Housekeeping is an aspect of site safety that often goes unnoticed because workers are so busy attending to other aspects of the job. But according to statistics provided by WorkSafe Victoria, at least 50 Vic workers are injured seriously (enough that they have to stop work) due to basic site safety and housekeeping being neglected on site.
One of the reasons housekeeping hazards are often ignored is because workers do not perceive a serious threat from bad housekeeping and while most of the injuries suffered may not be life-threatening, they are expensive, painful and inconvenient because often they result in time off work. Also some damage caused by housekeeping hazards can be permanent which may affect the worker’s ability to earn a living.
Most often workers suffer musculoskeletal injuries to their backs, necks, tear ligaments, break a bone or suffer cuts and bruises but even these so called “minor injuries” can result in about 15 weeks off work, costing you and the company as well as the industry over $50 million a year.
According to WorkSafe Vic on their website (http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au) poor supervision and poor housekeeping are very often to blame. For example workers may receive a cut on their hand or leg from an offcut of a piece of sharp material or suffer a trip over building rubble or stumble over tools left out instead of being put away in a tool box. If these hazards occur at heights the damage to the worker can be even greater if it causes them to fall from a height, it may be debilitating or even fatal.
WorkSafe Vic also explains that good housekeeping doesn’t just happen it takes an organised and concerted effort to ensure everyone on site does their part. Good housekeeping should be a part of workers training because contrary to what many workers believe it is a matter of safety and it is being too often ignored.
Principal contractors and those in charge of site safety should ensure housekeeping is included in all work activities from planning through to start-up and completion. Also all contracts should state in the contract that each trade is responsible for cleaning up after themselves and that penalties might apply if they don’t.
Strict site safety rules must be established before work on the site begins and workers should be trained on this safety before they can begin work. These rules must include housekeeping responsibilities and everyone on site should know them.
When laying out safety plans for the site these should include good housekeeping. Some of the examples provided by WorkSafe Vic on their website is providing designated delivery and storage areas, waste management, walkways for passengers and designated vehicle parking.
Another important consideration when it comes to housekeeping is providing workers with the correct supervision to ensure that everyone follows the site safety rules.
Principal contractors and sub-contractors have the responsibility of monitoring the work process and fixing any housekeeping related problems they may come across. They should also ensure that contractors and site visitors are aware of who the site supervisor is and can approach him/her if necessary, therefore this person should be available and contactable. Site controllers should also ensure that all workers and visitors receive a site induction when they first arrive at the site.