Incorporating good housekeeping procedures into routine daily practices can help enhance safety programs throughout a plant or distribution center.  When good housekeeping is viewed as everyone's responsibility, accidents can be reduced and the overall facility appearance can be more easily maintained.

Conducting hazard communication training, checking eyewash stations and posting appropriate signage are all essential components of plant safety that facilities commonly uphold, partially because the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has specific regulations outlining compliance elements.

Housekeeping regulations are not as well defined. OSHA's sanitation standard requires that workplaces “be kept clean to the extent that the nature of the work allows [29 CFR 1910.141(a)(3)(i).]" The housekeeping standard similarly states that places of employment “shall be kept clean and orderly [29 CFR 1910.22(a)(1)]," but the meaning of clean and orderly is left to the interpretation of the facility owner.

It stands to reason that the standard of cleanliness would certainly be higher in a food processing area than it would be in a metalworking shop.  But, establishing criteria and procedures to clean up messes and keeping all work areas clean will help the facility stay cleaner longer and increase safety. The following five practices can help integrate good housekeeping with safety.

1. Clean Up Fluid Transfer Areas
Whether someone is pumping a few ounces of oil from a drum with a hand pump or the facility is receiving a 10,000-gallon bulk shipment from a supplier, the likelihood for spills increases when fluids are transferred.  When the materials being transferred are hazardous, being prepared to quickly and effectively handle leaks and spills—no matter how small or large—is important for compliance with both OSHA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

Really large spills tend to grab everyone's attention and are typically cleaned up promptly, but smaller spills like a few drips from a faucet or a few gallons that leaked out when hoses were disconnected are often overlooked.  As little leaks and spills accumulate, fluid transfer areas look messier and become increasingly unsafe.  Failing to attend to these nuisance spills as they happen can contribute to a range of hazards, from slippery floors to fugitive emissions that reduce indoor air quality and affect workers' health.  

Stocking spill response supplies such as wipers, absorbents and appropriate personal protective equipment in spill-prone fluid transfer areas and instructing everyone on their use will help to minimize hazards in these areas.