Ehstoday 823 March2012595x335housekeeping

Good Housekeeping for Five Problem Areas

March 5, 2012
Keeping a facility clean and organized helps improve productivityand employee morale. It also can help ensure greater compliancewith environmental, health and safety regulations.

We’ve all heard the phrase: “Your mother doesn’t work here. Clean up after yourself.” Not only is good housekeeping important at home, it’s important in the workplace as well.

Clutter, leaks and spills can happen anywhere from the front office to the shipping dock, making everything look messy and, more importantly, creating the potential for worker injuries and noncompliance fines. Implementing good housekeeping procedures for key problem areas takes time and effort, but the rewards are well worth it.

Clutter can occur anywhere, and leaks and spills can happen anywhere, but most likely occur where fluids are transferred and stored. Walk around the facility, and use a floor plan to note problem areas as well as what fluids are stored or used in each of the areas. Each facility is unique, but many do have similar problem areas.

Spills and Liquids

Machinery that routinely leaks as part of its normal operation, overspray, lubricants, metal filing and water all are commonly found housekeeping problems in production and processing areas. All create slippery floors that can be a violation of OSHA’s clean, dry floor standard (29 CFR 1910.22(a)(2)).

For many of these problem areas, absorbent socks, mats, pillows and drip pans that capture leaks at or near their source can keep work areas cleaner, drier and safer by capturing the fluids that otherwise make floors slippery. Some facilities choose to capture and reuse processing fluids. For these facilities, squeegees and berms can help keep aisle ways safer and cleaner.

Even when a bulk fluid transfer goes smoothly, the residual fluid in a hose or pipe can cause environmental compliance problems if the fluids leak or drip and are allowed to enter storm drains or contaminate soil. Telltale signs of problems in this area are a slippery pavement, stains and puddles.

For facilities transferring hazardous materials, these leaks and drips not only look bad, they also can signal non-compliance with EPA’s stormwater [40 CFR 122] or SPCC regulations [40 CFR 112].

Good housekeeping procedures for this area can include using drip trays under hose or pipe connections to capture residual fluids, or providing containment for the entire area. Spill response kits are another way to help encourage housekeeping efforts because they contain absorbent mats and socks to control and absorb spills quickly. Secondary containment pallets also can be used to keep leaks and spills in check, and help keep these areas neater and cleaner.

Spills don’t just happen during transfer operations. Find a faucet or drum pump, and there is a decent chance that there is a puddle under or near it. Even for facilities that use metered dispensing systems, incidental leaks and drips are not always eliminated.

Spill containment decks or containment berms in these areas will help capture overfills, keeping spilled liquids contained and out of walkways. Keeping wipers and absorbents well stocked in these areas is another alternative to keeping dispensing cleaner and safer because it encourages workers to clean up incidental leaks and drips as they happen.

Because loading docks are hightraffic areas, the potential for leaks and spills cannot be discounted. Training employees to safely respond to incidental spills and stocking spill kits and response materials at or near dock doors can help speed up response and minimize downtime.


Much emphasis has been placed on combustible dust due to explosions at several different types of facilities. Combustible dust is defined as a solid material composed of distinct particles or pieces, regardless of size, shape or chemical composition, which presents a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations.

Combustible dusts often are either organic or metal dusts that are finely ground into very small particles, fibers, fines, chips, chunks, flakes or a small mixture of these. As discussed in OSHA’s Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB): Combustible Dust in Industry: Preventing and Mitigating the Effects of Fire and Explosions, types of dust particles include, but are not limited to: metal dust, such as aluminum and magnesium; wood dust; plastic or rubber dust; biosolids; coal dust; organic dust, such as flour, sugar, paper, soap and dried blood; and dusts from certain textiles.

NFPA 654, Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids, contains comprehensive guidance on the control of dusts to prevent explosions. The following are some of its recommendations:

➤ Minimize the escape of dust from process equipment or ventilation systems;
➤ Use dust collection systems and filters;
➤ Utilize surfaces that minimize dust accumulation and facilitate cleaning;
➤ Provide access to all hidden areas to permit inspection;
➤ Inspect for dust residues in open and hidden areas, at regular intervals;
➤ Clean dust residues at regular intervals;
➤ Use cleaning methods that do not generate dust clouds, if ignition sources are present;
➤ Only use vacuum cleaners approved for dust collection;
➤ Locate relief valves away from dust hazard areas; and
➤ Develop and implement a hazardous dust inspection, testing, housekeeping and control program (preferably in writing with established frequency and methods).

The OSHA ventilation standard, 29 CFR 1910.94, contains ventilation requirements for certain types of operations (such as abrasives, blasting, grinding or buffing) which involve dusts, including combustible dusts. Additionally, 29 CFR 1910.22(a)(1) requires employers to keep work places and other areas clean, which includes the removal of dust accumulations.


Cardboard, shrink wrap, leftover production materials, broken wooden pallets and banding materials are all common forms of clutter on plant floors and loading docks. In addition to being unsightly, these materials also can cause safety problems if forklift operators need to navigate around them or employees have to step over them. Rather than being allowed to pile up, these materials need to be disposed of as soon as they no longer are needed. Trash cans and bins should be emptied before they overflow.

Local waste haulers often recycle some of these items and will provide collection containers to collect and store these items for recycling.

Two key factors for good housekeeping in production areas are allowing time in production schedules for routine cleaning to occur on every shift, and keeping the cleanup materials and tools in convenient locations to facilitate their use.

Start Planning

Identifying problem areas is the first step toward creating a good housekeeping plan. When creating good housekeeping plans, it is important to consider what is practical for each problem area and create plans to address those needs individually. Enlist the help of employees or supervisors who work in each area to create realistic housekeeping goals and procedures for that area. Because they are the most familiar with the area and its problems, these individuals often are the best resource for suggesting the tools or equipment to eliminate or resolve housekeeping issues.

Having a plan and providing the tools for good housekeeping are only beneficial if everyone understands the plan and knows what to do with those tools. Instill a culture where everyone has a vested interest in keeping the facility clean.

This can sometimes be a big shift for some employees and supervisors – especially if housekeeping has not been a focus. Production schedules may need to be altered to allow for cleaning time. Employees who aren’t used to tending their area may need to be reminded. Reinforce training with signage or checklists in each area, and make it easy for housekeeping supplies to be restocked as needed.

A sparking clean facility may not happen overnight, but having a plan and making good housekeeping tools available to everyone are steps to help achieve that goal and promote a safe work environment for employees.

Karen Hamel is a technical specialist for New Pig Corp. in Tipton, Pa. She can be reached at (800) HOT-HOGS or by email at [email protected].

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