Health and Safety News: Good housekeeping not just for Housewives

There are thousands of worker injuries taking place all over Australia on any given day, costing the economy billions annually. Most of these injuries are avoidable yet many of them actually permanently disable, maim and even kill workers simply because health and safety did not take precedence on the work site. While many employers and site controllers know how to satisfy inspectors by imposing the minimum safety controls required by the law, there are certain safety measures that are commonly known but tend to slip through the cracks on a busy, ever-changing construction site – one them being housekeeping.

Workers can often become complacent when it comes to housekeeping or may even have the best intentions but in the rush of knocking off at the end of the day, forget to keep their “house” in order by basically cleaning up after themselves.

Also because construction has typically been such a masculine industry, the very term “housekeeping” may cause male construction workers to put up mental barriers and attach a feminine connotation to the phrase but truthfully speaking housekeeping on a construction site could be considered more important that housekeeping in the traditional sense because people’s lives are at risk.

Another concern that people have when it comes to housekeeping in the workplace is how to approach it but housekeeping should be approached like any other hazard on a construction site is. Employers or site controllers should also ensure that this hazard is assessed and inspected regularly to ensure that no hazards slip through the cracks. As with any other hazard, they should be eliminated, substituted or controlled. In many cases housekeeping may not solve the problem but it will minimise the risk of injuries resulting.

Although there is no “one size fits all” approach to housekeeping, the main issues that seem to arise are:

  • Storage issues
  • Debris and waste
  • Dust and air pollutants

Suitable Storage

One of the most important safety controls with regards to housekeeping involves storage safety. Employers must ensure that when storing materials on construction sites, it is done in a safe manner that does not pose a threat to the safety of workers or visitors to the site.

For example, when materials, equipment or plant and machinery are being stacked for storage it is important that the plant and materials cannot fall on a person. Workers should also be able to retrieve equipment and materials from storage without being injured or injuring others.

Disposing of Dust and Waste materials

When it comes to debris, the most important rule is that debris is progressively removed from the site before it is able to pile up. If debris builds up on the site it can become problematic in a number of ways such as presenting tripping hazards, blocking emergency and regular entrances and can also fall on workers causing injury.   They also become a fire hazard.

Also when it comes to painting on the site, paint waste and wash waters need to be discharged properly and not into storm water drains.

When using oil based cleaning materials, they should be filtered for reuse or taken to an appropriately licensed waste depot. Unused paint should be disposed of in a similar manner and not just dumped anywhere.

Dealing with Dust

Dust is another particularly problematic issue on construction sites because it affects the health of everyone and not just those workers involved with the work. When inhaled or ingested it can make people sick and can also affect people’s eyes if it gets in. To avoid this risk, the appropriate amount of water should be used to keep roads and stockpiles moist to limit the amount of dust in the air and pollution which can spread into storm water drains and the entire system.

Employees can monitor if the proper precautions are being followed by employers in relation to this hazard including providing the proper safety training to workers, if not they should report it through the proper channels because their health and safety and that of their co-workers is being threatened.

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Posted by Construction Safety News Admin
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