessible,
- Fire extinguishers are to be kept in their designated places at all times except during use, and
- There must be at least 18 inches of clearance below sprinklers.
Some commonly found examples of violations would be leaving carts, cartons, boxes, or equipment, in front of fire extinguishers or stacking materials too close to sprinklers.
Furthermore related to fire safety and ability for a safe egress route is the storage of flammable and combustible liquids. These must meet strict OSHA requirements, comprising:
- OSHA’s limits on the quantities flammables / combustible that are allowed to be kept outside of protected and monitored storage areas,
- In all cases the flammable and combustible liquids must be kept in covered containers,
- Any protected storage rooms must have approved self-closing fire doors,
- Containers over 30 gallons cannot be stacked, and
- Inside storage room there must have at least one clear aisle that is three feet or wider (more than required for other egress routes).
In summary, violations would include blocking open a fire door, open containers, stacking drums in a storage room, or leaving materials of any sort in the storage room’s aisle.
OSHA’s general requirements for electrical systems also highlight the importance of good housekeeping through the workplace specifications, including:
- Workspace in front of electric equipment operating at 600 volts or less must be at least 30 inches wide,
- Workspace around live parts must generally be at least three feet for voltages of 600 or less, furthermore
- Workspace may not be used for storage.
In short any “storage” of items (temporary or otherwise) where they block access to an electrical panel is a violation.
Sanitation and Health
OSHA cares about the health of the workplace. In doing so they regulate the bathrooms of the workplace. For instance, OSHA’s requirements for sanitation define:
- Floors are to be kept dry,
- Disposal containers used for liquids or solids that may decay and decompose must not leak, and they must have tight fitting covers,
- Sweepings, wastes, and refuse must be removed, and
- No food or beverages can be stored in toilet rooms or in an area that is exposed to a toxic material (including most traditional cleaning products which are themselves toxic).
All that said, I suspect there are likely washrooms and bathrooms you have experienced that would not meet these standards. As such abuses of these rules could include wet or oily floors, open waste containers for discarded food, or trash build-up.
When OSHA rules stipulates:
- Permanent aisles are to be marked,
- Aisles and passageways are to have sufficient clearance. They are to be kept clear, without obstructions that could create a hazard,
- Floors are to be clean and dry, and
- Housekeeping is to be clean, orderly, and sanitary.
It is clear to see that housekeeping practices have an impact meeting OSHA’s general requirements for walking and working surfaces. Blocked aisles, wet or oily floors, material overhanging high shelves, or material lying across an aisle or on the floor would all contribute to an unsafe work environment.
Company-specific housekeeping rules are just as important, even without all of these OSHA regulations that are related to housekeeping. As with any aspect of a job, in addition to training to understand WHY tidiness and cleanliness is critical, it is also important to clarify who has housekeeping responsibilities.
For greatest effectiveness, brainstorming to come up with solutions to some of the poor housekeeping in the workplace may be the best strategy. For example, some questions that can be developed are:
- Are more tools (brooms, dustpans, mops, dusters) needed to keep the place tidy?
- Is there a better way to mark “no storage” areas?
- Would more tool boxes or chests help to keep tools where they belong?
- Are folks spending enough time on clean-up?
- Are there enough waste bins for each area?
- Where could you put them?
- Are there any areas where food and beverages should be prohibited?
- Do you need to install more storage shelves, racks, or cabinets?
- Should you set up a housekeeping inspection team?
- Could checklists or schedules be used to increase organization?
Meeting OSHA requirements is only one reason to have a clean and orderly workplace. There are other benefits to a good housekeeping program, such as better organization makes things easier to find, and harder to lose; it is easier to notice items that are no longer useful; lower fire risk for fire when with less clutter; lower risk of injuries from slips, trips, or falls when the workplace is orderly; and clean workplace can enhance employee morale.
Another important aspect in providing an employee proud location is the use of safe, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly cleaning products, such as the CleansGreen® Green Cleaning Startup Kit by Green Cleaning Products LLC.