Safety Matters – What is Housekeeping?
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 under such circumstance, you find yourself walking very slowly and taking your steps with a lot of care. You behave the way you do under such circumstance so that you don’t harm yourself or to at least minimize the impact of any harm you might suffer. But when you are walking in an environment you’re very used to, you walk boldly even if there is no light.
There’s a way we arrange and organise things in our various homes. 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. When children place items in the wrong places in the home, we 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 threat 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’ 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, you owe it a duty to ensure his or her safety.
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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’ to ensure the safety of both customers and staff. 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 HSE.
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 and raw materials.
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.
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.
Whichever way, you must take steps to ensure your personal safety at all times and if possible those around you.