How to improve your bottom line by safe housekeeping
Accidents are expensive: but is it safety, or housekeeping that will make the change?
Slips, trips and falls account for 25% of workplace liability accidents (HSENI Annual Report), while 95% of major slips and trips result in broken bones, and they can also be the initial cause for a range of other accident types such as falls from height. Using the 80/20 rule, the main focus should be to reduce these common accidents. Let’s look at common causes of workplace accidents, and find some quick, free or low costly solutions to prevent this unnecessary evil.
Slips often happen due to wet or slippery floors. Wet and slippery floors can sometimes be easily tackled by small adjustments in the work environment. For example, a change in the cleaning regime proved one company to reduce its slips by 80%. Think small adjustments; choose a convenient time to clean the floors when most employees are behind their desks, workstations or worksites in the field, rather than cleaning floors at 7:45 am, just before all employees arrive to work, or just before the shift change. Have a door mat for all entry points, it’s cheap and effective.
Simple slip prevention includes using the correct type of slip.resistant footwear. Remember, if footwear is supplied as personal protective equipment (PPE), it must be supplied free of charge to employees. The decision to involve the affected employees in choosing the right shoes, will help the employees understand the issues and will promote positive change. Also, consider age and construction of buildings, whether there is evidence of leaking roofs, if walkways are exposed to the elements, or whether there is a potential for water, mud, ice or other substance build.up.
The most important factor in slip accident prevention is to have decent grip at all times. In a food industry plant this method reduced slipping accidents up to 60%. Having arrangements for routine cleaning and dealing with accidental spills is normal practice in every company. Where floors cannot be kept clean and dry, again, slip.resistant footwear can prevent accidents.
How to ‘tackle’ trips
Trips are often caused by uneven floor surfaces and obstacles, or trip hazards. These can be prevented by design and good housekeeping regimes. Keeping the workplace clean and organized is the clear prevention message in this chapter. Are there any trip hazards in corridors and walkways or in the entire industrial work environment? Think of tripping hazards such as cables, tools, hoses, boxes, pallets, or other objects that could cause a potential tripping accident. Removing these hazards can be done by tying them up next to the walkways, or re.routing these items away from the walk spaces.
Quick solutions to remove hazardous obstructions from the work floor vary, from tie.wraps, steel wires, welding anodes and ‘S’ shaped safety hooks. Cablesafe hooks are a simple product designed to suspend hoses, wires, cables and ropes. “Standard hooks are used by most of the major oil and gas companies, and enable employees to adhere to their housekeeping and safety policies. According to Westmark, these hooks do not conduct electricity and are heat resistant; the hooks are designed to improve safety on the work floor and allow for decent object and cable protection against wear and tear. Keeping walkways and work areas free of dangerous obstructions is key to safety and good housekeeping.
Checking your walkways
Check for suitable walkways .Are they in the right place? Are they being used? Are they available for use? What tasks are taking place on the walkway? Are some tasks preventing the employee from seeing where he or she is going?
Lessons: Walkways must be safe to walk over at all times. Confronted with tasks carrying loads of tools or boxes in hand, employees should have the confidence that you and your co.workers have housekeeping elements embedded in their work operation. This can be done by well described company policies and procedures, which should be implemented through company campaigns and brought into the company culture by training for all employees. By keeping walkways safe and clean, employees’ experience free walkways with no clutter. Well.marked and obstructed repair sites will have better visibility during construction, maintenance or turnaround activities.
Do you already have enough policies and procedures, but still want to improve the bottom line by safe work attitude adjustment? Try to apply a teach.by.example approach. For example, a refinery with many contractors, different job requirements and safety policies may pressure the workers to cut corners by not following these company guidelines and procedures. “Employees often work under high pressure, creating unsafe situations and unwanted costly accidents as a result,” says Lodewijk Westerbeek van Eerten, Director of Westmark BV, manufacturer of Cablesafe safety hooks. He explains that a turnaround manager at a refinery hired a low paid student for work place improvement. “They had this guy constantly walk around with a backpack full of hooks and let him try to find as many items as possible to hook up. Cheap, simple and effective, introducing this ‘improvement.by.example, not requirement’ did not only provide an immediate result, but it had a positive influence in the way employees worked safer in an unobstructed work environment.”
Keeping walkways safe and clean At some sites, as well as over 30% of injuries are caused by slips, trips and falls. Industry statistics confirm this. The British Ceramics Confederation did research on this topic and found that when accidents happen, employees are absent from work. This puts pressure on families, costs money, and hurts the bottom line. Could all of this be avoided? Lost time injuries by slips, trips and falls are often simple prevent and can improve the companies’ incident ratings in the short term.
Housekeeping simply improves the workplace for others, who can in their turn dedicate time to focus on their core jobs and appreciate not having to sort their cables and hoses out in the end. A benefit is that hoses and cables do not wear as fast by passing traffic, resulting in fewer spills.
Improving essential housekeeping elements
It is not just good enough to have a walkway; it must be kept clear, no obstructions and no trailing wires. Employees and cleaners need to have “see it, sort it” attitude to ensure these and other work areas are kept clear. Is the cleaning regime effective? Are there enough storage bins on the facility? Have you described this standard type of working in your company?
Lessons: Keep it clear, remove cables and hoses and work in a clean environment by suspending obstructions with tie.wraps or hooks from the work floor. This will not only improve the lifecycle of these tools and cables, but it will significantly reduce the number of tripping points. Apply housekeeping to keep walk ways helps employees and contractors understand that your company applies high safety standards by tackling direct causes of the highest incident rate; slips, trips and falls. That’s Cablesafety!
Design and maintenance of the workplace environment
When assessing the quality of your safety regime, ask the following questions: Is the floor suitable and safe for the workers? Is it fitted correctly and properly maintained? Are walkways wide enough and do they have no unexpected level differences? Are stairs suitable? Are solid handrails available at every stair case? Do environmental factors such as good lighting conditions also fall in the category of good housekeeping? Is there enough light for employees to identify hazards?
Lessons: Floor openings used for maintenance or repair should be well.marked. Make sure lighting is sufficient and that slopes, unbalanced variations in floor levels, and steps are clearly visible. Keep walkways and work areas clear of obstructions. Blunt objects in walkways should be well marked and have soft padding. Slips and trips are not only unpleasant, but are costly to the bottom line. Use common sense to review risks. Discuss “What if’s…”, and find low cost solutions.
It leaves us with the question; should housekeeping be an essential part of your safety department when it comes to preventing the most likely type of accidents on your work floor?
Written by: Maurits F. Westerbeek van Eerten Date: July 8th 2014