Housekeeping is something all of us are familiar with since it is fundamental in our personal lives. It is important to note that there are variations in personal housekeeping with the range going from the “neat freaks” to the “casual” housekeeper or even those who feel that “Mom will take care of it.” While that range may be fine in our personal lives, it doesn’t work so well in the work setting. The workplace is a busy environment with moving machinery, many people and a great deal of activity. 

Failure to maintain high housekeeping standards in such an environment may result in injury or illness, lost productivity and a negative impact to the bottom line. Housekeeping is a critical step on the path to safety.  

Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, often referred to as the General Duty Clause, requires employers to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Section 1910.22(a)(1) states “All places of employment, passageways, storerooms, and service rooms shall be kept clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition.” Taken together, these two regulations require that employers regularly inspect the workplace for hazards, correct hazards in a timely manner and institute a housekeeping program to mitigate hazards.This housekeeping program must include training in the essential aspects of the program, supply of the necessary items to implement the program and supervision to ensure compliance. It is the responsibility of all employees within the organization to ensure that housekeeping standards are implemented by incorporating them as a part of their daily routine.

What are some of the basic areas that workplace housekeeping rules should address?
  • Unsafe conditions must be corrected immediately or the area should be barricaded so others are protected until the condition can be corrected. 

  • Employees should report housekeeping problems to supervisors so corrective actions can be taken. Supervisors need to inspect the identified problem and formulate with both the employee and management a method of addressing the issues.

  • Flooring and floor coverings need to be in good condition and flat.  If an area rug is wrinkled, straighten it. If flooring is damaged, report it.

  • Walkways must be kept clear of obstructions and protrusions. This includes on the floor and at body height.  Boxes, briefcases, tools, trash, electrical cords, cabinet drawers and other similar items must be kept out of walkways to prevent slips, trips, falls and bumps.

  • Floors must be clean and dry. Liquid spills or grease on the floor either require immediate clean up or the area barricaded until a clean up can be completed. During inclement weather, put absorbent mats on flooring that is slippery when wet. Icy sidewalks, steps and parking lots should be salted or sanded.  

  • Tools and other work items that are not being used should be placed in designated storage areas.

  • Lighting must be sufficient in the work area. If a light bulb burns out, either replace it or report it so it can be replaced. 

  • Food should be stored, consumed and remnants disposed of in a manner to prevent rodent or bug infestations.   

  • All trash needs to be placed in containers that are regularly emptied. If the trash is wet garbage, then the trash receptacle must be equipped with a cover. 

  • Oily rags must be stored in UL approved containers. Flammable or hazardous wastes must be stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations or disposed of in an approved manner.

  • Sharp items must be properly disposed of. Broken glass or other sharps should be placed in a sealed box and marked as containing broken glass or sharps. If nails are protruding from boards, remove the nails or bend them down. 

    In order for the housekeeping program to be effective, management must commit to it, budget for all components, and require compliance from employees. Budgeting should include such line items as supplies and tools for cleaning, janitorial services for maintaining and supplying common areas, sufficient trash and storage receptacles, trash removal, routine and corrective maintenance and time for training of employees.

    A Tool Box Talk to use with employees can be found at     

    This eighth step on the path to an effective safety program can positively impact your productivity, the health and well-being of your employees, and a better bottom line.   

    This article was written in conjunction with participants in the OSHA and ASA Alliance. It does not necessarily reflect the official views of OSHA or the U.S. Department of Labor.

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