Episode 10 – The Importance of Housekeeping


Toolbox Topic: Housekeeping

In today’s episode, we will discuss the importance of housekeeping. It seems boring, right? Not today!



OSHA references housekeeping in numerous standards, including the 1910 general industry, the 1915 shipbuilding standard, and the 1926 construction standards. Let’s focus on 1910.22(a)(1): All places of employment, passageways, storerooms, service rooms, and walking-working surfaces are kept in a clean, orderly, and sanitary condition.

A simpler definition: Housekeeping refers to regular cleaning and organizing.



How does housekeeping have any history? Well, it does, sort of.

Brooms have been around for centuries. The broom has been around for so long that no one really knows when it was invented! Brooms were originally called besoms and were made of twigs bound to a small tree branch. The term “broom” comes from the broom bush, a small yellow-flowering shrub. Birch or heather was also used, but various plants have been used to produce countless versions of the broom over the centuries.

There are hard and soft brooms. There are brooms in-between which are the most common type of broom. There are push brooms used for cleaning shops. There are even sweeper machines with broom attachments.

In 1797, a farmer named Levi Dickenson made a broom for his wife, using the tassels of sorghum, which is a type of grain. His wife bragged to the townspeople and soon there was a great demand for Dickenson’s brooms.

In the 1800s, a special version of sorghum, called Broomcorn, was specifically grown to make brooms. Broomcorn acts like spaghetti as it is hard when dry but is very flexible when wet. To bend the fibers, one end of the Broomcorn is soaked in a bucket of water until pliable. Then the Broomcorn is fastened to a handle.

In 1810, Mr. Dickenson invented the foot treadle broom machine, which could produce high quality brooms in large quantities. This machine played an important part in the Industrial Revolution, which was sweeping the world. This revolution would Transition the American economy from being based on handmade products to a full-fledged mechanized productivity machine which would change the way people worked, the way they lived, and ultimately raise their standard of living to the highest in the world!’



Poor housekeeping can obviously lead to all kinds of dangers. Although we do not have precise statistics on “poor housekeeping,” we do have statistics on injuries and incidents that can result from poor housekeeping. The significant injuries and incidents include slip, trip, fall injuries, and commercial fires.

According to the CDC, In 2019, there were 888,000 worker injuries related to slips, trips, and falls. Housekeeping is likely a contributing factor to many of those injuries, particularly the slips and trips.

The NFPA reports there are 100,000 commercial fires each year. Poor housekeeping is again a likely contributing factor.


Safety Tips

#1 – Proactive Housekeeping (Preventing slips, trips, and falls)

Keep areas neat and organized. So, clean up as you go. Address oil, grease, and water spills immediately. Cover oil spills with sand or another absorbent material. Put out wet floor signs immediately and leave them out until the area is fully dry. Eliminate any tripping hazards and keep exits clear. Look for fire hazards. Discard combustible trash such as paper, cardboard, and other items that can easily burn. Always dispose of any oil-soaked rags by discarding them into a standard metal can with a self-closing lid.


#2 Keep Walkways and Exits Clear

Aisles and walkways must remain clear of debris and materials. Keep aisles, hallways, stairways, electrical panels, and doors free of obstruction. Never block emergency exit and ensure lifesaving equipment is always easily accessible. When extension cords are not in use, keep them unplugged and rolled up. This habit prevents them from becoming an electrical or tripping hazard. What should you do when you need to use an extension cord? Simple, put down a cone to alert others of the danger. If possible, use overhead retractable cord reels.


#3 Prevent Falling Objects

Place heavy objects on lower shelves. Avoid stacking items near walking areas. Also, do not store items on top of fireproof cabinets.


#4 – Flammable Liquid Storage

Store all flammable liquids in UL or FM-approved cabinets except what is needed for a day’s use. These cabinets are typically red or yellow and constructed of double-wall steel. Instead of cabinets, some companies may have a flammable liquid storage room that conforms to NFPA 30. At the end of your shift, remember to store any flammable liquids you’ve been using, including spray cans.


#5 Tool storage

Store tools and other equipment immediately after use. Close drawers and check for protruding objects stored on shelves.

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