Safety Brief

Every worker plays an important role in the overall housekeeping of a facility, which can help prevent injuries and improve productivity.

By Will Flower

Look around your maintenance shop or transfer station or recycling center. What do you see? It’s good to see a facility that has good housekeeping in which everything has a place and is reasonably clean and orderly.  On the other hand, you may have a serious issue if you look around and are reminded of the Cat in the Hat when Dr. Suess writes:

“And this mess is so big,

And so deep and so tall,

We cannot pick it up. 

There is no way at all!”

Keeping solid waste and recycling facilities clean and clutter-free can be a challenge. However, it’s proven that good housekeeping and orderly workplaces help prevent injuries and, as an added bonus, improve productivity.

Good Housekeeping

Good housekeeping is much more than just making sure that workstations inside a facility are neat and orderly.  Good housekeeping also includes:

  • Installing and maintaining proper lighting in work areas, stairways and walkways
  • Keeping walkways free of slip, trip and fall hazards
  • Removing materials that could cause a fire
  • Marking walkways
  • Storing chemicals and flammables in proper storage areas
  • Checking exits to make sure no exit is blocked

Effective housekeeping is an ongoing operation that requires persistence and dedication. Training is another component of good housekeeping so that every employee is aware of his/her responsibility to keep the work area clean and clutter free throughout the workday.

Effective Programs

The best housekeeping programs manage the orderly delivery, processing and movement of materials from point of entry to exit.  At recycling centers and transfer stations this includes the unloading operation on the tip floor to the material processing area to the storage and loading of materials onto trucks or rail cars. In the maintenance shop, parts and supplies that are delivered to the facility need to be accepted, inventoried and properly stored until ready for use.  Haphazardly storing parts in a corner of the shop area will create added expense as mechanics waste time looking for parts and supplies that are not properly stored.

The basic elements of an effective housekeeping program include:

  • Decluttering all work areas and walkways
  • Installing appropriate lighting and keeping it free of dust
  • Prohibiting the accumulation of waste on the floor of workstations
  • Cleaning up spills
  • Cleaning walkways and stairways
  • Organizing storage areas (and properly storing chemicals, cylinders of compressed gases, drums of fluids, etc.)
  • Inspecting tools
  • Keeping buildings, equipment and machinery in safe working order
  • Replacing broken items
  • Inspecting emergency exits for obstructions

An Important Role

Every worker plays an important role in the overall housekeeping of a facility. Regularly training employees and inspecting facilities are excellent tools to ensure good housekeeping. Walking through a facility with an eye on housekeeping will ensure that goals for cleanliness and order are being measured.  Remember, good housekeeping can help prevent injuries and improve productivity.

Next month’s safety tip will focus on the safe use of power tools.

Will Flower is the Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems (Long Island, NY). Will has 34 years of experience in the area of solid waste management and environmental protection. He has held operational and executive leadership positions at the Director’s Office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services. Inc. and Green Stream Recycling.  Share your safety tip. Submit your suggestions to Will Flower at