Safety Matters with Nyaxoasi Zikpi-Dordor
What is Housekeeping?

Today, I want us to discuss a very important subject that relates to our daily life. Each one of us may have had to walk in a dark unfamiliar environment without light at one point or the other. Irrespective of the distance you have to cover in such circumstance, you find yourself walking very slowly and taking your steps with a lot of care. You behave the way you do in that circumstance so that you don’t harm yourself or to at least minimize the impact of any harm or injury you might suffer. But when you are walking in an environment you’re very familiar with, you walk boldly even if there is no light.

Quite apart from that, there’s a way we arrange and organise things in our various homes, for instance. There is a place for your shoes; your clothes in your wardrobe; kitchen items are kept in the kitchen cabins; vehicle spare parts are properly arranged in the storeroom; etc. You do all these things for two main reasons: easy access and unrestricted movement at all times in your room or house. So, when children place items in the wrong places in the home, we either ask them to pick it up and place them in their right places or we do so ourselves because we feel the presence of such item poses some amount of danger to the safety of the occupants of the home. When you wake up every day, you clean your house – you sweep, dust louvers and furniture, you also arrange items in your room, I mean you do some kind of general cleaning. This is what the term ‘Housekeeping’ in health and safety is all about.

Good housekeeping ensures your personal safety and the safety of those around you. In the home, it is about you and your family or any other person in the home with you at a given time. Whether he or she is a visitor or extended family member, you owe it a duty to ensure his or her safety. Same applies to our workplaces too.

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Now let’s look at housekeeping in our various places of work. Every work place presents its own unique and complex factors in determining what kind of housekeeping that must be done. Let’s look at a workplace like bank, for example. The common practice you’d find is that, they rely on the services of cleaners/janitors for their housekeeping. They clean and organise the workplace before the workers arrive. They are always on hand to place warning signs in the banking halls indicating ‘wet floors’, for example, to ensure that both customers and staff do not slip and fall. They also alert management when they detect defects on the floor, the carpet, the switches and sockets, etc. Elsewhere in the world, this duty is performed by a specialist known as Health and Safety Executive or Safety Officer.

In the case of manufacturing, construction and companies that are into hazardous activities, undertaking housekeeping can be complex exercise in which every worker must partake. The health and safety culture of any organisation influences the success of its housekeeping. Common to all of these workplaces is the fact that, there are waste materials such as nails, pieces of wood, chippings and what have you, moving equipment such as forklifts, cranes, excavators and other such equipment, tools (both defective and functional), defective wires, electric cables running over the place including raw materials.

Welders, carpenters and masons are the biggest culprits in terms of housekeeping. Their environment is always marred with pieces of metals, pieces of wood and pieces of blocks, respectively. If you find yourself in such environment without good footwear, you’re prone to sustaining injury. Sometimes, they even abandon or drop their tools anywhere whether it’s a walkway. Proper housekeeping requires that you don’t leave your working tool just anywhere even for a moment. You place them at an appropriate place where vehicles or equipment would not run over it and damage it or where anyone walking around there they step on it and get injured.

During housekeeping, all these waste materials have to be swept and collected into waste bins. Tools of any status should not be left on the floor while cables should not be allowed to run across the floor as they usually lead to trip and fall. Excavations have to be properly cordoned off. While walking in areas being plied by forklifts and other mobile equipment, you need to watch carefully when moving into those areas. Iron rods including metal projections from the ground and in the walls of buildings under construction should be covered up with thick soft materials so that it would not cause harm to anyone. In short, anything that is not to be where it is should be removed and kept at the right place. For instance, remove items that you find in exit points/doors, don’t keep sockets behind fridges, waste paper bins and dust bins should be removed from sockets and plugs.

Storage of tools and other items at height, for instance shelves, must be done properly so that they don’t fall on people. When you place an item at height, ensure that it is well supported from falling bearing in mind who might be affected.

I must say that housekeeping is a shared responsibility. Your safety depends on others and the safety of others depends on you. However, certain organisational health and safety cultural practices such as ‘a blame game culture’ have the potential to impede effective housekeeping practices. And whereas some encourages reporting of potential hazards, for example defective chairs, others frown on it. Moreover, the most important thing about good housekeeping is that, it ensures hazard-free environment for everyone. Therefore, you must take steps to ensure your personal safety at all times and if possible those around you.

TIP: Don’t drop or throw things about. Place things in their proper locations. At your workplace, look out for moving equipment when walking about. Watch out for vehicles when crossing the road. Housekeeping is a shared responsibility. So, your safety depends on others and the safety of others depends on you!

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